The mountain spirit of Rishiri

By Koga Douan (1788-1847)

On his way to survey Ezo, the explorer Mogami Tokunai made his way to Rishiri Island by boat. Upon seeing the beautiful sight of the mountain rising above the clouds, he was overjoyed.

“We have arrived near Ezo and encountered a splendidly high mountain. We should be able to see the opposing shore and lands of the Khitan from the top. We will be able to see the crossroads of the topography and the land and see for the first time. Well, let’s get going.”

Hearing this, the locals rushed to stop him.

“Those who climb the mountain are known to engage the wrath of the mountain spirit and meet unfortunate ends. You mustn’t climb it.”

But Tokunai roused himself.

“It will be okay. Why should I fear a thing such as a mountain spirit?”

And so Tokunai’s party set off, but as they were about to climb from the foot of the mountain that day a fog set in. Unable to see even an inch ahead of themselves, the party was forced to return.

The next day was a fine, sunny day, so they started to climb once more, but as they reached the mountainside, once again they were enveloped in fog and forced to go back.

The day after that was even finer weather than before.

“Today we will do it. Let’s go.”

Halfway up the mountain there were again halted by fog and forced to stop. It suddenly started to rain, and on top of that the men were forced to endure a horrid stench that lingered in the air. But they refused to give up, and so they continued.

Finally, at the bottom of a rock face, they saw the carcass of a giant turtle. As they got closer to it, the smell became more intense, and there was not a single man who did not lose his lunch as it assaulted their mouths and noses.

Having reached this point, even Tokunai gave up, and the men retracted their steps back down the mountain.

In retrospect, all of the catastrophes that were caused by angering the mountain spirit were undoubtedly because of that dead turtle.

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