Koi wa Ameagari no You ni 08


herkz: if you want to read rashomon so you can better understand the parts in this episode where they discuss it, i’ve included the translation i’ve been referencing in the subs below

RASHŌMON (tr. by Jay Rubin)

Evening, and a lowly servant sat beneath the Rashōmon, waiting for the rain to end.

Under the broad gate there was no one else, just a single cricket clinging to a huge red pillar from which the lacquer was peeling here and there. Situated on a thoroughfare as important as Suzaku Avenue, the Rashōmon could have been sheltering at least a few others from the rain—perhaps a woman in a lacquered reed hat, or a courtier with a soft black cap. Yet there was no one besides the man.

This was because Kyoto had been struck by one calamity after another in recent years—earthquakes, whirlwinds, fires, famine—leading to the capital’s extraordinary decline. Old records tell us that people would smash Buddhist statues and other devotional gear, pile the pieces by the roadside with flecks of paint and gold and silver foil still clinging to them, and sell them as firewood. With the whole city in such turmoil, no one bothered to maintain the Rashōmon. Foxes and badgers came to live in the dilapidated structure, and they were soon joined by thieves. Finally, it became the custom to abandon unclaimed corpses in the upper story of the gate, which made the neighborhood an eerie place everyone avoided after the sun went down.

Crows, on the other hand, flocked here in great numbers. During the day they would always be cawing and circling the roof’s high fish-tail ornaments. And when the sky above the gate turned red after sunset, the crows stood out against it like a scattering of sesame seeds. They came to the upper chamber of the gate to peck the flesh of the dead. Today, however, with the late hour, there were no crows to be seen. The only sign of them was their white droppings on the gate’s crumbling steps, where long weeds sprouted from cracks between the stones. In his faded blue robe, the man had settled on the topmost of the seven steps and, worrying a large pimple that had formed on his right cheek, fixed his vacant stare on the falling rain.

We noted earlier that the servant was “waiting for the rain to end,” but in fact the man had no idea what he was going to do once that happened. Ordinarily, of course, he would have returned to his master’s house, but he had been dismissed from service some days before, and (as also noted earlier), Kyoto was in an unusual state of decline. His dismissal by a master he had served for many years was one small consequence of that decline. Rather than say that the servant was “waiting for the rain to end,” it would have been more appropriate to write that “a lowly servant trapped by the rain had no place to go and no idea what to do.” The weather, too, contributed to the sentimentalisme of this Heian Period menial. The rain had been falling since late afternoon and showed no sign of ending. He went on half-listening to the rain as it poured down on Suzaku Avenue. He was determined to find a way to keep himself alive for one more day—that is, a way to do something about a situation for which there was nothing to be done.

The rain carried a host of roaring sounds from afar as it came to envelop the Rashōmon. The evening darkness brought the sky ever lower until the roof of the gate was supporting dark, heavy clouds on the ridge of its jutting tiles.

To do something when there was nothing to be done, he would have to be prepared to do anything at all. If he hesitated, he would end up starving to death against an earthen wall or in the roadside dirt. Then he would simply be carried back to this gate and discarded upstairs like a dog. But if he was ready to do anything at all—

His thoughts wandered the same path again and again, always arriving at the same destination. But no matter how much time passed, the “if” remained an “if.” Even as he told himself he was prepared to do anything at all, he could not find the courage for the obvious conclusion of that “if”: All I can do is become a thief.

The man gave a great sneeze and dragged himself to his feet. The Kyoto evening chill was harsh enough to make him yearn for a brazier full of warm coals. Darkness fell, and the wind blew unmercifully through the pillars of the gate. Now even the cricket was gone from its perch on the red-lacquered pillar.

Beneath his blue robe and yellow undershirt, the man hunched his shoulders and drew his head down as he scanned the area around the gate. If only there were some place out of the wind and rain, with no fear of prying eyes, where I could have an untroubled sleep, I would stay there until dawn, he thought. Just then he caught sight of a broad stairway—also lacquered red—leading to the upper story of the gate. Anybody up there is dead. Taking care lest his sword, with its bare wooden handle, slip from its scabbard, the man set one straw-sandaled foot on the bottom step.

