Kenichi Mizusawa a Modern Collector of Japanese Folk Tales.pdf

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Kenichi
Cdlector
Japanese Folk Tales
An author of eleven volumes on folklore produced in as
many years is noticed not only in his own country, but attracts
attention in the world of scholarship abroad. Such a one is Ken-
ichi Mizusawa of Nagaoka City, Niigata, Japan. Impressive as
his accomplishment has been, his plans for future writing double
that amount while still other research awaits his more definite
attention.
Since Mizusawa is scarcely known abroad, a brief personal
sketch and some explanation of his approach to the work of col-
lecting will be offered as a setting for a more detailed discussion
of his contributions to date to Japanese folklore. A man still in his
mid-fifties, he carries on his research in spare time, his main
occupation being that of principal of Arai Elementary School in
Nagaoka, one which enrolls 1300 pupils. His first administrative
assignment came when he was 38, an age considerably lower than
usual for principals in Japan. He handles detail in his plant
efficiently, keeping in personal touch with all its aspects. These
attributes are apparent, too, in the way he handles the mass of
data he acquires while collecting and recording folk tales.
In Japan there are no grants or fellowships available for pro-
jects like Mizusawa's. He writes his manuscripts by hand and
without clerical assistance. Awards he has received range from
words of encouragement and praise to annual stipends of Y6000
to Y50,000 (from less than $20.00 to almost $150.00). At present
he has no more such prospects, so he will continue to carry on
as in the past upon marginal time and personal resources. The
writer noticed that many of the great trees she had seen on
Mizusawa's farm when she visited eight years ago were missing
when she was there recently. They had been cut and sold as
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150 K. MIZUSAWA A MODERN FOLKTALE COLLECTOR
part of the sacrifice made by Mizusawa and his family to support
his research.
This condition has not been mentioned to arouse sympathy
but to add understanding of the devotion of this tall, lean, friend-
ly man to his activities. Not one to go off to a distant place to
win renown, he delves into the cultural basis of the environment
in which he was reared. It is here that his father served as
village head and in the house his father built, Mizusawa was
born and now resides with his family. In this region, as else-
where in Japan, traditions are being submerged in currents of
modernization, the dialect of the folk is being replaced by stand-
ardized vocabulary, and old legends and tales fade from minds
filled with mass education.
Mizusawa is not reactionary in his attitude but hopes to
record the orally transmitted tales and folklore before it is for-
gotten because it is part of his own heritage. His enthusiasm
for old cultural treasures has met with appreciative response
from his city, prefecture, and even national educational circles.
In 1954 the Ministry of Education cited him with praise for his
study of rural and folk life in Eciligo, the old geographical
designation for Niigata prefecture. It did the same in 1957 for
his study of the relationship of folklore to social studies and in
1958 for a study of the place of the folk tale in folklore. Two
more citations followed for special reports oil groups of tales con-
cerning stepchildren. Nagaoka City and Board of Education, the
Niigata Nipposha (the principal newspaper), and the Prefectural
Board of Education gave Mizusawa a total of six awards from
1957 to 1966. He appears frequently on local, prefectural, and
national radio and television networks. Being the only active
collector of folk tales in the Folklore Society of Japan, his reports
on the subject to that body seem to be a part of the annual meet-
ing.
Mizusawa's approach to regional studies originates in his
interest in history-local history. While he has not lost this
perspective, for the time being he is giving the folk tale his
attention, at the same time collecting material for a history of
local poetry and folk songs. One practical step in the last named
sphere is the project he instigated in his school to record chil-
dren's songs with music notation and to teach them to the pupils.
The writer had the pleasure of hearing his entire school sing
one of these when she visited it. The text of that song, one to
the God of New Year, was printed as a greeting on cards Mizu-
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K. MIZUSAWA A MODERN FOLKTALE COLLECTOR 151
sawa sent at New Year of 1967.
Some of Mizusawa's collections have already been reviewed
by the writer.l Without duplicating previous comments upon
them, they will be included in this survey of his writings to show
his development in handling his material. His first work, Fus6-
ki minzoku hi,^ was a general book on local folklore. The
chapter headings in it are familiar to students of Japanese folk-
lore: The almanac, Annual observances, Weather reports,
Proverbs, Riddles, Children's songs, Folk tales, Clothing, Food,
Dwellings, Births, Weddings, Burial, Labor, Place names, Folk
faith related to agriculture, The Family system, Words used in
names, A Glossary of children's words, Folk healing arts, and
Exchange of gifts. Material for this study he gathered from 1950
to 1955. While compiling the book he recognized the importance
of the folk tale and felt the urgency to record those remembered
by local old people before they passed on. This feeling of urgency
prompted collectors forty-five years earlier when Yanagita Kunio
first called the orally transmitted tales to the attention of the
public. It is reasonable to anticipate that the remarkable old
folk who have kept in their memory the old tales will soon be
gone, but despite the disasters cf war and the great changes in
Japan in the intervening years, Mizusawa has found even In
this day a number who can narrate more than one hundred.
Mizusawa began collecting folk tales in earnest in 1954, but
before publishing them, he took the advice of Mr. Yanagita and
looked into local documents and scrolls which were available.
The results of his research and the cooperation of local individuals
and officials made possible his second book, Fus6ki no komonjo."
