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Chibusa enoki

By on August 30, 2019, in food, Kantō, milk, Patreon, Tōkyō, tree, yōkai

乳房榎
ちぶさえのき

TRANSLATION: breast hackberry

APPEARANCE: Chibusa enoki was a hackberry (Celtis sinensis) tree which grew in Itabashi, Tōkyō during the mid 18th century. The tree got its name from the peculiar bulbs on it which were not only shaped like breasts, but also produced nourishing milk. The legend of the tree was turned into a famous rakugyo performance in the Meiji Period. Similar tales of miraculous trees with breastmilk-producing bulbs can be found even today.

LEGENDS: Long ago a samurai-turned-painter named Hishikawa Shigenobu lived in Edo with his wife Okise and their baby boy Mayotarō. His apprentice was a skillful young man named Isogai Namie. Unbeknownst to Shigenobu, Namie lusted after Okise.

One day, Shigenobu was called away to paint a temple ceiling. He took his servant Shōsuke with him. In their absence, Namie approached Okise and threatened to murder the boy Mayotarō if she did not sleep with him. With nobody to protect her, she agreed. Gradually, she came to return Namie’s affection. Their affair continued for some time, but Namie knew it would end when Shigenobu came home. So he devised a plan to ensure that his master would never return.

Namie visited Shigenobu under the pretense of seeing his progress. Shigenobu was nearly finished, with only the arm of the female dragon left to paint. That evening, Namie coerced Shōsuke into helping him assassinate Shigenobu. Shōsuke returned to the temple and invited Shigenobu out to watch the fireflies with him. While enjoying the nighttime spectacle, Shōsuke got Shigenobu very drunk. Then, on the way back to the temple, Namie attacked and slew the drunk old samurai.

Shōsuke rushed to the temple to report that brigands had attacked his master. However, when he arrived, he saw that Shigenobu was there! The painter had just finished the female dragon’s arm, and was signing his name to the painting. When Shigenobu turned to look at him, Shōsuke was so shocked that he fainted. When he came to, Shigenobu was gone… Had it been a ghost?

Not long after that, Namie and the widow Okise were married. Shōsuke remained in Namie’s service. Namie and Okise had a baby. However, Namie did not like raising Shigenobu’s son in addition to his own. He ordered Shōsuke to murder Mayotarō.

Shōsuke took the boy to a waterfall and flung him off into the abyss. Peering down into the waterfall’s basin, he was shocked to the core. The ghost of his murdered master Shigenobu was there! It had caught the baby boy, and was cradling him safely. Shigenobu’s ghost approached Shōsuke and commanded him to take Mayotarō to the nearby temple of Shōgetsuin. Shōsuke was so shocked that he reformed his ways and did as he was commanded. Mayotarō was brought to Shōgetsuin, where Shōsuke raised him. There was a miraculous hackberry tree with bulbs on it shaped like breasts on the temple grounds. The tree produced a milk that was sweet and nourishing, and allowed Mayotarō to grow up strong and healthy.

Okise became haunted by visions of Shigenobu’s ghost. She developed painful tumors in her breasts, and was unable to produce milk for her and Namie’s newborn. The baby became sickly and died. Not long after that, Okise herself went mad and died in agony.

Five years later, the story of the boy raised on the hackberry’s milk spread far and wide. When it reached Namie’s ears, he realized what had happened to Shōsuke and Mayotarō. Namie went to Shōgetsuin with the intent of murdering them both. Upon reaching the temple, he surprised Shōsuke and Mayotarō, who were unable to defend themselves. At that very moment, Shigenobu’s ghost appeared and directed Mayotarō’s swordhand. Namie was struck dead. Shigenobu’s ghost, having achieved his vengeance, vanished forever.