A few minutes later, halfway up the broad stairway, he crouched, cat-like, holding his breath as he took stock of the gate’s upper chamber. Firelight from above cast a dim glow on the man’s right cheek—a cheek inflamed with a pus-filled pimple amid the hairs of a short beard. The servant had not considered the possibility that anyone but dead people could be up here, but climbing two or three more steps, he realized that someone was not only burning a light but moving it from place to place. He saw the dull, yellow glow flickering against the underside of the roof, where spider webs hung in the corners. No ordinary person could be burning a light up here in the Rashōmon on a rainy night like this.

With all the stealth of a lizard, the servant crept to the top tread of the steep stairway. Then, hunching down and stretching out his neck as much as possible, he peered fearfully into the upper chamber.

There he saw a number of carelessly discarded corpses, as the rumors had said, but he could not tell how many because the lighted area was far smaller than he had thought it would be. All he could see in the dim light was that some of the corpses were naked while others were clothed. Women and men seemed to be tangled together. It was hard to believe that all of them had once been living human beings, so much did they look like clay dolls, lying there with arms flung out and mouths wide open, eternally mute. Shoulders and chests and other such prominent parts caught the dim light, casting still deeper shadows on the parts lower down.

The stink of the rotting corpses reached him, and his hand flew up to cover his nose. But a moment later the hand seemed to forget its task when a powerful emotion all but obliterated the man’s sense of smell.

For now the servant’s eyes caught sight of a living person crouched among the corpses. There, dressed in a rusty-black robe, was a scrawny old woman, white-haired and monkey-like. She held a burning pine stick in her right hand as she stared into the face of a corpse. Judging from the long hair, the body was probably a woman’s.

Moved by six parts terror and four parts curiosity, the servant forgot to breathe for a moment. To borrow a phrase from a writer of old, he felt as if “the hairs on his head were growing thick.” Then the crone thrust her pine torch between two floorboards and placed both hands on the head of the corpse she had been examining. Like a monkey searching for fleas on its child, she began plucking out the corpse’s long hairs, one strand at a time. A hair seemed to slip easily from the scalp with every movement of her hand.

Each time a hair gave way, a little of the man’s fear disappeared, to be replaced by an increasingly violent loathing for the old woman. No, this could be misleading: he felt not so much a loathing for the old woman as a revulsion for all things evil—an emotion that grew in strength with every passing minute. If now someone were to present this lowly fellow again with the choice he had just been mulling beneath the gate—whether to starve to death or turn to thievery—he would probably have chosen starvation without the least regret, so powerfully had the man’s hatred for evil blazed up, like the pine torch the old woman had stood between the floorboards.

The servant had no idea why the crone was pulling out the dead person’s hair, and thus could not rationally call the deed either good or evil. But for him, the very act of plucking hair from a corpse on this rainy night up here in the Rashōmon was itself an unpardonable evil. Naturally he no longer recalled that, only moments before, he himself had been planning to become a thief.

So now the servant, with a mighty thrust, leaped from the stairway and, grasping his sword by the bare hilt, he strode forcefully to where the old woman crouched. Terrified at the sight of him, the crone leaped up as if launched by a catapult.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he shouted, blocking her way. Panic-stricken, she stumbled over corpses in an effort to flee. She struggled to break past him, but he pushed her back. For a time, the two grappled in silence among the corpses, but the outcome of the struggle was never in doubt. The servant grasped the old woman’s arm—sheer skin and bone like the foot of a chicken—and finally twisted her to the floor.

“What were you doing there?” he demanded. “Tell me now, or I’ll give you a piece of this.”

