Rona Barbour


A new story from mid 18thCentury Japan.

Takiri, a young fisherman lives in a small coastal fishing village in Japan.

He is unusually tall for a Japanese man, handsome, strong, hard-working and has a successful Sea Urchin fishing business. He is married to the beautiful, demure, and sweet Hinata who feels extremely fortunate to have been his chosen one. They have been married for five blissful years and are still very much in love, however the marriage is not entirely happy as they are still childless and this makes Hinata worry that she will not keep her husband, she fears that he is bound to want an heir, Takiri regularly tries to reassure Hinata that he is happy just as things are.

Every night, after mooring his small fishing boat at the village harbour and negotiating the price for delivering his catch to the waiting merchants, Takiri, a religious man, visits the Shinto Temple to give thanks for his beautiful caring wife, a successful working day and his safe return home from his dangerous occupation, before returning home for his supper. One fateful night as Takiri approached the Temple, nearing the Arch in front of the  entrance he is aware of a young woman walking towards him, coming from the Temple, this is most unusual for a young woman to be unaccompanied while out in the evening and he is very aware of this and wonders who she is?

As they get closer he feels that there is something familiar about her and as they both approach the Arch at the same time, she lowers her head and casts her eyes down just as would be expected, according to Japanese custom of the time. However, as their bowed heads were at their closest and only a couple of feet apart, she suddenly raised her eyes and looked right into the eyes of Takiri he was stunned. Not just by the beauty of those magnificent emerald  green eyes framed by the longest, thickest dark eyelashes he had ever seen, but by the coquettish way she had glanced at him, there was meaning in that look and it was not lost on Takiri. As he turned and watched the young woman walk away, with a definite sway, he realised who she was.

She was Yuna, a young girl that he had seen growing up around the village, suddenly now, she was this stunning young woman, he couldn’t help but wonder when that change had taken place.

Yuna however, as the girl growing up, was completely aware of Takiri and had had her eyes firmly set on him. It was no accident that they met at the Arch in front of the Temple, she had been watching him and planning this for months, no matter that he was already married, she was determined to have him as her husband .

She had no other option, there were so few eligible young men around even in the few surrounding villages and none that Yuna would have considered worthy of her.

As he entered the Temple, Takiri felt a sense of dread and couldn’t shake it off, even in the Temple where he should be praying, he couldn’t stop seeing that face, the face of Yuna. He cut short his visit to the Temple and hurried home.

He arrived at his house, edgy, pale, and looking somewhat disorientated, Hinata feared that he was ill, he managed at least to convince Hinata that he was fine. Hinata was satisfied, she never dreamed that there was a possibility that it could be anything else, just as she could never imagine that it may not be her fault that she was still childless! After supper which he had barely touched, again unusual, Hinata was not unduly concerned when he said he had to go to the Temple, he told her that he had not had the chance to pray but it was not prayer that was luring him back to the Temple that night, it was Yuna. He thought that she would be there waiting for him, she thought he would come back, and they were both right.

As Takiri approached the Arch to the Temple, Yuna stepped out from behind it, without a word, they moved towards each other and embraced and then continued to embrace and kiss fervently.  Yuna knelt down on the grass and pulled Takiri towards her, still without words they continued to embrace and after some time when his hand reached up under her Kimono, Yuna slapped it away, “no” she said, “not while you have a wife”!

That should have been the warning to Takiri to stop this, before it went any further, but he couldn’t, he was under her spell already. Later that first night as Hinata lay fast asleep in the bed beside him, Takiri slipped out of the bed ran swiftly and silently back to the Temple where Yuna was waiting for him. As far as her family knew, she too was fast asleep in her bed. They lay together, night after night for a couple of hours before Takiri could drag himself away to get home and get some sleep before Hinata woke up and he too had to get up and go to work.

You might expect that he would have been tired and irritable, losing so much sleep and using up so much energy but he was quite the opposite, he was vibrant, excited, full of life and started to dream of a future with Yuna, but those words kept ringing in his ears. “Not while you still have a wife”!  Yuna repeated them often, she had not yet given herself to him completely and somehow, he believed that she never would while he still had a wife.

He began to find fault with Hinata she could do no right now and Hinata had an idea of what was wrong, was he beginning to regret not having a child, what could she do? She planned to make a visit to another village where there was a woman who was reputed to have magic powers, perhaps she could help, there was talk amongst the village girls when Hinata was younger that this woman could fix all kind of female problems. Hinata made up her mind, she would go the next day to find her and ask for her help.

