Recently I watched the taiga drama, “Nobunaga: King of Zipangu”. It tells the story, obviously, of ODA Nobunaga, the first of three great men who unified Japan. Nobunaga is of course an extremly fascinating character but what makes the drama especially interesting is it is told from the point of view of the Portuguese Jesuit, Luis FROIS.


That there is Oda Nobunaga looking very gangster in his Nanban hat. His retainer told him he looks like Bishimon, protector god of Buddhist law, in that hat, upon which Nobunaga swore–like Bishimon–to protect Japan. Pretty awesome.

Although actually my favorite character is Lawerence (Lorenzo). Soft-spoken with an iron resolve. (#^.^#) You can see to the left in the above picture.

That said, the days of Oda Nobunaga were also the beginning of tea ceremony as we know it. For example, when the daimyo MATSUNAGA Hisahide submitted to Nobunaga, he presented him the Tsukumogami chaire, saying that next to his life it was the thing he valued most.

Matsunaga, presenting the tsukumogami chaire to Nobunaga

Matsunaga, presenting the tsukumogami chaire to Nobunaga

Nobunaga, country warlord that he is, was rather mystified why a drab tiny jar should be valued so much. But his wife’s friend, a merchant of Sakai named IMAI Soukyuu (if you study tea, that name should be familiar) immediately recognized the chaire. Nobunaga personally seemed impressed that the tiny chaire was, literally, worth an entire country.

The Tsukumogami Chaire

The Tsukumogami Chaire

By the way, the name “tsukumogami” comes from a story in the Ise Monogatari.

Once upon a time, there was a old woman whose hair was already white as snow. But just once in her life, she wanted to be with a charming man. She related this desire to her sons, but the older two merely looked at her like she was crazy. But her youngest son took her desire to heart and set out to search for a charming man. One day, he came across ARIWARA no Narihira, who is indeed very charming, if you have ever read his poetry. The youngest son tried to convince Narihira to meet his mother, but Narihira declined. However, the mother wanted to meet him so badly that she went to Narihira’s house and peeked at him through the gate. Narihira noticed this, so recited this poem:

ももとせに ひととせ足らぬ つくも髪 我を恋ふらし おもかげに見ゆ
The woman with white hair of 99 years (tsukumogami)
Just short of 100
It seems she yearns for me

The old woman felt embarrassed, and fled back home, tearing her clothing on a tree branch in the process. That night, Narihira went to the old woman’s house, but found her sleeping. He was surprised to find her sleeping, clearly she didn’t expect him to come. After reciting another poem, he wakes her and so in the end, her dream could come true.

By the way, the term “tsukumogami”, while literally meaning 99 year old hair, has come to refer to items which upon reaching 100 years of age, become animate. They are now often featured in yokai (ghost) stories.

NEXT!! More about Soukyuu and his friends.

Narihira having fun on the banks of the Fuji

Narihira having fun on the banks of the Fuji. Actually, I think he is just carry the lady Tsubone across the river, so she doesn’t have to get her clothes wet.