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February 28 , 2008

Japan Folklore The Story of Young Samurai Taira Shunko & Beautiful Cherry Tree


About one hundred years ago, in the old capital of Kyoto, there lived a young samurai named Taira Shunko. At the time this story opens he was about twenty years of age, of pre-possessing appearance, amiable disposition, and refined tastes, his favourite pastime being the composition of poetry. His father decided that Shunko should finish his education in Yedo, the Eastern capital, where he was accordingly sent. He proved himself an apt scholar, more clever than his comrade-students, which won him the favour of the tutor in whose charge he had been placed.

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Some months after his arrival in Yedo, he went to stay at his uncle's house during convalescence from a slight illness. By the time he was well again the spring had come, and the call of the cherry-flower season found a ready response in Shunko's heart, so he determined to visit Koganei, a place famous for its sakura (cherry) trees.

One fine morning he arose at dawn, and, equipped with a small luncheon box and a gourd filled with sake, set out on his way.

In the good old days, as now, Koganei was celebrated for the beauty of its scenery in the springtime. Thousands of spreading trees formed a glorious avenue on either side the blue waters of the River Tama, and when these burst into clouds of diaphanous bloom, visitors from far and near came in crowds to join in the revel of the Queen of Flowers. Beneath the shade of the over-arching trees, tea-houses were dotted along the banks of the stream. Here, with the shoji hospitably open on all sides, tempting meals of river-trout, bamboo shoots, and fern-curls, and sundry and manifold dainties were served to the pleasure-seeking traveller.

Shunko rested at one of these river-side hostelries, refreshing himself with generous draughts from his gourd, and then opened his tiny luncheon box, the contents of which he supplemented with the delicate river-trout, fresh from the pellucid waters of the stream and artistically prepared by the tea-house cuisine.

Under the influence of wine, the homesickness which had been oppressing his soul gradually took wings; he became merry, and felt as if he were at home in his own beautiful city of Kyoto. He sauntered along under the trees, singing snatches of songs in praise of this favourite flower. On every side the whole world was framed in softest clouds of ethereal bloom, which seemed to waft him along between earth and heaven……………..

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