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Yoko Danno – Ⅰ


Who are you? 

                                                     Why are you here? 

                                                     Where are you from? 

                                                     Who are your parents? 

                                                     May I have your name?



Do I have to answer all of your questions right now when I’m totally occupied with finding a trash can? Don’t be disturbed by my apparition, noble Monk. I have no intention of distracting you from performing the ceremony. I’ve been going through a list of my names I’d want to discard. I don’t need a personal name any longer.


Once I was called “Princess Light” loved dearly by my own brother. People used to say my beauty shone through the layers of brocades – as if sunlight filtering through all shades of yellow and scarlet maple leaves. Our names became the talk of the town’s people. The ugly rumor drove us to a bare mountain only with rocks and stumps of trees. The cold steel piercing each other flashed like lightning.


Some hundreds years before this incident two young men proposed to marry me. In those days I was called “Blossoming­Maid” who was just arriving at puberty. Taking up a sword and a bow and arrow, the two youths fought with each other for my sake. My heart was broken. I preferred my own death to theirs. They followed me soon after. Three tumuli in a row were built by the remaining families in deep grief, mine in the middle. Buried with me were earrings of gold and necklaces of blue beads, and in addition expensive bronze mirrors imported from China.


More than once I told glorious tales and wrote poems to attract men. At one time I even set fire to my parents’ house to win back my boyfriend’s attention. I went berserk when I found my husband had taken a mistress. Out of jealousy I changed into a column of fire, a female demon, a snake in pursuit of the one who had deserted me. Each time I was called by a different name.


Earth rotates throughout summer, autumn, winter, spring – a simple cell grows into complex life, evolving into all forms and sizes – decomposing into elements, cycling through dark and intricate passages between life and death, over and again, I no longer see flowers, nor smell incense, nor taste liquor, nor feel caressing touch, but only hear the vibes of light flowing over my transparent skin.


Pray for me, my dear Monk. Tonight the full moon, multiplied in the flooded paddies before rice­planting, is shining alone in the deep sky. I’m wearing only a blue kimono, which is enough for me to live in.




*The anonymous woman in blue is actually recorded as ‘a woman in a blue robe’ in the Todaiji­temple’s register of the dead who contributed to or closely connected with the construction, restoration and maintenance of the temple since it was established in AD 745. Most of them are emperors, peers, shoguns, daimyos, high priests, etc. A very few women are registered, but “a woman in a blue robe” is recorded, 18th from Minamoto­no­ Yoritomo (d. 1199), the founder of the Kamakura shogunate. During the ‘o­mizutori’ (water­drawing) ceremonies of the Todaiji Temple the names in the register are read aloud by a monk to appease the souls of the dead. Sometime during the Shougen era (1207 ­ 1211) when a monk called Jukei was reciting the names in the register, a beautiful woman in a blue robe appeared and asked him, “Why haven’t you read my name?” She looked very sad. The monk was quite disturbed to see her, but quickly read out loud ‘a woman in a blue robe’ and the woman smiled contentedly and disappeared. Since then her ‘name’ has been recited along with the other names of the celebrities.