The Story Finder

Voices in Fairy Tales

by Michelle Tocher

Story finder - Curly

Click the image above to fetch a new random story.

Sakura-ko, Flower of the Cherry

People say I am the most beautiful dancer in Yedo. My father was a samurai, but after he died, my mother and I had no food to eat, so I sold myself into bondage. The money that bought me is called Namida no Kané, which means “the money of tears.”

I dwell in the narrow street of the geisha, where the red and white lanterns swing and the plum trees flourish. The street of the geisha is full of music, for we play the samisen there all day long.

I am skilled in all the arts. I play the samisen, the kotto, the biwa, and the small hand-drum. I have great beauty, long hair and dark eyes, and a wonderful power to please. From dawn to dusk, and from dusk to dawn I smile and hide my heart. In the cool of the day, I stand upon the gallery of the house of my mistress and look down onto the narrow street.

The people who look up at me see Sakura-ko, Flower of the Cherry, the most beautiful dancer of Yedo. But I look down and think, “Little narrow street of the geisha, paved with bitterness and broken hearts, your houses are full of vain hopes and vain regrets. Youth and love and grief dwell here. The flowers in your gardens are watered with tears.”

I have had three lovers in my life. The first was a wealthy man who wanted to buy me. The second was an old man who tried to poison me so that he could bind himself to me for eternity. My third lover was a young man, brave and kind.

From the gallery of the house, I sang him this song:

My mother bade me spin fine thread
Out of the yellow sea sand—
A hard task, a hard task.
May the dear gods speed me!

My father gave me a basket of reeds;
He said, ‘Draw water from the spring
And carry it a mile—
A hard task, a hard task.
May the dear gods speed me!

My heart would remember,
My heart must forget;
Forget, my heart, forget—
A hard task, a hard task.
May the dear gods speed me!

My song carries the reason why I cannot be with my true love. The gods forbid it and all eternity lies between us. I hope that one day we will come to peace.

Sakura-ko, Flower of the Cherry, The Beautiful Dancer of Yedo, Japanese Fairy Tales. Illustration by Warwick Goble.