お竹さんの行水 (Otake’s Bath)

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Click to enlarge.

Title:

お竹さんの行水 (otakesan no gyōzui)
Otake’s Bath

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This top depicts a cautionary folktale of a cruel, rich man who picked on others. On a summer day, he decides to spy on a hard-working maidservant, Otake, who is bathing in the garden. But when he peeps at her, she transforms, revealing she is actually the bodhisattva Kannon (sometimes called the bodhisattva of compassion or goddess of mercy). She had transformed into the maidservant to teach him a lesson about being cruel to others, admonishing him that to do ill would bring about punishment from the deities. After that encounter, the rich man reforms and does only good.

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Hiroi Michiaki: Is this Otake’s Bath? This one also has many different tales. Umm in the old days there was an ill-mannered man… uhh, of course, a rich man. He was really rich, but he was nasty, and he picked on poor people. And in his manor, this jochūbōkō (女中奉公)… what would she be called today… in other words a servant… umm… a maid. Named Otake. Umm… nowadays she’d be called a maid. Should I call her that? What should I call her so it’s easiest to understand. A maid, in other words.

Janell Landis: A maid. Yeah, yeah.

Hiroi: And she was the most–her rank was the lowest, and she worked hard. And when it was hot in the summer Otake-san was bathing in the garden when the cruel rich man came to peep at her. And when that happened, Otake-san, she was actually Kannon-sama, a bodhisattva? The bodhisattva Kannon. She had taken the form of the maidservant to admonish him. And to teach him that being cruel to others was bad, she came down specifically for that and bathed where she could be seen. And when he arrived at the place [where she was bathing] she turned [back into] the bodhisattva Kannon. And admonished him that if you do something bad, you’ll incur divine punishment from the gods. The story of Otake-san’s bath tells of that rich man reforming and doing good [after that].

 

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