Ursato, or the Crown of Dawn


Urasato and Tokijiro are lovers. The child, Midori, is born of this liaison. Tokijiro is a samurai in the service of a Daimyo, and has charge of his lord’s treasure department. He is a careless young man of a wild-oat-sowing disposition, and while entirely absorbed in this love affair with Urasato, a valuable kakemono, one of the Daimyo’s heirlooms, is stolen. The loss is discovered and Tokijiro, who is held responsible, dismissed.

To give Tokijiro the means of livelihood so that he may pursue the quest of the lost treasure, Urasato sells herself to a house of ill-fame, the Yamana-Ya by name, taking with her the child Midori, who is ignorant of her parentage.

Kambei, the knave of a proprietor, is evidently a curio collector, and it is to be gathered from the context that the unfortunate young couple have some suspicion—afterwards justified—that by some means or other he has obtained possession of the kakemono—hence Urasato’s choice of that particular house.

Tokijiro’s one idea is to rescue Urasato, to whom he is devoted, but for lack of money he cannot visit her openly, and Kambei, seeing in him an unprofitable customer, and uneasy about the picture, for which he knows Tokijiro to be searching, forbade him the house, and persecutes Urasato and Midori to find out his whereabouts, in order, probably, that he may have him quietly put out of the way.

As in all these old love stories the hero is depicted as a weak character, for love of women was supposed to have an effeminizing and debasing effect on men and was greatly discouraged among the samurai by the feudal Daimyo of the martial provinces. On the other hand, the woman, though lost, having cast herself on the altar of what she considers her duty—the Moloch of Japan—often rises to sublime heights of heroism and self-abnegation, a paradox only found, it is said, in these social conditions of Japan. Urasato reminds one of the beautiful simile of the lotus that raises its head of dazzling bloom out of the slime of the pond—so tender are her sentiments, so strong and so faithful in character is she, in the midst of misery and horror.

This recitation, freely rendered into English from the chanted drama, tells the story of Urasato’s incarceration, of the lover’s stolen interviews, of the inadvertent finding of the picture, and of Urasato’s and Midori’s final escape from the dread Yamana-Ya.

Urasato's escape from the Yamana-Ya
Urasato’s escape from the Yamana-Ya


The darkness was falling with the tender luminosity of an eastern twilight over the house; the sky was softly clouding, and a gentle wind sprang up and sighed through the pine-trees like a lullaby—the hush that comes at the end of the day with its promise of rest was over all the world, but in spite of the peaceful aspect of nature and of her surroundings, Urasato, as she came from her bath robed in crêpe and silken daintiness, felt very unhappy. To her world the night brought no peace or rest, only accumulated wretchedness and woe.

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Midori, her little handmaid, followed her fair mistress upstairs, and as Urasato languidly pushed open the sliding screens of her room and sank upon the mats, Midori fetched the tobacco tray with its tiny lacquer chest and miniature brazier all aglow, and placed it by her side.

Urasato took up her little pipe, and with the weed of forgetfulness lulled for a while the pain of longing and loneliness which filled her heart. As she put the tobacco in the tiny pipe-bowl and smoked it in one or two whiffs and then refilled it again, the tap, tap of the pipe on the tray as she emptied the ashes were the only sounds, interluded with sighs that broke the stillness. “Kachi,” “Kachi,” “Kachi” sounded the little pipe.

Tokijiro, waiting hopelessly outside the fence in the cold, could not so forget his misery. He kept in the shadow so as not to be seen by the other inmates of the house, for if he were discovered he would lose all chance of seeing Urasato that evening and, perhaps, for ever. What might happen if these secret visits were discovered he dared not think. To catch one glimpse of her he loved he had come far through the snow, and after losing his way and wandering about for hours, he now found himself outside the house, and waited, tired and cold and miserable, by the bamboo fence.

