Gusokuya edition
White publisher
Yellow carver
Yosha Bunko
Gusokuya edition
White publisher
Yellow carver
Takahashi 1986
Gusokuya edition
White publisher
Yellow carver
Ono 1972
All-blue banner

The version on the left, with the all-blue banner, is unusual among TNS variations. There is also a copy of this version in the Hagi Uragami Museum in Yamaguchi prefecture.

Tokyo nichinichi shinbun
No. 428
   1873-7-15/19? (1874-10x)
Man stops jumper

Story translation

The girls of Echigo are soft like its warm snows (jōyuki) and thin like hemp cloth, and from old [men] have sought prostitutes (shōgi) in this province. But the world is changing, and now [men] do not regard even geisha and prostitutes (geishōgi) of the amorous villages (irosato) as having no thoughts of entreating customers with true warmth (shinjō).

In Niigata port a geisha (geigi) named Tai in the employ of Nagahama something loathed the wealthy patron who had thrown down one-thousand in gold [for her]. She finished her apprenticeship and became infatuated with a young man. In the confusion of the night of a lantern dance, they fled Niigata, where they had been living, not knowing where their wake would lead, then after Yahiko, Teradomari, then Izumozaki with red strings to tie (musubu enishi), and at Amase they exchanged vows to never part, [and with hearts like leaves of] konotegashiwa, came to Kashiwazaki, then with the sins of impiety it bears in its name, went on to Oyashirazu, and crossing this the Kaga route too in time they passed, and after a journey of many nights, by way of Fushimi, they arrived in Naniwa, and wandered for a while, or just sat and ate, and it was not the mountains, and they emptied their always cold purses, and wept that there was no way [for them to live], so they would die and meet at [a time] yet to come, and at Tenmabashi, [their bridge] of mutual fate, having already resolved to enter the water, they were saved by a person passing along the way.

Tai once more plied the calling (tsutome) of the trying seas (kugai), and in time the man did jinrikisha work, but Mr. Nagahama had heard about the difficulties that pursued them, and pulled apart [her] bond (en) with the carriage coolie. She has returned to her hometown, cinched on a brocade obi, and again is plying the calling of a floating river bamboo, it is said.

By Sansantei Arindo

[Translated by William Wetherall]


This was the very first news nishikie I bought -- in July 2003 -- through the good offices of Mark Schreiber. Mark thought the man was groping the woman -- until I drew his attention to the woman's raised foot, the geta on the planks of the bridge, and the position of the man's hands, which suggested that he was pulling her back from the railing. Mark and I still debate whether he was projecting (my theory) or pulling my leg (his).

In any case, Yoshiiku's drawing depicts exactly what the text narrates -- a passerby stopping a geisha from Niigata about to jump off Tenmabashi bridge in Osaka. Her lover, who tried to jump with her, is not shown. She has removed her geta in preparation for her departure.

Sansantei puts the elopers on the road from Niigata to Osaka. The first half of their journey is along the coast of what is today the Japan Sea. Basho and Sora trekked much of the same route in 1689.

Oku no hosomichi has an account of the poets sharing a lodge with a couple of prostitutes on a pilgrimage from Niigata to Ise Shrine. The encounter takes place after the four have traversed a very treacherous part of the coast still called Oyashirazu, meaning a child who does not know its parents. The name designates a place so steep and difficult to walk that children and parents can look after only themselves.

Sansantei weaves Oyashirazu and other place names into a story told in line after line of 7/5-mora couplets, in which some of the place names are punned in the service of plot, mostly to comment on the plight of the lovers in flight. Anyone brought up on classical literature, or familiar with popular stories and songs that alluded to the classics, would have recognized the place names and what Sansantei was doing with them, even though they had never been near the places.

In the vicinity of Kashiwazaki, Tai is likened to a konotegashiwa. From the Man'yoshu to the 1867 kabuki performance of Zen'aku ryōmen konotekashiwa, this tree, with leaves that look alike on both sides, has symbolized the "double facets" (ryomen) of people who are both "good and evil" (zen'aku) or have fickle hearts.

The story ends on a note that expesses both surprise and fatalism. That a woman who went to so much trouble to escape the "amorous village" should return to her life as a pleaser of men with the money to buy her is ironic. It is her destiny, though, to drift like bamboo torn from the riverbank, and her only choice is to float or sink.

they fled Niigata, where they had been living
not knowing where their wake would lead

This reflects the following lines -- the first two of a stretch of over ten 7-morae plus 5-morae couplets which rhythmically narrate the couple's trek along the main course of their journey. The kana readings in parentheses represent the furigana beside the kanji on the print.

