Nihon Ryoiki, Book I

biography of author, Kyokai




"espoused the teaching of the Yuishiki ... School".


In 787 Chr.E., dreamed that a mendicant "showed him a huge flat board on which were marked the heights {statures} of various men", and "gave him an anthology of Buddhist scriptures".


In 788 Chr.E., dreamed that "he died and was cremated while his spirit observed the who procedure as an onlooker."

[cited by volume:tale:page]

the 14 (out of a total of 116) stories containing a visit to the other world

p. 51

pp. 52-3




y. (C.E.)










p. 52

southern beyond bridge


5, 7, 16, 19, 25



p. 53

prohibit cooked food





p. 52

ford a black river


22, 23, 26, 37




35, 36




Part 2 : Nihon Ryoiki













pp. 99, 101 Praeface to Book I

p. 99

"The Inner Scriptures ["Buddhist scriptures" (fn. 1)] and Outer Writings ["Chinese classics" (fn. 2)] initially came to Japan in two waves :"


the __

arrived during the reign of Emperor __

who resided at the Palace of __

in __


Outer Writings





Inner Scriptures





"there was an emperor [named Nintoku (fn. 10)] who ... contented himself with a palace that had a leaky roof."


"In China, the Myohoki (Record of Invisible Work ...) was compiled, and,

during the great T>ang dybnasty, the Hannya kenki (A Collection of Miraculous Stories Concerning the Kongo hannya-kyo) was written."

p. 102, fn. 1 Nihon S^oki XIV (Yuryaku 7:7:3) = Aston’s Nihongi I:347 : caught by Sugaru was the "kami of Mt. Mimoro ... a great snake ... thunder rolled" {with the name of /MIMoro/ cf. that of /MIMas/ (GM 35.e), one of the Gigantes, who had "serpent-tails for feet" (GM 35.a)}

pp. 103-150 Book I – 35 tales






"Sugaru hurried ... wearing a red headband ["also worn by a guard of the land of the dead (II.7)." (fn. 6)] ... and carrying a halberd with a red banner. {The city Eruthrai ‘Red’ is located on the paeninsula of Mimas.} ... "Hill of Thunder" ... a pillar inscribed : "the tomb of Sugaru ... ." The thunder ... struck the pillar and was caught between the splintered pieces. {Mimas was apparently caught in the paeninsula of that name, part of Ionia.} When the emperor heard this,



he freed the thunder loose, narrowly rescuing it from death. ... "Sugaru ... caught the thunder ... after his death.""



"a man from Ono district of Mino province ... set out ... in search of a good wife. ... ‘I am looking for a good husband,’ she answered. ... he ... married her. ... she went to the place where the female servants were pounding rice in a mortar ... . The dog, seeing her, ran after her barking and ... she



suddenly changed into a wild fox ... . Having seen this, the man said, "... come sleep with me."" [kitsune ‘fox’ = kitsu-ne ‘come sleep’ (fn. 7)] As yet "beautiful in her ... skirt (it is called pink), she would rustle way from her husband". {Likewise, Kephalos "heard a rustle" (GM 89.g) when approached by his wife Prokris, while his hound Lailaps "growled" at her : Lailaps afterwards pursued "the Teumessian vixen" (GM 89.h).} {As for the "skirt ... called pink", in Zanzibar women-devotees are appareled "to welcome their female spirit in a long, pink dress" (WhH&SM, p. 131) for the spirit-possession caerimony; and in Chinese "spirit possession ... the chosen woman goes mad and speaks with the voice of a fox." (AK, p. 12)}



"in the village of Katawa in Ayuchi district of Owarri province ... the thunder struck in front of him in the form of a child,"



who requaested, "Make me a boat of camphor" ["camphorwood" (fn. 6)]. The boat was made for boy, who, after winning stone-hurling contest, escaped through hedge --



the boy pulled out the hair of a fiend (ghost of dead slave buried at crossroad) who had murdered acolytes at bell-hall.



"Prince Regent Shotoku ... was born in front of the stables {cf. Iesous born in a stable; Gos`ala Maskarin likewise} ... .



... the Prince Regent ... [discovered] his cloak hanging on the branches of a tree."



"The Venerable Ensei ... was a national preceptor of Paekche. He livwed in the Takamiya-dera ... at Kazuraki in Yamato province ... ."

