The Old Man Who Made the Dead Trees Blossom


Presented here is a compact watojihon (book bound in a traditional Japanese bookbinding style) containing pictures and text that are woodblock-printed on textureless paper called hiragami (flat paper). Kobunsha, the publishing company managed by Takejirō Hasegawa, started to translate and publish Nihon Mukashibanashi (Japanese fairy tale series) in 1885. Hanasaki Jiji (The old man who made the dead trees blossom) is a story from the series. It tells of a nice old married couple who kept a pet dog. One day when they dug at a place indicated by the dog, they found many gold coins. A greedy man who lived next door was envious and borrowed the dog. He forced the dog to search for such a place, but when he dug up the ground there he found only dirt. The greedy old man became angry, killed the dog and buried it under a pine tree. The tree grew vigorously and the nice old man used the wood to make a mortar. When he pounded barley in it, it would fill with so many barley grains that they spilled out. When the greedy old man saw this, he borrowed the mortar. However, when he pounded the barley, he only produced cracked and insect-ridden grain. Furious, he burnt the mortar. When the nice old man scattered the ashes from the burnt mortar over a dead tree, it blossomed and the old man was richly rewarded by the local lord. However, when the greedy old man scattered the ashes over a dead tree, they were blown by the wind into the lord’s eyes. The greedy old man was seized and met a terrible fate.

Last updated: December 9, 2014