“Life,” said Tokijiro, speaking to himself, “is full of change like a running stream. Some time ago I lost one of my lord’s treasures, an old and valuable kakemono of a drawing of a garyobai (a plum-tree trained in the shape of a dragon). I ought to have taken more care of the property entrusted to me. I was accused of carelessness and dismissed. Secretly I am searching for it, but till now I have found no clue of the picture. I have even brought my troubles to Urasato, and made her unhappy about the lost treasure. Alas! I cannot bear to live longer. If I cannot see Urasato I will at least look upon little Midori’s face once more and then take leave of this life for ever. The more I think, the more our mutual vows seem hopeless. My love for this imprisoned flower has become deeper and deeper, and now, alas! I cannot see her more. Such is this world of pain!”

While Tokijiro thus soliloquized outside in the snow, Urasato in the room was speaking to her child-attendant, Midori.

“Midori, tell me, are you sure no one saw my letter to Toki Sama yesterday?”

“You need have no anxiety about that, I gave it myself to Toki Sama,”[2] answered Midori.

“Hush,” said Urasato, “you must not talk so loudly—some one might overhear you!”

“All right,” whispered the little girl, obediently. Leaving Urasato’s side she walked over to the balcony and looking down into the garden she caught sight of Tokijiro standing outside the fence.

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“There, there!” exclaimed Midori, “there is Toki Sama outside the fence.”

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When Urasato heard these words joy filled her breast, a smile spread over her sad face, her languor vanished, and rising quickly from her seat on the mats, she glided to the balcony and placing her hands on the rail leaned far out so that she could see Tokijiro.

“Oh! Tokijiro San,” she exclaimed, “you have come again at last, how glad I am to see you!”

Tokijiro, on hearing her voice calling him, looked up through the pine branches and the tears sprang to his eyes at sight of her, for into the depths of love their hearts sank always deeper and the two were fettered each to each with that bond of illusion which is stronger than the threat of hell or the promise of heaven.

“Oh!” said Urasato, sadly, “what can I have done in a former life that this should be insupportable without the sight of you? The desire to see you only increases in the darkness of love. At first, a tenderness, it spread through my whole being, and now I love—I love. The things I would tell you are as great in number as the teeth of my comb, but I cannot say them to you at this distance. When you are absent I must sleep alone, instead of your arm my hand the only pillow, while my pillow is wet with tears longing for you,—if only it were the pillow of Kantan[3] I could at least dream that you were by my side. Poor comfort ’tis for love to live on dreams!”

As she spoke, Urasato leaned far out over the balcony, the picture of youth, grace and beauty, her figure supple and fragile as a willow branch wafted to and fro by a summer breeze, and about her an air of the wistful sadness of the rains of early spring.

As she spoke, Urasato leaned far out over the balcony, the picture of youth, grace and beauty
As she spoke, Urasato leaned far out over the balcony, the picture of youth, grace and beauty

“Oh! Urasato!” said Tokijiro, sadly, “the longer I stay here the worse it will be for you. If we are discovered not only you, but Midori also will be punished, and as she does not know all how unhappy she will be, and what will you do then. Oh! misery!”

Urasato, overcome with the bitterness of their troubles and the hopelessness of their situation, and as if to shield Midori, impulsively drew the child to her and, embracing her with tenderness, burst into tears.

The sound of footsteps suddenly startled them both. Urasato straightened herself quickly, pushed the child from her, and wiped away her tears. Midori, always clever and quick-witted, rolled a piece of paper into a ball and threw it quickly over the fence. It was a pre-arranged signal of danger. Tokijiro understood and hid himself out of sight. The screen of the room was pushed aside and not the dreaded proprietor nor his shrew of a wife, but the kindly and indispensable hair-dresser, O[4] Tatsu, appeared.

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“Oh, courtezan,” said the woman, “I fear that I have kept you waiting. I wanted to come earlier, but I had so many customers that I could not get away before. As soon as I could do so I left and came to you … but, Urasato Sama, what is the matter? You have a very troubled face and your eyes are wet with tears … are you ill? Look here, Midori, you must take better care of her and give her some medicine.”

“I wanted her to take some medicine,” said Midori, “but she said she would not.”

“I have always disliked medicine and, as Midori tells you, I refused to take any. I don’t feel well to-day, O Tatsu. I don’t know why, but I don’t even wish to have the comb put through my hair—so I won’t have my hair dressed now, O Tatsu, thank you.”