"The Lay brother secretly bored a hole into the wall of Gangaku’s chamber to spy on him and found the chamber full of light. {This is a theme concerning Sahajiya saints.} ... five kinds of strong herbs ["garlic, scallion, onion, ginger, leek" (fn. 19)] ... a sage ["hijiri no henge; ... shohenge" (fn. 18)] eats them".



"in the reign of Emperor Bitatsu, sounds of musical instruments were heard off the coast of Izumi ... province. They sounded like pipes and strings ... . They were heard in the daytime and at night a light spread eastward."



There were 837 monks and 579 nuns. "Yasunoko died suddenly at Naniwa. ... He returned to life in three days, however, and he told ... the following tale :

"There were five-colored clouds like a rainbow stretching out to the north. I was walking along that roadway of clouds, and it smelled fragrant ... . At the end of the way



there appeared a golden mountain which dazzled my eyes as I approached it. There the late Prince Regent Shotoku was waiting for me and we climbed to the summit together. A full-fledged monk ... standing on top of the golden mountain ... said, ‘... I beseech you to take this elixir of life.’ ... I came back the way I had taken before, and all of a sudden I was brought back to life.""



"Elder Master Gyozen ... came the Katashibe family ["from Paekche" (fn. 2)] and ... he came to a river ... . Sitting on a broken-down bridge, ... an old man came by in a boat to take him to the other side. Upon landing, he could see neither the old man nor the boat."



"Dhyana Master Gusai ...came from Paekche. ...



Once, going to the capital to exchange his belongings for gold and paints, the master reached the port of Naniwa ["Osaka" (fn. 11)]. ... Late at night, the sailors ... threw [the master] into the sea ... . ... In the morning light he found that he was being carried by the turtles. [p. 49, fn. 22, quoting the Nihon S^oki XIV (Yuryaku 22:7) : "Mizunoe no Urashimako of Tsutsukawa ... caught a big tortoise, which turned into a woman. Thereupon, he felt desire and made love to her. Then they went into the sea together and visited the land of immortality ... to see a saint."] They left him on the beach of Bitchu [= "Okayama" (fn. 16)]."



"In the reign of the empress residing at the Palace of Owarida there was a man whose name was Kinunui no tomonomiyatsuko Gitsu... who ... was deaf in both ears ... . ... During



the master’s performance, one ear was completely healed ... and, as the master went on with the service, both ears were healed."



"in the reign of the empress who resided in the Palace of Itabuki, ... there was a baby girl ... in Shizumi district of Tajima province ... . ... an eagle seized her and carried her high into the sky toward the east. ...



The host replied, "I was up in a tree to catch doves, when an eagle carrying a baby flew from the west and dropped it in the nest ... . This is the girl whom I brought back from the nest and reared." The date of the accident ,,, identified the girl as the lost child of the traveler."



"In the ... village of Yamamura in Sou upper district, Yamato province ..., there was once a man who was called Lord Kura ["storehouse" (fn. 3)] no iegimi. ...



In the evening ... the monk ... heard a voice saying, "Don’t steal the quilts." Startled, the monk ... found only an ox standing under ... the storehouse. ["if a storehouse is on stilts, ... it is possible ... to take shelter under it." (fn. 10)] ... the ox ... began to speak, "I am the father of Iegimi ... . ... I was reborn in the form of an ox ... .""



According to the Ganshi kakun, "Once there was a man who belonged to the Liu family in Chiang-ling,



who made a living by selling stewed eel. Later he had a child with the head of an eel and a human body".



"Doto ... of Koryo: [= Koguryo (p. 117, fn. 6)] , was a monk of Gango-ji. ... Honce, while he was passing through a valley in the Nara hills ..., he saw a skull ... . ... he had his attendant Maro ... place it on a tree." The ghost of that skull afterwards came to visit Maro;



and told how he had been murdered by his own brother for the sake of silver. {Hebel, who "being dead yet speaketh" (Epistolos to the Hebraioi 11:4), was murdered by his own brother. Cf. also the "thirty pieces of silver, the price that I was priced at by them."}



"In ... Uda district, Yamato province ... there lived an extraordinary woman, who ... gave birth to seven children ... .



... heavenly beings communicated with her, and she ate special herbs ... in springtime and flew about in the heavens."



"Saka Gigaku ... was originally from Paekche. ... later ..., he immigrated to this country and lived in Kudara-dera ... . ...



