(Complete version) Tsuchi-gumo of Mt. Aoba

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
(This is the whole story, not a chapter) - While Taro was reading an old local story, he wondered what "dirt-spider" character means in the story. His father indicated that "dirt-spider" may be a metaphor of a certain group of people. Taro got interested in the story and those old people... He researched "Tsuchi-gumo", and found that they really were the people who fought against the emperor then. taro climbed the mountain with his classmates, and met a mysterious old man... 1,800 words.

Submitted: June 14, 2014

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Submitted: June 14, 2014

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“..wonder why they are called Tsuchi-gumo.”

Taro, sitting at the corner of the dining table and doing his homework of summer break, muttered.  He was reading a book he had borrowed from the local library.  It’s a collection of the local old tales of the town.Taro’s father, Ichiro, who was reading documents from work while sipping tea, raised his face.

"Do you have a biology homework, Ichiro?"

When Ichiro asked so, Taro shook his head.

"No.  I am reading some folk tales of this town to write an essay.  And this specific story is about Tsuchi-gumo (dirt spider) that used to live in Aoba-yama (Mt. Aoba, mountain of blue leaves) on the outskirts of this town.But, it seems Tsuchi-gumo is a human being rather than an insect."

Ichiro and his wife, Hanako and their son, Taro, came to this rural seaside town because of Ichiro’s job.They had lived only in Tokyo and never lived in rural areas until then.  Taro quickly became fond of this town, which was surrounded by mountains and the sea.He went around the town, beaches and mountains with his new friends.  He also seemed to be interested in the life and legend of the countryside.Ichiro and Hanako were delighted to see Taro enjoying his school and life. 

Ichiro said,

"Local tales…  huh.  I was born and raised in Tokyo.  As I lived in cities in Tokyo for 45 years, I am not quite familiar with old stories of the countryside.I've never heard of old stories with spiders.  What kind of story is it? "

"Yeah, I'll say. It sounds ..."

Taro told the story to Ichro –

 

"—Long, long time ago, Japan was divided into many countries.  Facing the Sea of ??Japan, there were a country of Wakasa and a country of Tango.  On the border of those countries, there was a mountain called Aoba-yama.  From its beautiful appearance, Aoba-yama had been called Wakasa Fuji (Mt. Fuji in Wakasa).

Around the time of Emperor Sujin, Tsuchi-gumo lived in Aoba-yama.  The boss of Tsuchi-gumo, called "Mikasa of Kuga mimi (Kuga ear)", had a fierce look.  Being led by the boss, Tsuchi-gumo would go down from the mountain, troll the fields, and enter houses to steal things.  Villagers were really in trouble with Tsuchi-gumo.
The emperor learned that, and one day, he called his younger brother, Hikoimasu-no-miko (Prince Hikoimasu).

 “Miko.  I am sure you know that Tsuchigumo of Aoba-yama are doing bad things in the village.  I want you to subjugate them.”

The prince, who was ordered to Tsuchi-gumo extermination, went towards the Aoba-yama immediately.
As soon as he arrived at the foot of the mountain, something unusual began to occur around the place. 
Mountains and the ground were shaking with roaring noise, solemn and sacred light was shining from heaven--”

"Well, dazzling ..."
Because of the too much glare, those Tsuchi-gumo were not able to keep their eyes open.  Mikasa of Kuga-mimi was so surprised, and fled rolling down the mountain.  How much time has gone by since then..  The prince had been chasing them, and  got rid of Mikasa at last.  Since then, people at the foot of the Aoba-yama lived in peace. – “

 

When Taro finished reading and looked up from the book, he found that his father leaning on the chair, with his arms folded.
“So, that’s a story of a war in the old time.  I can imagine what it was like.  Do you know something that is said in all ages?  That is "winners make history".”
Taro thought he understood the meaning to some extent. 

"Well, Taro.  If you do a little research, you will be able to find who was fighting with whom in the region.  I think it is just right as your summer homework project.”

Returning to his room, Taro opened the Internet.He found "Tsuchi-gumo" without much trouble.  It says –

“Description of "Tsuchi-gumo can be seen in the expansion period of up to Yamato Court from the age of myth.  Most of them were powerful family living in the sphere of influence boundary of Yamato Court, refused to rule of Yamato dynasty.  Many of whom were subjugated by the military, which was sent by the Emperor.It was also said they made a living mainly by hunting not by paddy cultivation.

It was often said that they lived in caves, height was low, and limbs were long.  However, these descriptions might have included some exaggeration coming from contempt….”

Taro remembered, in the history of Japan Taro learned as a sixth grader, Yamato Court had spread its influence across the country by the 5th century.  Tsuchi-gumo was likely to have been destroyed by that time.

Then, Taro searched for "Mikasa of Kuga-mimi".  The search results say, based in Aoba-yama, he had dominated the region.  A small shrine named Rokusho-jinjya in Aoba-yama, was believed to be dedicated to him –

 

"Hey, Taro.  What’s up?"
Voice came from around the entrance of the house.
From the tone of voice, Taro’s classmates seemed to be calling him.  Taro came out the door, and found two of his classmates, Keiji yamamoto and Daisuke Suzuki were there.  During this summer break, Taro often went to sea with them, swimming and fishing.

