Jen at Blog It Or Lose It has introduced us to a new form, the Tanaga. Jen says that:
“Some sources call the Tanaga a “Filipino Haiku”, but that isn’t quite accurate. Like an English haiku, the Tanaga counts syllables. Unlike the haiku, the pattern is four lines of 7 syllables each (7-7-7-7).
The biggest difference is that the Tanaga rhymes; it has a pattern of AABB. In addition, ancient Tanagas were handed down through oral history and contain advice.”
In addition to Tanaga, she provided a thought-inspiring tale. I shall have to do the same, and provide you here a retold, by me, tale of the Diving Woman of Oiso Bay, Japan!
A certain knight by the name of Takadai Jiro became ill in the town of Kamakura, where he had been on duty, and was advised to spend the hot month of August at Oiso, to give himself perfect rest, peace, and quietness.
Having obtained permission to do this, Takadai Jiro lost settled himself down in a small inn which faced the sea. As soon as he had secured his room he threw off his clothes and went down to bathe. Takadai was a good swimmer, and plunged into the sea without fear, going out for nearly half-a-mile. There, however, misfortune overtook him. He was seized with a violent cramp and began to sink. A fishing-boat sculled by a man with his diving-girl daughter happened to see him and went to the rescue.
The girl jumped overboard and swam to the spot where he had disappeared, and, having dived deep, brought him to the surface, holding him there until the boat came up, when by the united efforts of herself and her father Takadai was hauled on board.
Before they had reached the shore, Takadai saw that his saviour was a beautiful ama (diving-girl). Such beauty he had never seen. Takadai was in love with his brave saviour before the boat had grounded on the pebbly beach. Determined in some way to repay the kindness he had received, Takadai helped to haul their boat up the steep beach and then to carry their fish and nets to their little thatched cottage, where he thanked the girl for her noble and gallant act in saving him, and congratulated her father on the possession of such a daughter. Having done this, he returned to his inn.
From that time on the soul of Takadai knew no peace. Love of the maddest kind was on him. There was no sleep for him at night, for he saw nothing but the face of the beautiful diving-girl, whose name (he had ascertained) was Kinu. Try as he might, he could not for a moment put her out of his mind. In the daytime it was worse, for O Kinu was not to be seen, being out at sea with her father, diving for the haliotis shell and others; and it was generally the dusk of evening before she returned, and then, in the dim light, he could not see her.
At last his love grew so great that he could endure it no longer. He felt that at all events it would be a relief to declare it. So he took his most confidential servant into the secret, and despatched him with a letter to the fisherman’s cottage. O Kinu San did not even write an answer, but told the old servant to thank his master in her behalf for his letter and his proposal of marriage. ‘Tell him also,’ said she, ‘that no good could come of a union between one of so high a birth as he and one so lowly as I.
‘I will wait a day or two,’ thought Takadai. ‘Now that Kinu knows of my love, she may think of me, and so become anxious to see me. I will keep out of the way. Perhaps then she will be as anxious to see me as I am to see her.’
Takadai kept to his own room for the next three days, believing in his heart that O Kinu must be pining for him. On the evening of the fourth day he wrote another letter to O Kinu, more full of love than the first, despatched his old servant, and waited patiently for the answer.
When O Kinu was handed the letter she laughed and said: ‘Truly, old man, you appear to me very funny, bringing me letters. This is the second in four days, and never until four days ago have I had a letter addressed to me in my life. It is difficult for me to understand. If you gave my message to your master correctly he could not fail to know that I could not marry him. His position in life is far too high. Is your master quite right in his head?’
‘Yes: except for the love of you, my young master is quite right in his head; but since he has seen you he talks and thinks of nothing but you, until even I have got quite tired of it, and earnestly pray to Kwannon daily that the weather may get cool, so that we may return to our duties at Kamakura. For three full days have I had to sit in the inn listening to my young master’s poems about your beauty and his love. Oh, do marry him, so that we shall all be happy and go out fishing every day and waste no more of this unusual holiday.’
‘You are a selfish old man,’ answered O Kinu. ‘Would you that I married to satisfy your master’s love and your desire for fishing? I have told you to tell your master that I will not marry him, because we could not, in our different ranks of life, become happy. Go and repeat that answer.’
Poor Takadai! This time he was distressed, for the girl had even refused to meet him. What was he to do? He wrote one more imploring letter, and also spoke to O Kinu’s father; but the father said, ‘Sir, my daughter is all I have to love in the world: I cannot influence her in such a thing as her love. Moreover, all our diving-girls are strong in mind as well as in body, for constant danger strengthens their nerves: they are not like the weak farmers’ girls.
Takadai’s heart was broken. There was nothing more that he could say and nothing more that he could do. Bowing low, he left the fisherman and retired forthwith to his room in the inn, much to the consternation of his servant. Takadai that evening wrote a last note to Kinu, and as soon as the villagers of Oiso were asleep he arose and went to the cottage, slipping the note under the door. Then he went to the beach, and, after tying a large stone to a rope and to his neck, he got into a boat and rowed himself about a hundred yards from shore, where he took the stone in his arms and jumped overboard.
Next morning O Kinu was shocked to read in the note that Jiro Takadai was to kill himself for love of her. She rushed down to the beach, but could see only an empty fishing-boat some three or four hundred yards from shore, to which she swam. There she found Takadai’s tobacco box and his juro (medicine box). She began to dive, and was not long before she found the body, which she brought to the surface, after some trouble on account of the weight of the stone which the arms rigidly grasped. O Kinu took the body back to shore, where she found Takadai’s old servant wringing his hands in grief.
The body was taken back to Kamakura, where it was buried. O Kinu was sufficiently touched to vow that she would never marry any one. True, she had not loved Takadai; but he had loved, and had died for her. If she married, his spirit would not rest in peace.
No sooner had O Kinu mentally undertaken this generous course than a strange thing came to pass.
Sea-gulls, which were especially uncommon in Oiso Bay, began to swarm into it; they settled over the exact spot where Takadai had drowned himself. Fishermen thought it extraordinary; but Kinu knew well enough that the spirit of Takadai must have passed into the gulls, and for it she prayed regularly at the temple, and out of her small savings built a little tomb sacred to the memory of Takadai Jiro.
Kinu died by drowning in a severe typhoon some nine years later than Takadai; and from that day the sea-gulls disappeared.
the way to a woman’s heart
is not the flight of a dart
but more of a labyrinth
of completely unknown length