Egi made a hole in the paper window, peeped secretly into the room, and saw Gigaku sitting and reciting the scripture, the light coming out of his mouth. ... Once Dharma Master Gigaku said ..., "... I found I could see right through the four walls of the room ... . ... I went out ... and came back to my room, but all the walls and doors had remained closed. ..""



A "monk ran ..., but the man chased him and caught him. the monk ... cast a spell ["jubaku" (fn. 3)] on the man, who rolled on the ground and ran about".



"In Yamato province ... a man ... caught a rabbit and set it free in the fields after skinning it alive. {myth of rabbit’s returning to life after dying from being flayed (KT, p. 77)} Before long ... his whole body was covered with scabs ... . He was never cured and died".



"Ochi no atae... was sent to Paekche ... . he and some other Japanese, eight in all, came to live on an island. ... They worked together cutting down a pine tree to make a boat".



"In Kazuraki upper district, Yamato province ... a devotee ... from the Tajhi ... family ... had a dream. A man said to him, "In your previous existence you were the child of ... Saru ["monkey" (fn. 7)] ... . ... while reciting the scripture you burned one character with a lamp so that you could no longer read it. ...""



"In Yamashiro ... province there was a self-ordained novice ... .



One day when he was playing go ..., a mendicant came to recite the Hoke-kyo ... . The novice ..., mimicking ... with a twisted mouth ... lost. Meanwhile the novice’s mouth became twisted ... . ... "Those who ... slight this scripture will ... get a twisted mouth ... ." [fn. 7 : Hoke-kyo XXVII (Taisho IX:62a)] {cf. twisted mouths on Iroquois "false-face" ritual masks} ... Remember that evil comes from one’s mouth."



"Saka Esho ... was a monk of Engo-ji ... . Once he gave away a bundle of firewood ... and then died." {cf. the man who died for gathering faggots on a S^abbat}



"When Isowake had sold all of the melons, he would kill his horse . ... Isowake happened to look into a kettle of boiling water, whereupon his two eyes fell into the kettle and were boiled."



"The late Dharma Master Dosho ... belonged to the Fune ... family. ["descended from O Shin-ni ... of Paekche." (fn. 3)] ["of Tajihi district " (fn. 4)] in Kawachi province. ...



... a light emanated from the hall and moved round to illuminate the pine trees in the garden. Presently it flew away to the west. All his disciples were struck with wonder, and it was at that very moment that the Most Venerable Master passed away calmly, facing west. We are sure of his rebirth in the pure land of bliss."



"In Sou upper district, Yamato province ..., ... Miyasu ... pressed his mother for payment."



Miyasu, "returning with the bonds [fn. 9 : "private arrangements for lending"], burnt them all ... . Then he ... ran wildly this way and that with disheveled hair".



A mother-in-law was addressed : "Your daughter is screaming that she has a nail stuck in her chest! ..." {heart attack, cardiac angina?}



"during a drought he had ... to irrigate the fields of other people. When the water in his fields dried up, the dragon kami sent down rain showing the empathy of all the heavens. It rained only on his fields. Yao ... sent clouds and Shun ... poured down rain". {Controlling the weather is a Taoist-style miracle.}



"a dhyana master of Paekche whose name was Tajo [or Tarajo (fn. 2)] ... in Hoki-yamadera ... in Takechi ... made it his chief



concern to cure diseases. The dying were restored to health by his miraculous works." {This is a typically Taoist occupation.}



The married "novice Shami of Ishikawa ... tore down a pillar of the pagoda to burn". {cf. Nara-simha}



[The "legendary founder of the Shugendo" (p. 27), namely] "E no ubasoku ... of the Kamo-no-enokimi ... family, presently the Takakamo-no-asomi ... family ...



was to fly on a five-colored cloud beyond the sky and play in the garden of eternity [fn. 28 : "the garden which does not change for 100 million years"] with the guests of the heavenly palace, lying in the flowering garden and sucking the vital force out of the haze to nourish his nature. {all this is Taoist} Accordingly, ... he ... learned the formula of the Peacock to attain extraordinary power. {the divine peafowl is the vehicle of Skanda} Thus he could employ spirits and kami at his command. Once he summoned them all and ordered them, "Make a bridge between Kane-no-take ... and Kazuraki-no-take ... ." {cf. the bridge (to Lanka) miraculously constructed at the command by Rama-candra} ... He was exiled to the island of Izu ... . One time his body went ... on the sea as if he were walking on land. Again, his body perched on a mountain ten thousand feet high and looked like a huge phoenix in flight. ...



