The Plum Tree

A Japanese folk tale

‘Once  there lived at Momoyama Fushimi, an old gardener, Hambei, who was loved and respected for his kindliness of nature and his great honesty. Though a poor man, Hambei had saved enough to live on; and he had inherited a house and garden from his father. Consequently, he was happy. His favourite pastime was tending the garden and an extraordinarily fine plum tree known in Japan as of the furyo kind (which means ‘lying dragon’). Such trees are of great value, and much sought after for the arrangement of gardens. Curiously enough, though one may see many beautiful ones, trees growing on mountains or on wild islands, they are very rarely touched except near the larger commercial centres. Indeed, the Japanese have almost a veneration for some of these fantastic furyo-shaped trees, and leave them alone, whether they be pines or plums.

The tree in question Hambei loved so much that no offer people could make would induce him to part with it. So notoriously beautiful were the tints and curves of this old stunted tree, large sums had many times been offered for it. Hambei loved it not only for its beauty but also because it had belonged to his father and grandfather. Now in his old age, with his wife in her dotage and his children gone, it was his chief companion. In the autumn he tended it in its untidiness of dead and dying leaves. He felt sorry and sympathetic for it in its cold and bare state in November and December; but in January he was happily employed in watching the buds which would blossom in February. When they did bloom it was his custom to let the people come at certain hours daily to see the tree and listen to stories of historical facts, and also to stories of romance, regarding the plum tree, of which the Japanese mind is ever full.’

To continue reading the story, click here.

Photo credit: Sarah Sammis

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