Tuesday, November 09, 2010


The Ditch High Priest

Yoshida Kenkō (1283-1352), Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness) 45:
Kin'yo, an officer of the second rank, had a brother called the High Priest Ryōgaku, an extremely bad-tempered man. Next to his monastery grew a large nettle-tree which occasioned the nickname people gave him, the Nettle-tree High Priest. "That name is outrageous," said the high priest, and cut down the tree. The stump still being left, people referred to him now as the Stump High Priest. More furious than ever, Ryōgaku had the stump dug up and thrown away, but this left a big ditch. People now called him the Ditch High Priest.
Translated by Donald Keene in Essays in Idleness: The Tsurezuregusa of Kenkō (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967; rpt. 1998), p. 40.


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