Takiri was irritable after all he told himself now, I deserve a wife that can at least give me a child, now all of a sudden that was important and, in his eyes, justified his anger, Hinata was miserable. Takiri began to think about what Yuna was saying to him every time they were together, “not while you still have a wife” and he began to think that the only way he was ever going to have Yuna was if he got rid of his wife and at the point he decided to get rid of Hinata.

He decided to pretend to her that he wanted to re kindle their romance, which of course had dwindled somewhat due to his relationship with Yuna. He told Hinata that wanted to take her out walking in the evenings as they had done when they were courting, she was delighted, he could only see the face of Yuna. As they took their evening stroll by the cliffside where they used to go when they were younger, it was evident how treacherous and dangerous it was there with the rocky path at the edge of the cliff being broken in places and falling away but as young lovers frequenting this spot were not put off by this.

“Be careful” Takiri said to Hinata, “you are too close to the edge” he said, grabbing her by the elbow and pulling her towards him. Then he spun her round towards himself and away from the cliff edge with him looking out towards the sea. Then he said the words to her that she never thought she would ever hear. “I’m sorry to have to tell you Hinata, I now love another, you cannot give me a child, I want to be with Yuna” he said.

“Yuna” gasped Hinata, “why she is no more than a child herself”.

“I don’t care” he said, “I want her and she won’t have me while you are still alive” and he spun her round, pushed her backwards to the cliff edge and with a final thrust, pushed her all the way over the cliff.

Hinata’s scream was deafening, Takiri couldn’t believe he had actually done this terrible thing and for a moment he came to his senses. Then he remembered Yuna, waiting for him and he started to run back towards the village screaming as he went.

“Help, help me please, my wife Hinata has just fallen over the cliff.” People came rushing to comfort him, some men ran back the cliff to climb down to retrieve the body and returned shortly after to say that it wasn’t there and Hinata must have been washed out into the sea which was very wild at that point. 

However there were those who were suspicious, Takiri and Yuna had never been seen together but she was often seen out at night alone, her family oblivious to this and, also out on his own at night, was Takiri, and since he only had eyes for Yuna while he was speaking of what had happened, and the villagers now wondered if Takiri had something to do with the death of his lovely young wife?

Yuna would have nothing to do with Takiri after the murder and told him that they have to be patient so as not to arouse suspicion, she would be with him soon.

A few weeks later she arranged to meet Takiri at the temple and when they met there, Yuna would still not give herself to Takiri and said they must be married first, Takiri was beside himself he needed to have Yuna, he was fed up waiting. The villagers were shocked when he announced that he was going to be married just weeks after his wife had died, however they were not surprised to know who was going to be his wife.

He tried to convince the people that he needed a wife so that he could carry on with his business, and that his business would suffer otherwise. They were not convinced because they could see that he never mourned his wife whom the whole village had adored.

The wedding was a small group of just Yuna and her family, and Takiri.

On the wedding night Takiri at last had Yuna lying naked by his side and as she stretched over the edge of the bed to reach for something from the floor, he gazed at her perfect, flawless body and unable to wait a moment longer, he pulled her face round to his to kiss her but as the face turned towards him, the horror and fear on his face was indescribable as the face looking back at him was not that of Yuna, it was his dead wife and the look on her face was terrifying and she growled at him. “I don’t think so husband”!

Takiri fled from that bed, grabbing his clothes as he ran leaving a bewildered Yuna behind and he never stopped running until he got to the cliff edge where he had pushed his wife over the cliff. He stood at the cliff edge, and called on his dead wife, Hinata, come back to me, Hinata, I am so sorry I want to take it all back, please come back to me I am so sorry.

I want us to be together again and for always.

Standing right at the edge of the cliff he held out his hands, Hinata come back I want everything to be as it was before, please, I’m sorry come back to me. I want us to be together.

The next minute Hinata’s beautiful face was there in front of him holding out her hands. Yes, she said, I am here for you, I want us to be together too. She held out her hands and took his and then pulled him over the edge of the cliff. As they both fell, she said to Takiri we are together now, as Takiri’s screams drowned out her words as he fell to his death.     


(c) Rona Barbour 2020