Three years passed ..., he ... approached the capital, finally becoming a saint [fn. 23 : "Taoist saint" (hsien)] and flying to heaven. Dharma Master Dosho ... On the request of five hundred tigers ... went to Silla ... . At that time there was a man among the tigers who answered, "E no ubasoku."" {cf. the benevolent tigre-deities of Taoist myth}



"Imaro went on a trip to a strange land. On the way he was caught in a storm and was crushed to death when the storehouse in which he had taken refuge collapsed."



"Kashiwade no omi Hirokuni ... of the Miyako district, Buzen province ... after his death ... was brought back to life and told the following tale :

"There came two messengers, one with an adult’s hair style, the other with a child’s. I accompanied them for the distance of about two stages [fn. 6 : "One stage (umaya ...) is about twelve miles"], and on our way there was a river with a golden bridge. {a golden bridge to the world of the dead is Taoist}



Crossing the bridge, I found myself in a strange land. ... ‘It is the land in the southern direction.’ [p. 52 : " "the land in the southern direction" ..., ... "a strange wonder land" (I.30) owes ... to the Chuang-tzu ..., in which the Southern Ocean or "the Pool of Heaven" ... is known as the destination of the flight of the mythical bird, p>eng".] {but since the Japanese in a land for the dead reached by walking, rather than an ocean for the living reached by flying, the Vaidik southern realm of Yama would be more closely similar} ... We found ourselves in front of a golden palace. When we entered the palace, a king was seated on the golden throne ... . ...



[There in that strange land, Kas^iwade’s dead father said :] ‘I visited you in hunger in the form of a big snake on the seventh of the seventh month ... . [fn. 12 : "Tanabata ... festival ... which originated in China. ... associated with the legend of the cowherd (... Altair) and the spinning maid (... Vega)."] Again, ... I went to your house in the form of a small red dog on the fifth of the fifth month ... . [fn. 13 : "Tango"] However, when I entered your house in the form of a cat {cat-headed raks.asa-s were in Lanka with Ravan.a} on New Year’s Day, I ... was able to make up for three years’ lack of food.’ ...

I was wandering around when the child appeared. The gatekeepers knelt to greet him. Then the child ... led me to a side gate, and opened the door. When I was leaving, he said, ‘... I am the Kanzeon-gyo which you copied in your childhood.’ ... I looked around to see myself in the world again.""



"Miteshiro no Azumabito ... went to Mt. Yoshino to ... seek his fortune. Three years passed during which he worshipped ... saying, "... Please give me ten thousand kan [fn. 8 : "one kan consists of ten thousand pieces"] of copper coins, ten thousand koku [fn. 8 : "one koku equals about five bushels] of white rice and many beautiful girls.""



"A deer ran into a farmer’s house in the village of Hosome ..., and the family killed and ate it without knowing whose it was." (This was adjudged as poaching.)



"in Ishikawa district, Kawachi province ...",



a widow "gleaned in the rice fields {cf. the gleaning by the widow Rut}, commission a painter, and made offerings to the dead for the first time".



"in Ate district, Kii province ... ten silk robes were stolen ... .The stolen silk robes were sold to a merchant in Kii. Hardly a week passed before a gale hit, and the robes were whisked south on the back of a deer to the original owners’ garden; the deer then disappeared in the heavens."



"in a mountain temple at Heguri ..., ... a picture of the six existences ... was stolen ... . ... the members went to Naniwa ... to visit the market. When they saw a basket in a tree, they heard various animals crying in the basket. ... When they opened it, they discovered the stolen image."

GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955.

WhH&SM = Kjersti Larsen : Where Humans and Spirits Meet : ... Identified Spirits in Zanzibar. Berghan Books, Oxford, 2008.

AK = Rania Huntington : Alien Kind: Foxes and Late Imperial Chinese Narrative. HARVARD EAST ASIA MONOGRAPHS, Vol. 222. 2003.


HARVARD-YENCHING INSTITUTE MONOGRAPH SERIES, Vol. 20 = Kyoko Motomochi Nakamura (transl.) : Miraculous Stories from the Japanese Buddhist Tradition : the Nihon Ryoiki of the Monk Kyokai. Cambridge (MA), 1973.