“Oh,” answered O Tatsu, “that is a pity—your hair needs putting straight—it is very untidy at the sides; let me comb it back and you will then feel better yourself, too—”

“O Tatsu,” said Urasato, hopelessly; “you say so, but—even if the gloom that weighs down my spirit were lifted and my hair done up and put straight both would fall again, and knowing this, I am unhappy.”

“Oh,” replied O Tatsu, “the loosened hair-knot which troubles you is my work—come to the dressing-table … come!”

Urasato could not well refuse the kindly woman and reluctantly allowed herself to be persuaded. She sat down in front of the mirror, but her heart was outside the fence with Tokijiro, and to wait till the woman had done her work was a torture to her.

“Listen to me,” said O Tatsu, as she took her stand behind Urasato and with deft fingers put the disordered coiffure to rights, “people cannot understand the feelings of others unless they have themselves suffered the same conditions.

Even I, in past times, was not quite as I am now. It seems foolish to speak of it, but I always feel for you. If you deign to listen to me I will tell you my story. Even such an ugly woman as I am—there is a proverb you know, that says ‘Even a devil at eighteen is fascinating’ (oni mo juhachi)—has had her day, and so there was someone who loved even me, and he is now my husband,” and O Tatsu laughed softly, “ho-ho-ho.” “Well, we plighted our vows and loved more and more deeply. At last he was in need of money and came to borrow of me, saying ‘Lend me two bu!'[5] or ‘Lend me three bu!’ using me in those days only as his money-box. It must have been because our fate was determined in our previous life that I did not give him up. I let things go because I loved him. Youth does not come twice in a life-time. He was in great distress and I sold all my clothes to help him till my tansu[6] were empty, and then I filled them with his love letters. Things came to such a pass that we thought of committing suicide together. But a friend who knew what we were about to do stopped us, and so we are alive to this day. But things have changed since then, and now, when there is some small trouble, my husband tells me he will divorce me, and there are times when I feel I hate him and don’t want to work for him any more. There is a proverb that ‘the love of a thousand years can grow cold,’ and it is true. Experience has taught me this.”

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O Tatsu ... took her stand behind Urasato and with deft fingers put the disordered coiffure to rights
O Tatsu … took her stand behind Urasato and with deft fingers put the disordered coiffure to rights

“O Tatsu Sama,” answered Urasato, “in spite of all you say, I have no one to love me in this wide world, such an unfortunate creature as I am, so devotedly as you loved him.”

“You may think thus now,” said O Tatsu, “for you have reached the age of love’s prime. I know that people in love’s despair often cut short their own lives, but while you have Midori to think of you cannot, you must not, commit suicide. Duty and love exist only while there is life. Oh dear, I have talked so much and so earnestly that I have forgotten to put in the tsuto-naoshi,” and with the last finishing touches O Tatsu put in the pincer-like clasp which holds together the stray hair at the nape of the neck.

Urasato’s eyes were dry, though her heart was full of sympathy and sorrow as she listened to O Tatsu’s kind words of sympathy, and as a bedimmed mirror so was her soul clouded with grief. Midori, touched by the sad conversation, dropped tears as she flitted about over the mats, putting away the comb box here and a cushion straight there.

“Well,” said O Tatsu, as she bowed to the ground and took her leave, “I am going yonder to the house of Adzumaya, good-bye!” and with these words she glided down the stairs and went out by the side door. Looking back as she did so, she called to Midori:

“Look here, Midori, I am going out by the side gate instead of by the kitchen—will you please fasten it after me.” With these words she seized the astonished Tokijiro, who was hiding in the shadow, pushed him inside and shut the gate (pattari) with a snap. With an unmoved face as if nothing unusual had occurred, O Tatsu put up her umbrella, for snow had begun to fall, lighted her little lantern and pattered away across the grounds without once looking back.

Thus, through the compassionate help of another, Tokijiro was at last enabled to enter the house. He ran upstairs quickly, and entering the room, caught hold of Urasato’s hand.

