Yosha Bunko

Tokyo nichinichi shinbun
No. 944
   1875-2-26 (1875-2)
Double-take holdup

Story translation

As for there being two surprises in [this] world [life], though sometimes there are, in fact there are stories with two surprises. An agent of a merchant of Senba in Osaka received gold [money] in excess of 1,000 yen from a transaction in Saikyo [Kyoto], and en route back he was [too] late [to] board the [scheduled] boat at Fushimi, and alone, thinking [that hiring] a special boat would be a wasteful expense, retained a rikisha and hurried [over] the land all night to Osaka. At the time they were about to pass through an isolated village, which should not be far to Osaka -- where has it gone? -- it was after three in the night, the moon was hiding in the lims of a mountain, and they didn't know things [couldn't tell one thing from another], and just when the rikisha man was about to put in another candle in the lantern, a man of great size who seems to pierce the clouds appeared from a small shadow carrying a long sword and railed -- Hand over the 1,000 yen of gold you possess and fine; don't and [with] just [but] one thrust . . . . -- The agent just shook, the roots of his teeth not meeting, and he had no words. However, the rikisha man advanced and said -- This being the situation, there are no rights or wrongs [to discuss] [there is nothing to argue, nothing to be done but comply]. Rather than grudging [the gold] and discarding your life, there is nothing like [better than] handing over the gold and preserving your life, of which there are not [but] two. For [in the past] there was [the saying], Do what will benefit you. -- The agent too, now, resigning to this notion that there was nothing [else] to be done, took the gold from his pocket, and when the said rikisha man quickly snatched it and ran off, darkening his tracks [disappearing], both the rikisha man and the robber were appalled and stupefied. In less than an hour the agent returned to Osaka, crying -- As [things] should not have been like this, [I] had no power. -- It was hard to directly go back to his master's house, so he returned to his own house. He was about to [go to the master's house to] apologize, but from the prefectural hall there had been a notice to the master in Senba that the rikisha man with a brief deception had relieved the distress of the agent [rescued the agent from his difficulty], so the master's house instead made queries of [visited] the lodging of the agent and master and servant appeared at the prefectural hall, received the gold, and thickly [deeply] thanked the rikisha man.

By Sansantei Arindo

[Translated by William Wetherall]


The translation would read a bit faster if rendered more freely, with less regard for illuminating the structures of the original text. Still, the storyteller's craft -- his ability to create just the right ambiance while unfolding the narrative at just the right pace -- is clearly evident.


agent (手代 tedai) was someone who worked for, was trusted by, and represented a proprietor or manager of a shop, or other person, in financial transactions and other matters.

Senba (仙坡) is now part of Chuo ward in Osaka city.

Saikyo (西京 Saikyō) -- meaning "western capital", as opposed to "eastern capital" (東京 Tōkyō Teikyō) -- was a fairly common reference to Kyoto (京都 Kōto).

a man of great size who seems to pierce the clouds reflects 雲突如き大の男 (kumo tsuku gotoki dai no otoko) -- a cliche more familiar today as 雲つくばかりの大男 (kumotsuku bakari no oo-otoku) or 雲を衝つくような大男 (kumo o tsuku yō na oo-otoko), which most translators reduce to "a [towering] giant of a man".

the roots of his teeth not meeting reflects 歯の根も合ずして (na no ne mo awazushite) -- a cliche meaning "his teeth chattering" he was so frightened.

For [in the past] there was [the saying], Do what will benefit you. reflects 疾させ玉へとありけるにぞ (toku sasetamae to arikeru ni zo). The general expression is "toku suru" (得する). The polite imperative of "suru" is "sasetamae" (させ給え).

The expression in the story would generally be graphed 得させ給え rather than 疾させ玉へ.

疾 is glossed とく -- as in the phrase 疾に (toku ni), which has the variations 疾っくに (tokku ni) and 疾に (tou ni) and means "in the past" -- thus alluding to 得 (toku) while also link with ありける (arikeru), meaning "there was [in the past]".

玉 is not glossed but was commonly used to represent the "tama" of 給う (tamau) or 給え (tamae). The graph 玉 (Japanese "tama", Sin-Japanese "gyoku") means "jewel" or "gem".

crying -- As [things] should not have been like this, [I] had no power reflects 斯てあるべきならねバ力なくなく (kakute aru beki naraneba chikara nakunaku). The main phrase, a double negative, means something like "Things being as they were, I had to do what I did".

"crying" reflects "naku naku" ( なくなく) or "cry, cry" (泣く泣く naku naku) -- i.e., "while crying" (泣きながら nakinagara). It is commonly linked with a negative phrase, as here -- "chikara naku" (力なく chikara naku), meaning "without power".

master's house (主家 shuka) means not only the place where a master (主人 shujin) lived but the "house" as a family or corporate entity. Similarly, own house (実家 jikka) refers to both the place and the entity of one's own (typically natal) home as opposed to "another house" (他家 take).

master and servant reflects (主僕 shuboku), which I have taken to mean the master and agent.