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Japanese fairy tales


Once upon a time, nearly a thousand years ago, a man named Ononatakamura offended the Mikado and was sent into exile. His wife loved him dearly and wished to go with him, but, though she cried and begged to be allowed to do so, the Mikado would not permit her.
In her despair at being separated from her beloved husband, she made up her mind to go to the Sacred Shrine of Ise and pray for him. She stole quietly away to the foot of Mt. Hi-yei, but not being used to walking she soon grew weary and sat down to rest under a pine tree. It was a beautiful country that she looked upon. The hillside bloomed with flowers. The pines waved their green branches against the soft blue sky, and, serene and lofty, the mountains rose heavenward. A kind wind caressed her brow as she sat resting, and the murmur of the trees seemed to bring her comfort.
A farmer coming that way, she spoke to him saying, "Good day, kind sir. Pray tell me how far it is to the temple of Ise?"
"Twenty days' journey," he made answer, being a rude fellow and unkind. He wished to annoy her, for he knew well it was not so far.
"Alas!" she sighed. "I shall never reach that sacred shrine! How then shall my dear husband be brought back to me! Surely the gods will hear the prayer of a faithful wife, no matter where she may be. I will here make my offering and my prayers, and the Eternal Kindness will hear."
Then she hung some coins upon a pine tree, and prayed earnestly that the gods would bless her husband and take her to him.
The farmer heard her, but his heart was still hard, and when she went aside to rest he tried to steal the money from the tree. But the gods had heard her prayer, and the tree suddenly turned into a two-headed serpent which spit fire at the thief's approach. The farmer was so terribly frightened, that he repented that he had been so unkind; and he took the woman by the hand and led her in safety to the shrine she sought.
Then were her prayers answered, for the gods softened the heart of the Mikado, and when one told him of the devotion of this good wife, he sent for her to come to his throne.
"So faithful a woman should have a reward," he said. "What will you that I bestow upon you?"
"The return of my husband, Most Revered One," she answered;, and straightway he sent word to Ononatakamura to come back from exile.
Of the pine tree upon which the money had been hung they made a shrine. Whoever was ill of any complaint, and prayed there, was made well; and whoever besought there any favor of the gods was sure to receive it in abundance. And from that time the place was called the "Shrine of the Hang-the-Money-Up Tree."