花咲ぢいさん (hanazaka jiisan)
The Old Man Who Made the Dead Trees Blossom
This piece depicts the folktale “The Old Man Who Made the Dead Trees Blossom.” There are many versions of the story. One is that an old couple loved their dog dearly, and one day the dog dug up gold in their garden. An envious neighbor, thinking the dog must be able to sniff out treasure, stole the dog and had it dig in his own garden. But when the dog only dug up bones, he killed it and told the couple it had died naturally.
The old couple buried the dog under the fig tree where it had dug up the treasure, and that night the old man had a dream the dog told him to chop down the tree and use it to make a mortar for pounding mochi. He did so, and the rice they put into the mortar turned into gold. The neighbor also saw this and took the mortar, but the rice he put inside turned to dirt instead, so his wife burned the mortar and destroyed it. That evening, the dog returned to his master in a dream and told him to sprinkle the ashes of the mortar on nearby cherry trees. The old man did so, and the trees bloomed, and a passing daimyo (military lord) who saw them praised the old man and showered him with gifts. When the neighbor jealously tried to sprinkle the ashes as well, they blew into the daimyo’s eyes, and the daimyo threw the neighbor into prison. When he was released, he was banished from his village and had nowhere to live.
Hiroi Michiaki: And what is this? Ahh! The Old Man Who Made the Dead Trees Blossom. Hm? The Old Man Who Made the Dead Trees Blossom?
Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah, it’s that.
Hiroi: Mm. Yeah. It’s The Old Man Who Made the Dead Trees Blossom.
Mrs. Hiroi: It spins around and around. If you spin it from the top.
Hiroi: Ummm, this is The Old Man Who Made the Dead Trees Blossom. When [the old man] saved an adorable dog, as thanks, um… it barked for him to dig [in this spot], and when he dug there large and small gold coins came out. And later, when he was pounding mochi, I think the mochi turned to gold. It turned to gold. And the wicked old man next door felt bitter towards him. So he burned the mortar and mallet [for pounding mochi]. And the [first] old man took the ashes and scattered them and flowers bloomed from the withered trees there. And he was praised by his local lord. It’s an old legend… that goes like that.