Japanese Mythology and Chapter 10 of “The Kimono”

Lord Sojobo, King of the Tengus

I’m having a lot of fun right now. Or perhaps it’s a poverty of ideas for continuing this difficult middle part of “The Kimono”.

I have posted a few chapters of this novel, two and a half years in the making, and it’s something I pick up and put down.  I have dedicated the time to finish it, but nothing is easy right now.

The novel is meandering around and I am letting it.  I generally believe that if the story is entertaining me….it will tell me where to go next.  Since I am writing of a (mostly) alien culture, plus switching back and forth from the 21st to the 16th century, I am having to do a ton of research.  It’s about all I do right now.

But I think some of the plot projections are bound up in this issue of mythology.  At least that gives me a little hope and inspiration.

There is a Tengu, a mystical creature that has its good and bad elements, and I’ve spiraled outward from him.  There are ‘kuhin-mochi’ (rice cakes) littering his scenes for particular reasons.  I am learning of different spooks:

-Ashimazari, a demon who entangles the legs of travelers.

-Akateko, a red hand (just the hand!) dangling out of a tree.

-Akuma, a very evil spirit.

-Amazake-babaa, an old women who begs for sweet sake and brings disease,

and my favorite!  Akaname, the spirit who licks the bathroom clean!

She could be very handy.

I haven’t gotten out of the “A” list yet, and there are loads of spirits…or demons….or kami….or ghosts.

When I started writing this novel, I found a lot of the mythology was not what we in the West think of mythology.  This was more peasant deities, and some from the Buddhist and Shinto religions.  There are ruling ‘gods’ but they aren’t like ‘our gods.

A lot of the stories surrounding these gods and goddesses are hysterical.  One Sun Goddess hid herself because she was angry in a cave.  Izume was the Goddess of Mirth and tried to lure her out by overturning a washtub and dancing on it.  Her garlands of flowers and vines started to fall off her as she pounded the wooden tub with her feet, and all the other gods started to laugh loudly at this display of Izume.  The Sun Goddess heard the laughter and peeked out to see what was so funny.  Someone grabbed her, rolled a heavy boulder over the mouth of the cave and that was the end of the Sun Goddesses’ sulk.  I have this picture of a rather rotund and naked Izume thumping away on this washtub with abandon.  It makes me laugh, even though I don’t know the full story.

I have picked up Chapter 17 with a planned visit to the King of Tengus…Lord Sojobo.  All important males in Japanese mythology are Lords…except when they are the peasants of the story.

Lord Sojobo is quite the character.  Tengus all are military advisors…(and part of the Yamabushi cult) or trainers in the martial arts, and have wicked senses of humor.  They seem to evolve over the centuries…at first, demons that did very bad things to the populace…like kidnapping children and women.  Then they got a better national PR agent and they, around the 17th and 18th century seemed to reform.  They, in some cases, became the ‘good guys’ in the stories and sometimes the protectors of Buddhist temples.  This is rather a seachange because Tengus are known for tripping up priests and doing rather annoying things to them.  And the way to stop a kidnapping of a traveler was to carry a fresh mackeral.  Tengus loathe mackeral.

There are kappa (frog like creatures who are tricksters), and yokai and obake and yurei galore in Japanese mythology, so there is never a poverty of annoying and frightening spooks.  In fact, the extent of the imagination of these Japanese tellers of tales is astounding. Strong channels of animism, too.

By the way, that’s a Tengu in the tree, speaking…at the end of the chapter.

Lady Nyo

Chapter 10 of  “The Kimono”

—-

Mari stood over the commode and vomited.  She tried to breathe but her stomach kept heaving.

She once saw a dog vomit while eating grass, thin sides heaving like bellows. She and the dog had a lot in common right now.

“Mari?”  Steven’s voice floated into the bathroom.  She rarely was sick and it was annoying to answer.  She had closed the door but he could still hear her retching.

“I’m fine, Steven.”  Sarcasm was thick in her voice.

He rapped on the door.  “Anything I can do for you?”

“No. I’ll be fine, just leave me alone, please.”

When she emerged from the bathroom Steven was sitting on the bed.

“Mari, this is not the first time I’ve heard you in there.  Seems like you have been doing this all week.”

“Perhaps I have the flu, Steven,” said Mari despondently.

“Sounds to me like you’re pregnant, Mari.”

“Steven? How could I be pregnant?  I religiously take the pill.”

“Well, you know how I feel about this.  It’s not time for children and if you are, you will have an abortion.”

Mari stared at him in disbelief. Yes, she knew his feelings about children, but an abortion? She was already in her thirties and if, it would be the first time.

“Steven? I know you don’t want kids, but if I’m pregnant, it’s not  as easy as “get an abortion.”

“Why not, Mari?  You know how I’ve felt for four years and right now it’s not convenient for me.”

“Steven, I’m half of this marriage, but you talk like this is only your decision.”

Steven got up and walked out of the house, leaving Mari alone.