“Urasato! I cannot bear our lot any longer. I cannot bear to live away from you—at last I am able to tell you how I long to die with you since we cannot belong to each other any longer. But if we die together thus, what will become of poor little Midori. What misery—oh, what misery! No—no—I have it; you shall not die—I alone will die; but oh! Urasato, pray for the repose of my soul!”

“That would be too pitiless,” said Urasato, while the tears fell like rain from her eyes, “if you die to-night what will become of our faithful little Midori and myself left behind? Let parents and child take hands to-night and cross the river of death together. We will not separate now, oh, no—no! Oh! Tokijiro San! you are too cruel to leave us behind.”

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Some one was now heard calling from below.

“Urasato Sama! Urasato Sama!” said a loud harsh voice, “come downstairs—you are wanted quickly, quickly—come!”

Then the sound of a woman’s feet as she began to ascend the stairs reached the three inmates of the room.

Urasato’s heart beat wildly and then seemed to stop with fright. Quick as a flash of lightning she hid Tokijiro in the kotatsu[7] and Midori, with her usual quick-wittedness, fetched the quilt and covered him over. Then she glided to the other side of the room. All this was the work of a moment.

“O Kaya San,” said Urasato, “what is the matter? What are you making such a fuss about? What do you want with me now?” “Oh! Urasato,” answered the woman as she entered the room, “you pretend not to know why I call you. The master has sent for you—Midori is to come with you—such is his order!”

Urasato made no answer, but followed O Kaya, who had come to fetch her. Anxiety for Tokijiro hidden in the kotatsu, and fear concerning what the sudden summons might mean made her heart beat so that she knew not what to do. Both she and Midori felt that the woman was like a torturing devil driving them along so much against their will—they seemed to feel her fierce eyes piercing them through from behind.

O Kaya led them across the garden to another part of the house. The soft twilight had been succeeded by a dreary night. It was February and the night wind blew sharp and chill—the last snow of winter weighed down the bamboos; while, like an emblem of courage and strength in the midst of adversity, the odour of early plum blossoms hung upon the air. Overcome with anxiety, Urasato felt only the chill, and fear of the night spread through her whole being.

She started and shivered when behind her Midori’s clogs began to echo shrilly, like the voices of malicious wood-sprites in the trees laughing in derision at her plight. Her heart grew thin with pain and foreboding.

“Karakong,” “karakong,” sounded the clogs, as they scraped along. “Ho, ho, ho!” mocked the echoing sprites from the bamboo wood.

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They reached the veranda of the house on the other side of the quadrangle. O Kaya pushed open the shoji disclosing the grizzled-headed master, Kambei, seated beside the charcoal brazier looking fierce and angry. When Urasato and Midori saw him, their heart and soul went out with fear as a light in a sudden blast.

Urasato, however, calmed herself, and sitting down outside the room on the veranda, put her hands to the floor and bowed over them. The master turned and glared at her.

“Look here, Urasato,” said he, “I have nothing but this to ask you. Has that young rascal Tokijiro asked you for anything out of this house—tell me at once—is such the case? I have heard so—tell me the truth!”

Urasato, frightened as she was, controlled herself and answered quietly: “Such are the master’s honourable words, but I have no remembrance of anyone asking me for anything whatsoever.”

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“Um,” said the master, “I shan’t get it out of you so easily I see,” then turning to O Kaya, he said, “Here, O Kaya, do as I told you—tie her up to the tree in the garden and beat her till she confesses.”

O Kaya rose from the mats and catching hold of the weeping Urasato dragged her up and untied and pulled off her girdle. The woman then carried the slender girl into the garden and bound her up with rope to a rough-barked, snow-covered pine-tree, which happened to be just opposite Urasato’s room. O Kaya, lifting a bamboo broom threateningly, said, “Sa! Urasato, you won’t be able to endure this—therefore make a true confession and save yourself. How can you be faithful to such a ghost of a rascal as Tokijiro? I have warned you many times, but in spite of all advice you still continue to meet him in secret. Your punishment has come at last—but it is not my fault, so please do not bear me any resentment. I have constantly asked the master to pardon you. To-night, out of pity, I begged him to let you off, but he would not listen. There is no help for it, I must obey my orders. Come, confess before you are beaten!”

