Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Botan Doro (牡丹灯笼)


The Botan Doro (牡丹灯笼)


The Japanese version of Peony Lantern is known as Botan Doro (牡丹灯笼). The story of Botan Doro is almost similar to the original Chinese Peony Lantern (牡丹灯记). For literature comparison and the subsequent comparison purposes; let us run through the Botan Doro story authored by San'yūtei Enchō ( 三遊亭 1839-1900):

Today is the 13th day of 7th Lunar Month. It is the first day of Obon Festivals (盂兰盆会). Samurai Ogiwara Shinnojo had just performed offering to the deceased and after he has tidied himself, he picked up his seat and went to the corridor. After lighting mosquito coil, Ogiwara Shinnojo rested while looked into the moon on his top. Suddenly he heard the “khatak khatak” noise of clogs approaching.

Two ladies were seen moving towards the sumarai. One about 30 years old has a big round hair bun moving with gracious posture. Her hand was holding the then popular peony lantern. Following her was a young lady about 17 or 18 years old, she was having a tall fashionable high hair bun and wearing light yellowish green colour kimono with long sleeves and she had a silk kimono belt casually tied on her waist.

While Ogiwara Shinnojo was looking at the ladies under moonlight, he thought the young lady looked like the daughter of a samurai Iijima named Otsuyu. As Ogiwara was still deep in his thought, the ladies already approached him and said:

“Isn’t it incredible? Ogiwara.”

“Oh, is that you Oyone? Why did you come?”

“Indeed. It is unexpected. I thought you are dead!”

“Ha! It is the matter of fact that I heard you have kicked your bucket!”

“It is all nonsense! No such thing! Do come in please!”

So, both of the ladies entered the house.

Otsuyu was the daughter of Iijima and Oyone was his maid.

After Otsuyu’s mother has died, her stepmother seized all their properties and Otsuyu could not live with her stepmother, so she moved to a village in Honjo Yanagi Island (本所柳岛) to start her new life.

Ogiwara was once there helping a physician named Yamamoto Shinbun, so he knew Otsuyu. Otsuyu apparently has a crush with Ogiwara but since their last encounter they have not met since until the death of Otsuyu at first, and three days later, Oyone also died.

Ogiwara heard the sad news from Yamamoto and since then he had always think of Otsuyu every day in sadness. Since then, Oyone would carry her peony lantern leading Otsuyu to Ogiwara’s house every day after dark.

So flirtatious sounds of would come out from the house of the still single Ogiwara during night time. This situation has attracted the attention of Ogiwara’s neighbour named Bankura. So Bankura peeped through Ogiwara’s window and saw the most horrible scene since he was born. So the panic stricken Bankura quickly rushed to Haku Okina Dō Isamu Dō (白翁堂勇斋) to tell what he has just seen to a fortune teller. The fortune teller said:

“That should not be an ordinary lady… She is as thin as her skeleton and skin. She has tall hair bun with her hairs on her temples dropped to her forehead, her face colour is iron green and she is without anything below her waist. Her skinny and rocky hands tightly embraced Ogiwara’s neck but he was still in extreme pleasure…”

After Haku Okina Do heard what Bankura has just told him, he went to see Ogiwara and inform him. Ogiwara immediately went to Shinbanzuiin (新幡随院) to visit the grave of Otsuyu and Oyone. And he found the peony lantern was put beside both graves.

Upon the advice by Ryōseki Oshō (良石和尚), Ogiwara begged for a gold Swara Samudra Tathagatah statue (海音如来) and some talismans to stop those vengeful ghosts. That had stopped the ghosts of Otsuyu and Oyone for two nights but Bankura was bribed by the ghosts with money and he subsequently stole the gold statue. As expected, Ogiwara was tortured to dead by the ghosts.

After Haku Okina Do heard the news, he hastily rushed to Ogiwara’s place and there he saw a pitiful scene: Ogiwara’s body still gritting his teeth with a skeleton tightly embraced his neck with shin bones scattering all over the place.


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