*******

“Miyo” said Mari, sniffing into her handkerchief,  “I don’t know how this could have happened. I take the pill every day.”

“Oh Mari, you dear girl.”  Miyo sat close to Mari, holding her hand.  “These things happen, they are the little unpredictable things of life.  We can plan all we want, yet we don’t have complete control over every thing.  Perhaps Steven will soften in time.”

“No he won’t, I know him.  He insists I get an abortion.”  Mari’s eyes were red from crying.

“What do you want to do, Mari?”

Mari stared out the window where Miyo’s garden appeared.  It was very early spring and the rocks and nude trees were dusted with a late season’s snowfall. Beautiful, serene and about as desolate as she felt right now.

She turned to Miyo, eyes swollen and hopeless.

“I don’t know yet. I haven’t thought much, Miyo, but I don’t want an abortion.” She blew her nose in her handkerchief. “I just know I hate Steven.”

Mari looked down at her hands, twisting them in the soggy handkerchief.

Mari’s voice was soft and low. “I don’t know who the father is.”

Miyo stiffened next to her.

“Mari”, she said quietly, “are you having an affair?”

Mari thought, she is going to think me fucking crazy.

“Miyo, I don’t know how to tell you. I can’t understand what has happened. And no, I’m not having an affair.”

“I am here for your comfort, Mari. I will listen.”

Mari breathed deeply, trying to compose her thoughts.  Looking up at the ceiling, she saw the cracks in the plaster.  How ‘cracked’ her life had become, how fractured and fragile her grip on sanity. Could Miyo understand any of this?

“Miyo”, said Mari, grasping her friend’s hand in both of hers. “I don’t expect you to understand, but this happened and I don’t know what to make of it.”

Mari took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

“For the past six weeks I have been having dreams. It’s the same one, or a continuation of the same dream.”  Mari blew her nose. “No, I should tell the truth.  It’s not even a dream anymore.”

“What are you trying to say, Mari?”

“Miyo, at the séance or whatever it’s called, with Mr. Takado? Well, there is this man, in the dream, always this man, and Mr. Takado’s features became this man before my eyes.”

Miyo drew back, her expression unreadable.

“Mari, are you sure it wasn’t because of the light, or even the excitement of the evening.  Are you very sure?”

“Yes, but that isn’t the important part.  I bought a kimono, a black tomesode, a couple of months ago.  When I sleep in it, the dream comes and then I am gone.”

“What do you mean ‘gone’ Mari?”

“I wake up on the floor, always on the same floor, my hands tied behind my back, in the kimono. Then this man, this man called “Lord Mori”, unties me and we spend time together in the dream.”

“Can you remember what happens to you, Mari?”

Mari turned her body towards Miyo, her hands clenched tightly in her lap.

“We write haiku and make love.”

“Well, it doesn’t sound that bad for a dream.”  Miyo sat back, her smile illuminating her worried face.

“No, not only that.  I have composed poems for Lord Tokugawa, I have seen men

executed, prisoners, with bow and arrow, I have met women from his castle.”

The expression on Miyo’s face showed her confusion.

“Mari, perhaps you have been pregnant longer than you knew.  Maybe this is from the changes in your body.  Perhaps these dreams come because you are a little unhappy in your marriage.”

“Perhaps, Miyo.”  Mari looked out the window at the snow- covered garden.

“But how did I get pregnant around the pill?  I have been taking it for four years. Steven doesn’t want children, at least now.”

“Oh, Mari, this is not unusual.  Perhaps the dose was too low. Perhaps just one day you forgot.  Who knows?  These things happen, there is no accounting for some things.”

Miyo looked down and sighed.

“Mari, I have to ask.  Is there another man?”

“No, no, Miyo.  Only Steven.  But the lovemaking in my dreams is so real.  I wake up looking for Lord Mori’s bruises, evidence he has made love to me.”

“Do you ever find something, a mark, anything?”

“No, I haven’t, at least I don’t think so.”  Mari shook her head.

“Ah! Then, it is only a dream, Mari. A very strong and powerful dream.  When something like this happens, in the subconscious, there  are reasons.  Stress, hormones, something is driving this dream.  You understand?”

Mari nodded, but Miyo could tell she had her doubts about this explanation.

It was dark when Mari left. She walked the short distance home with a mixture of confusion and hope.  Miyo’s thinking it was stress or hormones was plausible.  If she was pregnant for longer than a few weeks, perhaps the timing was right and it was all a mirage. Still, she would have to go to a doctor soon to confirm her condition.

The dusting of snow had disappeared from the sidewalk and only remained in the crotch of trees.  The street lights were far apart and dim, more like lanterns on poles. Mari walked slowly, thinking, not really wanting to return home to Steven.

As she approached her street, she heard a rustling and looked up into a tree on her right.  A very large bird was sitting there, iridescent feathers catching even the dim street light and making him radiate with shining color. It seemed to have a large, red beak.

