Published by arrangement with the Olympia Press.
Author: Ihara Saikaku
About: First novel by the poet of the Floating World. A book that weaves through the years of Yonosuke, a connoseiur of the myriad delicacies available in Japan's pleasure quarters. Originally published in 1682, later followed by his Life of an Amorous Woman and numerous other works.
Yonosuke, “Man of the World,” the son was called. Really there should
be no need to dwell so overtly on this, for everyone knows what such a
name implies. The mother's affection was pleasant to behold as,
fondling the child on her lap, hand tapping hand, hand tapping lips,
she mumbled sweet nothings and the child gurgled gleefully. And the
days passed and the years too. And then came the month of the frost
when the boy, now four years old, went through the customary
head-shaving rites. In the spring he wore his first broad hakama
trousers over his tiny robe. But then he had a touch of the deadly
smallpox. The gods, however, answered prayers, and not a trace of the
illness remained to mar his face. The fifth year passed and the sixth.
One summer night when he was seven years old, Yonosuke got up from
his bed and left his pillow. He fumbled with the door catch, and the
noise awoke a maid of the household sleeping in the adjoining room. She
knew what the boy was bent on doing. Lighting a candle, she walked
beside him down the corridor. The corridor squeaked loudly and eerily
in the quiet night. Another maid followed them hurriedly.
Out in the yard, beyond the densely spreading nandin trees, the boy
performed his pressing task on a pile of dry pine needles. Then, while
he stepped back onto the porch to wash his hands at the basin, the
first maid held the candle close lest the boy tread on the nailhead
protruding from the bamboo flooring.
“Blow out the light,” the little boy commanded.
“But it's dark here, at your feet,” the maid replied in a scolding
voice not unmixed with concern.
“Don't you know that love is made in the dark?” This was a broad
allusion to Tanabata-sama, a festival derived from an ancient legend
depicting the tryst of two amorous stars, the one “male” and the other
“female,” on the seventh night of the seventh month.
The second maid, who carried a short sword, blew out the light.
Yonosuke seized her sleeve. “Isn't my nurse around?”
That sounded exceedingly funny. And it was then that the maids knew
he was re-enacting the make-believe of stars a-wooing on the dark
heavenly bridge. This seemed incredible in a child so young; he could
hardly have comprehended the amorous doings of men and women. It showed
nevertheless that the boy was precociously gifted, alas, for sensual
things. Yet it was a gift, however singular, and the maids reported the
incident to his mother as something rather to be complimented on than