Anecdotes of the Honseki Izo Iburi 64

64. Thoughts on Seeing the “Hermit of the Village”

The following is a recollection of Tojin Okajima (1894–1961), who once was president of the Doyusha, Jihosha, and Yotokusha publishing companies:

“When I was small, I saw the Honseki every now and then with his distinctive topknot, a hairstyle that appears in old ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock) prints.

“I think I was seven or eight when a procession from the Daikagura Festival passed by coming from the west when I was playing with the neighborhood children in front of Church Headquarters. There were two men wearing large lion masks and two or three others who were pulling what looked like stalls behind them. We children crowded together and felt great joy having the procession come by Jiba since it was still a sleepy little village back then.

“As we followed the procession, it proceeded to the east past the front of Church Headquarters to the open area in front of the Honseki’s home where the stalls were lowered and set up. One row of musicians played flutes while another row played drums. A large number of adults and children gathered upon hearing the music, and they began lining up in front of the stalls.

“The Honseki then came out from the front gate of the Residence and called to speak with someone from the procession. At a moment’s notice, the person then began untying something from a stall. He gathered a few straw mats in the center of the open area and began performing a number of tricks on the makeshift stage. The villagers and children who had gathered around were overjoyed and a carnival-like atmosphere pervaded the scene.

“The Daikagura procession must have been able to make an unexpected profit, so they happily performed all the tricks they knew and entertained a large crowd of people. Two or three hours must have passed by but there was no sign of the children and adults losing interest. The size of the crowd doubled and tripled.

“The Honseki sat on a shabby chair and joyfully watched the entertainment from beginning to end. His facial expression was the crystallization of compassion itself as he gazed at the entertainers, the villagers, and children.

“The impression I always had of the Honseki was as if one of the mountain hermits that appear in children’s stories had actually appeared. I cannot help but wonder if the phrase ‘sage’ or ‘hermit of the village’ referred to the Honseki. The image of the Honseki that has been stuck in my mind since I was child is that of the ‘hermit of the village.'”

(From Ten no jogi pp. 82–83)

*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.