“Good evening, girl, it’s cold out here. Get home and get warm.”  It spoke to her in a rasping voice.

Mari screamed and ran the rest of the way.

____

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010

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12 Responses to “Japanese Mythology and Chapter 10 of “The Kimono””

  1. Berowne Says:

    You do like your demons, Jane. I look forward to the sequel, “Tengu’s Revenge”. I don’t suppose you know how to call up the bathroom-cleaning tengu by any chance? 🙂

    > a lot of the mythology was not what we in the West think of mythology. This was more peasant deities <

    I suspect that's what much of the West's earliest body of myths was too. But over the centuries it got organized as it was turned into literature, and only the literature survived the Christian era's stamping out of 'paganism'. But if you look hard, some of the saints look like local village spirits co-opted into the service of the Mother Church.

    Like

  2. ladynyo Says:

    I WISH I knew how to call up Akaname! Perhaps waving a sponge and a toilet brush around and burning incense???

    She would be the kami to have on call….LOL!

    Yep…animism and paganism intertwined…

    EVERYTHING was co-opted in the service of Mother Church….except in Wales. LOL!

    I thought you were going to say “some of the saints look like the local village idiots.”….see where the mind goes??

    I need a cookie.

    Thank you for reading, Berowne…and for leaving an informative comment.

    Hmmmm….”Revenge of the Tengus”….it has promise!

    Cheers!

    Like

  3. Malcolm Says:

    At last – it seemed to be a long wait! – a continuation of ‘The Kimono’. I’m sure I am not the only one who’s been waiting impatiently for this to appear. Let there be more soon!

    Like

  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Malcolm.

    This is chapter 10….I’m up to chapter 17…a pretty straight shot until this last chapter. I’ve been trying to figure out the plot projection for the last two chapters, and it seems to be falling into place. However, there is a lot of sex (or sexual scenes) in this book so I can’t post much of the previous chapters..plus there are graphic executions…..but then again, a novelist doesn’t want to post the whole book on the web! In fact, I can’t think of but a few chapters I have posted either in entirety or sections. This is going to be a pretty longggg novel.

    Right now….I have settled in for some ‘diversions’….plot twists that just popped up because it was necessary to the entire book…Or so I think.

    Thank you for reading, Malcolm…and leaving a comment.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  5. Berowne Says:

    You’re sure that picture isn’t Santa Claus and one of his elves?
    I wonder…

    Like

  6. ladynyo Says:

    Ha-ha.

    It’s a famous warrior being instructed by Sojobo in the warrior arts. It’s a Japanese painting from the late 19th century, but so colorful!

    Sojobo usually is depicted with feather fan: That’s because when he waves it…he produces thunderstorms….But he certainly is a mountain of a ….Tengu!

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  7. LediaR Says:

    I have also written a novel that takes place in Japan. It is entitled: Legend of the Tengu Prince. I also have a blog entitled: Mysterious Japan that you might be interested in.

    Good luck with the remainder of your novel. Looks like you have a growing fan base already.

    Mysterious Japan http://is.gd/NOq2Bo
    Legend of the Tengu Prince http://is.gd/YBfvn8

    Like

  8. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Ledia!

    It’s so nice talking with another author writing about Japan…and Tengus! I love them…and have written a couple of stories and of course a tengu figures prominently in “The Kimono”. LOL!

    I’ll look at your blog, as this interests me very much. And good luck with your “Legend of the Tengu Prince”…sounds great!

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  9. LediaR Says:

    I saw your post on my site, Legend of the Tengu Prince. Thank you so much for visiting. There is another chapter and the prologue listed on my site as well.

    I am going to go back and read all of the previous chapters of Kimono. Are you posting the chapters as you finish them?

    Will talk with you soon.

    Like

  10. LediaR Says:

    Do you have the other chapters listed? If so, where can I find them? Thank you, Lady Nyo. Talk with you soon.

    Like

  11. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Ledia!

    “The Kimono” is long…and unfinished…up to Chapter 23. I haven’t posted many chapters on my blog because there is SEX in there….and I don’t want to lose this blog through complaints to WordPress…LOL!

    I started this novel 4 years ago, and it weaved and warped its way into my life. Japanese studies of language, culture and mythology( through the literature) have become primary influences right now…as were Mid Eastern studies when I was writing “The Zar Tales”, just before “Kimono”.

    The problem with posting chapters is that many readers expect the whole story there, and when you come to publish it as a book, there is a lot of work to reform, revise and refine. Also, sometimes on a whim I post a chapter of a book I am writing just because….I did that with “Tin Hinan”…almost the whole thing, and then didn’t finish it. Readers asked for more, and I was at a sticking point.

    I am sure there are other chapters of “The Kimono” on my blog, I just don’t know where…it’s been three years on this blog now….almost….and there are a lot of posts.

    Thanks for reading what you find, Ledia.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  12. ladynyo Says:

    Hopefully my answer to your second post answers this.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

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