I am not the author of this story. I heard it from a friend, and would like to share it with you. It is an old Japanese tale, called Shibahama.
A long time ago, when Tokyo was called Edo, there was a town called Shiba, and a fisherman named Uokoma, who lived there. He knew a lot about fish, and was very good at his work too. However, he had one flaw: he loved to drink sake. So, when he would get drunk, he would stop working, and wander in the streets, saying, “Who cares about my business anymore?” And then, he would sleep all day long.
His wife was very worried about the state of the family, because Uokoma had been on a long drinking spell, and had not gone fishing in a long time. The debts from all the sake and food were growing, and this troubled her deeply.
One night, she was unable to sleep, and finally, an hour before daybreak, she turned to her husband as he lay deep in slumber. She shook him, and said, “Hey you! Hey you!! Wake up, and go to work!!” He woke up, dizzy from his drinking, and asked her what the racket was all about. She told him again, “Go to work!”
He said, “But my shoes are all worn out.”
“I have got new ones for you. Here they are.”
“But my nets are all tangled up.”
“No, I straightened them out for you.”
So Uokoma reluctantly got up, and stepped out in his new shoes and carrying his nets under his arm. He returned within a minute and shouted, “You stupid woman! Its not even day now! How can I work in darkness?!”
His wife replied, “No, you must go now. It will be daybreak soon.” Thus, she sent him off to fish and waited for his return.
An hour after sunrise, Uokoma came back. His casks still had fish in them.
“Why did you not sell them? Why did you come back so early?”, she asked.
“Well, I went to the market, but it was too early, and none of the shops were open. So I decided to sit by the river, and wait until the shopkeepers came. As I sat there, I started feeling sleepy. So I walked up to the bank to wash my face. As I stooped down, I felt something at my feet. I looked, and saw something shiny.”
“What was it?”
“This!!”, said Uokoma, as he slammed down an exquisite wallet down on the table.
His wife opened it, and found it full of golden coins.
“There are 50 ryou in there! We are rich!”, shouted Uokoma. “Now give me my sake. I have done enough work for the rest of this month.”
Saying this Uokoma started drinking again, and within a few minutes went back to sleep, while his wife sat at the table counting the ryou again and again.
That day, Uokoma woke up late in the afternoon. He was in a good mood, and sang a greeting to his wife, “Konbanwa!” She merely shrugged, and pointed to the tangled mass of nets, and his torn old shoes, and said, “Please go fishing. We don’t have any more money!”
“What?! What happened to the 50 ryou I found this morning?”
“Yes the wallet, with the 50 ryou!”
“What are you talking about?”
“I brought home a wallet with 50 ryou. You saw it too.”
“I saw no such thing. You must have dreamt it.”
Uokoma knew that he had been drinking and it was quite possible that he had dreamt the whole thing. Yet he searched everywhere, but by nightfall, he was tired, and started to believe his wife. He sat beside her, and said, “Yes, it must have been a dream, a very cruel dream.”
She replied, “Perhaps this is God’s way of punishing you for not working.”
“If that is so, then I will work very hard from tomorrow. I will not drink a single drop of sake!”
Uokoma was true to his word. He woke up before daybreak, went fishing, and sold his fish at the market before the first customers came in. He would spend the rest of the time mending his nets, and his boat. He paid off his debts one by one, and was free of them all in a few months. All this time, he never went anywhere near sake. His wife was happy that her husband could now walk as a proud man. They were living comfortable lives and were very happy.
Three years passed like this. One morning, after making his sale at the market, Uokoma was tending to his boat, when he found a tiny leak. So he went back to his shed to look for a plug. As he was looking for it, he came across a small box in one corner of the shed. He picked it up and opened it, and he could not believe his eyes. Inside the box lay a pair of brand new shoes, and the same wallet he had dreamt about three years ago!
Uokoma ran to his wife, and asked her how they came to be there. His wife explained, “It was not a dream. You really did find the wallet.”
“Then why did you lie to me? Why did you hide it?”
“If I had given you the wallet, would you be like you are now?”
Uokoma sat silently for a while. Then he suddenly spoke, “You are a Daimyo wife. Truly, you are a noble wife. Thank you.”
She replied, “I am sorry if I hurt you. I only did it because I love you.”
She poured him some sake, “Here have some.”
“No! I vowed I would never drink another drop.”
“You are not that man who is controlled by drink anymore. You can have a sip.”
Uokoma replied, “No, I will not have any sake. What if this too became a dream?”
More posts by this author:
- Neko no Sara (Cat’s Plate)
- Fifteen Minutes
- The Impossible Choice
- Dislocations 2
- The Mystery of the Noisy Child