So O Kaya scolded and entreated Urasato; but Urasato made no reply—she only wept and sobbed in silence. “You are an obstinate girl!” said O Kaya, and she lifted the broom to strike.

Midori now rushed forward in an agony of distress and tried to ward off the blow about to fall on her beloved mistress. O Kaya flung the child away with her left arm, and bringing the broom down, began to beat Urasato mercilessly till her dress was disarranged and her hair fell down in disorder about her shoulders.

Midori could bear the sight no longer. She became frantic, and running to the wretched Kambei, lifted praying hands to him: then back again she darted to catch hold of O Kaya’s dress, crying out to both: “Please, forgive her; oh, please, forgive her! Don’t beat her so, I implore you!”

O Kaya, now fully exasperated, seized the sobbing child.

“I will punish you too,” and tied Midori’s hands behind her back.

Tokijiro, looking down from the balcony of Urasato’s room, had been a distraught and helpless spectator of the whole scene of cruelty in the garden. He could now no longer restrain himself and was about to jump over the balcony to the rescue. But Urasato happened at that moment to look up and saw what he intended doing. She shook her head and managed to say, unheard by the others: “Ah! this, for you to come out, no, no, no!”

Then, as O Kaya came back from tying up Midori, she quickly added to her, “No, I mean you who have tied up Midori, you must be pitying her, you must be, O Kaya San—but in the presence of the master for that reason it won’t do! It won’t do!” and here she spoke, purposely, incoherently to O Kaya, while she signed to Tokijiro with her eyes that he must not come out—that her words were meant for him under cover of being addressed to O Kaya.

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Tokijiro knew that he could do nothing—he was utterly powerless to help Urasato, and if he obeyed his first impulse and jumped down into the garden he would only make matters a thousand times worse than they were, so he went back to the kotatsu, and bit the quilt and wept with impotent rage.

“She is suffering all this for my sake—oh! Urasato! oh! oh! oh!”

Kambei had now reached Urasato’s side, and catching hold of her by the hair, said in a big voice, “Does not your heart tell you why you are so chastized? It is ridiculous that Tokijiro should come in search of the kakemono that was entrusted to me. Ha! you look surprised. You see I know all. Look! Isn’t the picture hanging there in my room? I allow no one so much as to point a finger at it—Sa! Urasato, I am sure Tokijiro asked you to get him that—come—speak the truth now?”

“I have never been asked to steal any such thing,” answered Urasato, sobbing.

“Oh, you obstinate woman—will nothing make you confess? Here, Midori—where is Tokijiro? Tell me that first?”

“I don’t know,” answered Midori.

“There is no reason why Midori should know what you ask,” said Urasato, trying to shield the child.

“Midori is always with you,” said Kambei—”and she must know,” and turning to Midori he struck her, saying: “Now confess—where is Tokijiro hiding now?”

“Oh, oh, you hurt me,” cried the child.

“Well, confess then,” said the cruel man, “then I won’t hurt you any more!”

“Oh … Urasato,” cried Midori, turning to her—”entreat the master to pardon me—if he kills me, before I die I can never meet my father whom I have never seen.”

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Tokijiro, upstairs in the balcony, heard all that was going on and murmured: “That is, indeed, natural, poor child.”

But Kambei, unaware that he was heard and seen, beat the child again and again.

“I can’t make out what you say, little creature,” he screamed with rage. “You shall feel the weight of this tekki[8] then we shall see if you will still not answer what is asked you.”

Under this hell-like torture Midori could scarcely breathe. The poor child tried to crawl away, but as she was bound with rope, she was unable to do so.

The cruel man once more caught hold of her roughly by the shoulder and began to beat her again. At last the child gave a great cry of pain, lost consciousness, and fell back as though dead.

Kambei was now alarmed at what he had done, for he had no intention of killing the child—only of making her tell him where Tokijiro was living or hiding. He stopped beating her and stood on one side, angry enough at being thwarted by Urasato and Midori.