住居馴れたる新潟 (にいがた) を

sumainaretaru / Niigata o
跡 (あと) 白浪 (しらなみ) と遁走 (とんそう) し ato shiranami to / tonsou shi

"shiranami" means "white waves" -- but in stories and drama, including kōdan (as by Shōrin Hakuen) and kabuki (as by Kawatake Mokuami), it also means "bandits", a derivation from stories from the Later Han and Three Kingdoms periods of chivalric bandits in the Baogu (white wave) valley of Xihe in present-day Gansu province.

"ato shirami" means the "white waves of the wake" that follows them. But "shiranami" is also a play on "shiranai" meaning "do not know". So the expression implies both that Tai and the man leave Niigata "not knowing where they are heading" -- and that Niigata "disappears from sight behind them".

Suicide prevention

Suicide and its prevention are part of the human condition in all societies. Some people are tempted to end their lives, and others are moved to disuade, interrupt, and rescue them. Many people claim that Japan is a "land of suicide" -- mostly because they are unaware of its long history of suicide prevention, reflected in both literature and art.

Many news nishikie narrated stories about people who killed themselves and possibly someone else first, or who died together. Just as many, like this one, showed people persuading those in despair to suffer the miseries of life a bit longer.

Suiciders who leap from building and bridges, or plunge or wade into bodies of water, sometimes take off their footwear. Showing footwear being removed, at a parapet or railing, or at the water's edge on a beach or embankment, is a common signal in film and tv that someone is about to die.

A scene ending with such removal is every bit as predictive as one in which a couple closes a bedroom door on the camera or switch off a light. Or a scene may begin with a pedestrian or hiker discovering some footwear left on a roof or shore, possibly with a note or other item.

"Not wearing footwear" (or other clothing below the waist) is hakanai in Japanese. A word of similar pronunciation means "empty" or "hopeless". A pun is made by asking why people remove their footwear before killing themselves. The punch line is Hakanai jinsei da kara -- "Because life is hopeless." (WW)


I romanized the text of this story thinking I might include it in the Andon 80 article (Wetherall and Schreiber 2006), but there was no room. The romanization reflects the surface orthography -- except that post-positions wo, ha, and he have been shown as o, wa, and e.

As I was particularly interested in the moraic phrasing of what is actually an oral narrative, I divided the text into phrases and marked their junctures with slashes (/). The numbers at the beginning of each line are counts of morae in the phrases of the line.

I have shown voicing where voicing was probably intended, and have marked proper nouns in upper case. Butd I have left the text punctuated only by its grammar and phrasing, as on the print.

8/7/6 Echigo no onna wa / kono jouyuki to / tomo ni awaku
6/8 katabiraji to / tomo ni usukereba
5/7/5/4 korai yori / ooku shougi o / kono kuni ni / motomu to
8/5/8/5/6 shikaru ni yo utsuri / monokawari / ima wa sono kuni ni / irosato no / geishougi mo
7/6/8 shinjou o mote / kyaku ni gu suru / kangaenashi to sezu
9/9/6/7 koko ni Niigatakou / Nagahama nanigashi no / yatoi geiki / Tai to iu mono
8/8 senkin o nagutsu / goukaku o itoi
6/7/5 detchi agari / ichiseinen ni / renchaku shi
6/6 bon'odori no / yoru ni magire
7/5 sumainaretaru / Niigata o
7/5 ato shiranami to / tonsou shi
7/5 Yahiko o ato ni / Teratomari
7/5 musubu enishi no / Izumozaki
7/5 yoshiya Amase to / nareba tote
7/5 hanare wa seji to / torikawasu
7/5 konotekashiwa ya / Kawashizaki
7/5 haya ouou te / na ni shi ou
7/5 fukou no tsumi no / Oyashirazu
7/5 koete Kagaji mo / itsuka sugi
7/5 ikuya ka tabi ni / Fushimi yori
7/6 Naniwa ni shibashi / samayou uchi
7/5 za shite kuraeba / yama narade
7/8 motoyori samuki / futokoro tsuki ni ya
5/5 senkata mo / naku bakari
7/5 shi shite mirai de / aimin to [mo]
7/5 tagai no un no / Tenmabashi
7/5 sude ni juusui o / tsuke seshi o
7/5 michi yuku hito ni / tasukerare
7/7 tai wa futatabi / kugai no tsutome
7/9 otoko wa yagate / jinrikisha kasegedo
5/5/7/6 owaharuru / konnan o / nagahamauji ni / kikoeshikaba
7/5 shafu to no en o / hikihanashi
7/9 kokyou e kaeri / nishiki no obi shimete
4/5/7/5 mata mo ya / kawatake no / ukishi tsutome o / naseri to zo