Enju no Jashin – The Evil God in the Pagoda Tree

Translated from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara

Long ago in Koshu (Modern day Yamanashi prefecture), on the base of Mt. Minobu, there was a dark forest where great trees lined up in a row. Inside the forest was an ancient Japanese Pagoda Tree. The tree was worshiped as a spirit, and a shrine had been built near the tree. However, anyone who passed by that tree after sundown had to leave an offering of silver and gold, or fine clothing, or anything of monetary value. Those who ignored this custom would suffer a terrifying curse. Now, I say that the tree was a spirit, but those in the town called it the mori no jyashin, the Evil God of the Forest.

At one time, a poor but hardworking farmer heard that his mother was dreadfully ill. He fled back home to see her, but the quickest path to her house took him right in front of the tree, and he had nothing to leave as an offering. There was nothing to be done, and as the famer rushed by the tree he prayed to the evil god, making a promise that he would come back later with an appeasement. But from the tree an empty suit of armor appeared and followed the man. The farmer dropped to the ground, bowing his head against the ground and begging the evil god for forgiveness. Appearing to accept the promise, the armor disappeared.

The following day, because the farmer terribly poor, he could only muster 500 mon in coins for an offering. Apparently this amount did not please the evil god, who cast the farmer into a giant pot and set him to fire preparing to make a dinner of him. The farmer prayed most solemnly for his life, and his prayers were heard. The son of the diety Fudo Myo appeared, and dispensed with the evil god. Not only that, all of the money and goods that had been paid to the evil god by the village was returned.

Although the villagers called the entity in the tree a spirit, I think it is more likely that some kind of yokai had settled down there.

Translator’s Note:

The name of this story is Enju no Jashin (槐の邪神). The enjyu tree is a species called Sophora japonica, and is known in English as either the Japanese Pagoda Tree or the Chinese Scholar.

Further Reading:

Check out other magical tree tales from hyakumonogatari.com:

Ochiba Naki Shii – The Chinkapin Tree of Unfallen Leaves

Ochiba Naki Shii – The Chinkapin Tree of Unfallen Leaves

Translated and adapted from Japanese Wikipedia and other sources

This is a story from the Edo period.

In Honjo, in the Hiradoshinden-han fiefdom, in the house of Matsura, there stood a Daimyo’s mansion. More than a simple mansion, this was the Daimyo’s kami-yashiki, where the Daimyo lived during his year in residence in Edo by edict of the Shogun. The Daimyo’s shimo-yashiki was in his native land, but the Daimyo currently resided in Edo.

This kami-yashiki was bordered by a large wall, which ran parallel along the banks of what was then called the Great River, but what we now call the Sumida River of Tokyo. Planted in the Daimyo’s garden was a prodigious chinkapin tree whose leaves hung over the wall. The leaves from this tree never fell.

Now, chinkapin trees are evergreen, not deciduous, but even then at least a few of their leaves fall with the seasons. But not the tree in the Daimyo’s kami-yashiki. No one had ever seen so much as a single leaf fall from its branches.

The Daimyo’s gardener was a diligent fellow, but not even he could clean up every leaf that ever fell. This particular chikapin tree was truly a wonder. And what was the origin of this chikapin tree’s fantastic abilities? Well that is a mystery still to this day.

The Daimyo was unsettled by the tree—perhaps fearing some unknown fox power or mysterious spirits—and used his kami-yashiki as little as possible. But the fame of the tree spread until the mansion was no longer known as the Matsura house, but was locally called the Chinkapin Tree Mansion. The tree hanging over the wall near the banks of the Great River was considered an elegant scene and was popular for strolls.

When the stories of the Seven Wonders of Honjo became popular in Rakugo storytelling, the Chinkapin Tree of Unfallen Leaves was included in the ranks.

Neither the Daimyo’s mansion nor the famous chinkapin tree survive to the modern world. During the Meiji era, the territory was purchased by the Yasuda zaibatsu financial conglomerate who created a private garden called Yasuda Park. In the fifteenth year of Taisho, the Yasuda zaibatsu donated the garden as a public park. The park is now located in the Sumida ward, in the Honjo district. Like all of the Seven Wonders of Honjo, the old location of the Chinkapin Tree of Unfallen Leaves is marked with a sign and stone monument.

Translator’s Note:
The print is by Kobayashi Kiyochika and shows the Ochiba Naki Shii (落葉なき椎), one of the Honjo Nana Fushigi (本所七不思議) meaning one of the Seven Wonders of Honjo.

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