Urasato raised her head and moaned to herself as she looked at the prostrate child.

“I am really responsible for the child’s suffering,” she said to herself—”my sin is the cause of it all; forgive me, my child—you know it not, but I am your mother; and although you are only a child you have understood and helped me.

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You saw that I was in love and always anxious about my lover. This is from a fault in your former life that you have such a mother—ah! this is all, alas, fruit of our sins in another existence,” and Urasato’s tears flowed so fast that, like spring rain, they melted the snow upon which they fell.

O Kaya now came up to her, saying, “What an obstinate creature you are! If you don’t confess you shall wander in company with your child to the Meido,”[9] and with these words she raised her broom to strike.

Hikoroku, the clerk of the house, now came running upon the scene. He had fallen in love with Urasato and had often pressed his suit in vain. When he saw how matters stood he pushed O Kaya away.

“You are not to help Urasato!” screamed O Kaya, angrily.

“Go away, go away,” said Hikoroku, “this punishment is the clerk’s work—though I am only a humble servant, however humble I am I don’t need your interference.”

Then Hikoroku turned to Kambei and said apologetically.

“Excuse me, master, I have something to say to you; the matter is this—that dear Urasato—no, I mean Midori and Urasato—I never forget them, oh, no, no! I know their characters—they are good-hearted. This punishment is the clerk’s work. If you will only leave Urasato to me I shall be able to make her confess. I am sure I can manage her.

If you will make me responsible for making Urasato confess, I shall be grateful.”

Kambei nodded his head, he was already tired, and said: “Um—I would not allow anyone else to do this, but as I trust you Hikoroku, I will let you do it for a while; without fail you must make her confess, I will rest,”—and with these words he went into the house, intending to put the blame on Hikoroku if his regulation suffered because of his treatment of Urasato.

Hikoroku accompanied his master to the house and bowed low as he entered. He then came back to Urasato.

“Did you hear what the master said? Did he not say that he would not entrust this to anyone else but me—only to me—Hikoroku—don’t you see what a fine fellow I am? If only you had listened to me before you need never have suffered so—I would have helped you, Urasato San! Perhaps you suspect me as being to blame for all this; but no—indeed, I am not—you and I are living in another world. Will you not listen to me—Urasato San?—but oh!—you have a different heart—oh! what am I to do?” and he placed his hands palm to palm and lifted them despairingly upwards to Urasato, shaking them up and down in supplication.

O Kaya had been listening to Hikoroku, for she was in love with him herself and was always jealous of the attention he paid to Urasato. She now came up and said, as she shrugged her shoulders from side to side: “Now Hikoroku Sama—what are you doing? What are you saying? Notwithstanding your promise to the master to make Urasato confess, you are now talking to her in this way. Whenever you see Urasato you always act like this without thinking of me or my feelings for you. I am offended—I can’t help it! You will probably not get her to confess after all. Well—I will take your place, so go away!”

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As O Kaya came up to Hikoroku he pushed her away, saying: “No, never! You shall not hurt her—this is not your business—the master has entrusted it to me. As for you, it is ridiculous that you should love me. How ugly you are! Ugh!—your face is like a lion’s. Are you not ashamed. Before the master I have no countenance left when I think of what you say to me. Now then—go away O Kaya—I am going to untie poor Urasato!”

O Kaya tried to push Hikoroku away. Hikoroku took up the broom and beat her without caring how much he hurt her. Mercilessly did he continue to beat her till she was overcome and, falling down on the snow, lay stunned for some time to come.

Having thus got rid of O Kaya, Hikoroku quickly released Urasato and Midori. As he lifted the child up she opened her eyes.

“Ya, ya! Are you still there, mother?”

Did Midori know that Urasato was her mother, or on returning to consciousness was it instinct or affection that made her use the tender name?

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When she heard Midori’s voice, Urasato felt that she must be in a dream, for she had feared that the child had been killed by Kambei’s beating.

“Are you still alive?” she exclaimed, and caught the child in her arms while tears of joy fell down her pale cheeks. Hikoroku looked on with a triumphant face, for he was pleased at what he had done.