Shoving her away, he swept his sword from its scabbard and thrust the white steel before her eyes. The old woman said nothing. Arms trembling, shoulders heaving, wide eyes straining from their sockets, she kept her stubborn silence and struggled to catch her breath. Seeing this, the servant realized that this old woman’s life or death was governed entirely by his own will. The new awareness instantly cooled the hatred that had been burning so violently inside him. All he felt now was the quiet pride and satisfaction of a job well done. He looked down at her and spoke with a new tone of gentleness.

“Don’t worry, I’m not with the Magistrate’s Office. I’m just a traveler who happened to be passing beneath the gate. I won’t be tying you up or taking you away. I just want you to tell me what you’ve been doing up here at a time like this.”

The old woman stretched her wide eyes still wider and stared hard at the servant. Her red-lidded eyes had the sharpness of a predator-bird’s. Then, as if chewing on something, she began to move her lips, which seemed joined with her nose by all her deep wrinkles. He could see the point of her Adam’s apple moving on her scrawny neck, and between her gasps the voice that issued from her throat reached the servant’s ears like the cawing of a crow.

“I—I was pulling—I was pulling out hair to make a wig.”

The servant was startled, and disappointed at how ordinary the woman’s answer turned out to be. But along with his disappointment, the earlier hatred and a cold contempt came back to fill his heart. The woman seemed to sense what he was feeling. Still holding in one hand the long hairs she had stolen from the corpse, she mumbled and croaked like a toad as she offered this explanation:

“I know, I know, it may be wrong to pull out dead people’s hair. But these people here deserve what they get. Take this woman, the one I was pulling the hair from: she used to cut snakes into four-inch pieces and dry them and sell them as dried fish at the palace guardhouse. If she hadn’t died in the epidemic, she’d still be out there selling her wares. The guards loved her ‘fish’ and they bought it for every meal. I don’t think she was wrong to do it. She did it to keep from starving to death. She couldn’t help it. And I don’t think what I’m doing is wrong, either. It’s the same thing: I can’t help it. If I don’t do it, I’ll starve to death. This woman knew what it was to do what you have to do. I think she’d understand what I’m doing to her.”

The servant returned his sword to its sheath and, resting his left hand on the hilt, listened coolly to her story. Meanwhile, his right hand played with the festering pimple on his cheek. As he listened, a new kind of courage began to germinate in his heart—a courage he had lacked earlier beneath the gate: one that was moving in a direction opposite to the courage that had impelled him to seize the old woman. He was no longer torn between starving to death or becoming a thief. In his current state of mind, the very thought of starving to death was so nearly banished from his consciousness that it became all but unthinkable for him.

“You’re sure she would, eh?” the servant pressed her, with mockery in his voice. Then, stepping toward her, he suddenly shot his right hand from his pimple to the scruff of her neck. As he grasped her, his words all but bit into her flesh: “You won’t blame me, then, for taking your clothes. That’s what I have to do to keep from starving to death.”

He stripped the old woman of her robe, and when she tried to clutch at his ankles he gave her a kick that sent her sprawling onto the corpses. Five swift steps brought him to the opening at the top of the stairs. Tucking her robe under his arm, he plunged down the steep stairway into the depth of the night.

It did not take long for the crone, who had been lying there as if dead, to raise her naked body from among the corpses. Muttering and groaning, she crawled to the top of the stairway in the still-burning torchlight. Her short white hair hung forward from her head as she peered down toward the bottom of the gate. She saw only the cavernous blackness of the night.

What happened to the lowly servant, no one knows.

Posted by Servrhe under Koi wa Ameagari no You ni, Releases | Permalink

9 Responses to “Koi wa Ameagari no You ni 08”

  1. rik says:


  2. anon says:

    It only took you 2/3 of the series to finally read a fucking book, LOL

  3. Amadeus says:

    For your information, I guess there’s a typo on 07:08. It should be “shrine”.

  4. WhoFramedRogerRabbit says:

    Thanks for the episode and translation! At 7:05 there’s an ”R” Missing in the line: ”They have it every year at the shine near the station.”

  5. Skee says:

    Reading classical japanese literature superimposed on this background image is… interesting.