"Taro.  Where will we go tomorrow?  Fishing again?"
Daisuke pretended to toss a fishing rod.
“As your buddy, I suggest you, the pale-faced city-bred, do more exercise.  I'm going to take you anywhere you want.”
Keiji said with impish, joyful face.

"How about climbing a mountain?  Aoba-yama."
Taro said so, reflexively,
“I am not mountaineer, but I want to try hiking in the mountains.  Besides, Aoba-yama is not a very high mountain."
Keigo and Daisuke looked at each other.
"Well, we are good to go, but I need to tell you.  There’s no place to play in Aoba-yama.  And it seems climbing can’t be easy on your feet.”
Daisuke, a plumb boy said so.  Actually, it was Daisuke who seemed reluctant to go hiking. 

 

"Gee, it’s horrible!  Do not look down the foot, OK?!”
Holding on to the chain, Keigo shouted.  The next day, on Saturday, Taro, Daisuke and Keigo were in the steep ridge of Aoba-yama.  Although Aoba-yama is a small mountain, it’s known for its rocky steep peaks, and people usually came to enjoy easy rock climbing.  Three of them slowly move along the chain around the cliff.  There was nothing below their feet, only the view of the town in the distance.

When arrived at the top at last, Keigo and Daisuke flopped down heavily in the grass.  After a while, Taro pointed ahead.
"There is a rock over there.  Hey, let’s go and check it."
There was a slightly elevated rock, with small handrail attached. Taro encourage two people, but Daisuke cried.
"This is the top, and there is nothing else over there!"
Daisuke was lying with his arms wide open.  Keigo was the same.  So, leaving the two people behind, Taro headed towards the rock.

Looking down from the rocks, he could see the coastline far below.  It's intricate terrain of mountains and sea.  The coastal edge waves looked a thin white line that lapped the shore.  Looking at the spectacular scene, he almost forgot the fatigue of climbing.  But soon he noticed that the sky suddenly became cloudy.Fog came closing in, and the loud sound of the birds was becoming faint.

 “Was climbing up here a lot of trouble, boy?” 
Having heard a low, quiet voice, Taro looked back and saw a tall, slender old man with long limbs standing there.  The man was wearing beige linen or cotton clothes that Taro had never seen before.  Taro got tongue-tied to see such a man came from nowhere. 

“Everybody likes this scenery once they arrived here, although most people just feel pleased to come up to the grass ground down there.”

Taro asked the old man.
"You… came here from a nearby village?”

The old man said,
“I’ve been living here for a long, long years…..  Well, I mean, my ancestors used to live in this mountain area.  I'm guarding the ruins and graves of those ancestors of mine.”
The old man smiled with the bearded face.

Taro asked with hesitation,
"When you say the people who lived a long time ago, do you refer to people called Tsuchi-gumo?"
The old man frowned.
“That's the name that later generations scornfully say to our ancestors.  Our ancestors fought bravely. When chased by invaders, they ran up the mountain, ran through the field, and went rowing a boat in the harbor around the bay across the sea.  They were so elusive that invaders were struggling to control them.”

"... After all, their leader – the chief of the clan known as Mikasa of Kuga-mimi – was not caught.  Having left his existence in various documents, he lived quietly in the mountains somewhere.  Surely you haven’t heard about the sound of whistle they dedicated to God during festivals?  You can hear even now when you listen carefully here."
The old man turned around and stood facing the sea.  Fog became more and more dense.  While standing there, Taro heard a faint whistle sound from somewhere.  It's a lilting, but melancholy tune.

 

"Hey, Taro.  Now we found you."
Having heard the deep voice of Daisuke, Taro turned around.  Daisuke and Keigo finally managed to climb on rocks.  Keigo looked around from the top of the rock. 
"Wow, this is a good view. In very far away, I can see the fishing port my father departs and arrives every day.  Hey, watch out!  The weather gets bad, and you will fall off the cliff if you are careless."
Now that Kaigo said so, Taro found himself standing close to the cliff.  Taro stepped away from the cliff in a hurry. 
"Oh, thank you!  And I'm sorry for coming here alone without telling you guys.  I've been talking to a person who lives near the mountain.  He is living here for many years….."

Taro said so, and looked back to see the old man.  But no one was there.  There was only a tiny shrine.
Wind came out along with the fog, and it was making ??a sound like a whistle.  Taro felt paralyzed and cold, and just stood there.  Keigo patted Taro on the shoulder.
"Taro, It looks like you are really tired.  I know it’s such a steep mountain.  Let's go home, go home!  Let's go to eat Kaki-gori (shaved ice topped with flavored syrup)!"
Taro nodded.


When he followed Daisuke and Kaigo, going down the mountain, Taro looked back again.  The fog was gradually clearing, and the small shrine stood there as if it was overlooking the sea.

 

 


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