“Urasato Sama, you must run away, and now that I have saved you both I can’t stay here. I, too, shall be tied up and punished for this. I shall run away, too! Well, it is certainly better to escape with you than to remain here. Let us flee together now. Come with me. I must get my purse, however, before I go. Please wait here till I come back with my small savings—then I can help you; don’t let anyone find you,” and without waiting for Urasato’s answer Hikoroku ran into the house.

Urasato and Midori stood clasping each other under the pine tree. They were shaking with cold and fatigue and pain. Suddenly a sound made them look up. Tokijiro suddenly stood before them. He had climbed out on to the roof, and walking round the quadrangle, had reached the spot where they stood and then let himself down by the pine-tree. When the two saw him they started for joy.

“Oh,” said Urasato, scarcely able to make herself heard, “how did you get here, Tokijiro?”

“Hush,” said Tokijiro, “don’t speak so loudly. I have heard and seen all—oh! my poor Urasato, it has caused me much pain to think that you have suffered so much because of me; but in the midst of all this misery there is one thing over which we can rejoice. As soon as I heard what Kambei said about the kakemono I crept downstairs and into the room he pointed out, and there I found my lord’s long-lost picture. Look, here it is! I have it safe at last. The very one drawn by Kanaoka. Someone must have stolen it. I am saved at last—I am thankful. I shall be received back into my lord’s service—I owe this to you, and I shall never forget it as long as I live.”

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Footsteps were heard approaching, Tokijiro hid himself behind a post of the gate. He was only just in time.

Hikoroku came stumbling along across the garden from the other side of the house.

“Here, here, Urasato San, we can now fly together—I have got my money—we can get out by the gate. Wait another moment, I will steal in and get the picture for you.”

As soon as Hikoroku had gone again Tokijiro rushed forward, and seizing Urasato and Midori by the hand, hurried them out of the garden. Once outside they felt that they had escaped from the horror and death of the tiger’s mouth.

Hikoroku, not being able to find the picture, hastened back to the spot where he had left Urasato, when he ran into O Kaya, who had recovered consciousness, and now picked herself up from the ground somewhat bewildered and wondering what had happened.

“Are you Hikoroku? Are you Hikoroku?” she exclaimed, and caught him in her arms.

Catching sight of her face, Hikoroku cried out with disgust and horror.

“Ya! Avaunt evil! Avaunt devil!”

The three fugitives outside the gate heard Hikoroku’s exclamation. Tokijiro caught up Midori and put her on his back. Then he and Urasato taking each other by the hand ran away as fast as they could. The dawn began to break and the birds to sing as they left the dread place behind them. From far and near the crows began to wing their way across the morning sky.

Hitherto the crow of dawn had parted them—it now united them. Thinking of this, Tokijiro and Urasato looked at each other with eyes brimming over with tears, yet shining with the light of new-born hope.


[1] The Crow of Dawn, or Akegarasu, another name for the story of Urasato. Akegarasu, literally rendered means “Dawn-Crow.” It is an expression which typifies the wrench of parting at daybreak which lovers like Tokijiro and Urasato experience, when dawn comes heralded by the croak of a crow (karasu) flying across the half-lit sky—a sign that the time for the two to separate has come.

This story is taken from the Gidayu or musical drama, in which the chanter mimes the voices and actions of the many different characters to an accompaniment on the samisen (guitar or banjo).

[2] Sama, a title equivalent to Mr. It is a polite term used for both men and women.

[3] This is an allusion to a Chinese story, related in the musical drama, where a poor man of Kantan fell asleep and dreamed that he became Emperor and had all that he could desire.

[4] O is the honorific placed before female names of not more than two syllables.

[5] One bu was about twenty-five sen in those days, but the equivalent of more than a yen in the present currency.

[6] Tansu, Japanese chest of drawers.

[7] A hearth sunk in the floor, covered with a grating and framework over which is thrown a quilt under which people sit to warm themselves.

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[8] Tekki, the tiny metal bars which form the top of the andirons in a brazier.

[9] Meido, Hades—the abode of the dead.

Ursato, or the Crown of Dawn – Romances of Old Japan

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