Monday, September 12, 2011

"The History of the Sea Journey to the Isle of Hodaraku"

Inoue Yasushi

“Hodaraku is the legendary island paradise in the South Seas where Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, dwells. A legend grew up n Japan in the ninth century that those worshippers of Kannon who set sail from the southernmost tip of Japan’s main island, which lies in the province of Kumano, would be carried by the currents to this “Pure Land” island paradise and live there with Kannon in eternal joy. Over the course of the centuries a number of people made this sea pilgrimage from which there could be no return, and by the sixteenth century, the sea crossing had hardened into a ritual.” P. 71.

A number of religious leaders had set off alive to the Isle of Hodaraku. Their moves were various. Some knew they were going to die. Many had faith that they would be gathered up by Kannon  to live in eternal joy. Some expressed a sense of peace in anticipation of the trip. Konkobo was reluctant to make the journey. Public opinion forced him to. After he made the voyage—however it ended—most following monks made the voyage after they were dead.

This story is emblematic of what it is like to prepare to die with its variety of motives.

Rating: **** out of *****.

About the Author: “Born in 1907, Inoue Yasushi has been writing fiction almost continuously since graduating from Kyoto University in 1036. His early work dealt with psychological realities behind shifting appearances in human relationships; one of these early stories, “The Hunting Gun,” is often compared to the Akutagawa story on which the film Rashomon was based. More recently, he has been concentrating on semi-documentary historical works, based on thorough scholarly research. Inoue has won five major literary prizes and has lectured at the University of Hawaii. The story was translated by Jeanette Robinson.”

Short Story International #30. Sylvia Tankel, Ed. February 1982, pp. 71-93.

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