Kamegai, &W, Kozone
$E, Miyashita $7; , Nagata &m, Niibo %R and Tomishima ZEj
lying north and west of Nagaoka City but now for the most part within
its limits. Characters from the eighth, fourth, and third names are
combined to form the name.
3. Fz~sSki no komonjo ZE&O&*~ (Old records of Fus6ki).
Nagaoka: FusBki Kbminkan, 1956, pp. 321. This is also designated as
FusGki kyddo shi, ge s@@,gb&%.,7; (Local folklore of FusBki, part
two), which would seem to refer to the first book as part one, but it
bears no such title.
1. Folklore Studies XVII (1958) and XVIII (1959); Asian Folklore
Studres XXVI (1965).
2. FusGki minzoku shi '&%%I?,#$% (Folklore of Fus6ki). Nagaoka:
FusBki KBminkan, 1955, pp. 442. FusBki is comprised of eight towns
and villages: Horigane @Q , Inaba +$g,
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152 K. MIZUSAWA A MODERN FOLKTALE COLLECTOR
The term komonjo is applied to any book of this sort, a copy of
old local records. In Mizusawa's volume there are samplings
which give glimpses into village life from the end of the six-
teenth century to the Meiji Restoration in the mid-nineteenth.
Since this type of study may be unfamiliar to most readers
of this article, some details found in it will be shared here. Of
interest to folklorists would be part of the first chapter with its
survey sf six villages in 1873. Uniform topics include boundaries
and dimensions of villages, the distance in four directions to
other towns, topography and soil, followed by statistics oil land
tax, crop tax, the number of houses, population, the number of
horses, carts, rivers, bridges, roads, and dikes, and along with
these one designated village customs. Here a folklorist would
surely pause in anticipation of something interesting. He will
learn that in one village the folk are simple-hearted and inclined
toward farming. In another occupations are listed, the men
engaged in agriculture and the women making linen as well as
helping in the fields. Two villages report the number of men
and women doing farming. One village elaborates--farming is
encouraged, folk do not quarrel, are not inclined toward luxury,
are modest and speak quietly, are not much interested in educa-
tion, and seventy per cent are poor. The remaining village makes
no report on customs.
Information given under shrines and temples must be
weighed beyond the bare facts of the number and dimensions of
buildings and the statues enshrined therein for insights. One
must also bear in mind that uniform topics do not insure uniform
reporting. Shrines outnumber temples and one village reported
no temple. There were six Suwa ;Q% shrines, four JGnishin
i-77$, and three Inari ffi$j shrines. Five others were each listed
once, including JizG ~j&, a popular Buddhist deity. Only one
of the shrines was designated as the tutelary deity of the village.
This may have been because such matters were commcn
knowledge, but a Buddhist deity, Yakushi ggfi, listed among the
temples was called the mamori botoke Gf 9 (A, a guardian Buddha,
much as a tutelary deity. Each temple was identified by its
Buddhist sect and the number of patrons was stated. Whereas the
shrines might point toward any of the compass points, the temples
faced east, except for two facing southwest. Dates were furnished
for when the temples were built and even the makers of the
main statues housed in them. The statues were made of wood.
Lack of historical information about shrines may have been due
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K. MIZUSAWA A MODERN FOLKTALE COLLECTOR 153
to the lack of an organized network for them at that time or
their origin may have been prior to that of the Buddhist temples.
The sites of the shrines were probably old and their deities could
have replaced still earlier ones.
Other interesting items in this chapter are the one elementary
school reported with its enrollment of 74 and two battlefields.
These sites were not recorded in terms of generals or conflict-
ing armies engaged but the position of the encounter and the
resulting loss of dwellings by fire, a kind of reporting modern
news service does not furnish. The castle at Nagaoka was one
of the last to fall at the time of the Meiji Restoration. In fact,
there is a story that the hot-headed young commander leading
the attack pushed ahead and destroyed it after orders came for
hostilities to cease.
Other chapters in the komonjo reveal the extent to which
daily life was regulated under the Tokugawa regime. One gives
rules or laws for a village in 1763. Five were considered funda-
mental and fourteen more covered such matters as what to do
in case of a flood, rules against bandits, for lost and found, and
care of those who were sick and could not work. Another chapter
throws light upon the control of the 5-family organization of
villages (1690), fifty regulations, the first of which prohibited
Christianity. Responsibility for reporting Christians and punish-
ment for withholding information on them was placed upon the
whole unit along with the penalty of death meted out to the one
discovered. Among other prohibitions were those against thiev-
ing, gambling, and making bullets or wine.
There is an 1869 report by temple of all the faithful, their
sex, name, and age. Ages were from one-year olds to a 77-year
old. Another chapter furnished an invoice for 1712 of village
property under 41 headings, including such items as lengths of
rope, the number of brooms in storehouses, population, bridges,
firewood, boats for river transportation, the kinds and number
of big trees, and the diminishing supply of water from the hills.
Another chapter listed informatior, prepared under 74 headings
for an inspector's visit (1838), which gave the total of hawk nests,
harlots (none), and castle ruins among other items.
To be sure, an enumeration here of selected items carries
with it the danger of distorting the purpose of such records as
Mizusawa found, but in reading his komonjo, one is overcome
by the minutiae in the probing inspections of the common man's
life under the Tokugawa rule, a period of over two hundred
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