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A red lacquered pipe case of musozutsu form with a lacquered panel depicting the tale of Kachi-kachi Yama in fine togidashi and hiramakie.
The orange panel towards the bottom depicts a tanuki, stood wearing female clothes, rendered in togidashi. The clothes are sprinkled with gold that glistens as the light catches it. To the other side of the orange panel, a soup cooks on a stove, the body of the stove in togidashi and handle of the pot in hiramakie. Above is a window through which is visible the back of a man’s head, he talks to a rabbit. The opening of the window is set slightly in relief, with man and rabbit in togidashi.
The tale of Kachi-kachi Yama is well described in the Japanese Fairy Book (1908) by Kakuzo Fujiyama with accompanying illustrations. Below is a translated version.
“As the story goes, a man caught a troublesome tanuki in his fields and tied it to a tree to kill and cook it later. When the man left for town, the tanuki cried and begged the man’s wife – who was making some mochi, a sweet rice dish – to set him free, promising he would help her. The wife freed the animal, only to have it turn on her and kill her. The tanuki then planned a foul trick.
Using its shapeshifting abilities, the tanuki disguised itself as the wife and cooked a soup, using the dead woman’s flesh. When the man came home, the tanuki served him the soup. After the meal, the tanuki reverted to its original appearance and revealed its treachery before running off and leaving the poor man in shock and grief.
The couple had been good friends with a rabbit that lived nearby. The rabbit approached the man and told him that it would avenge his wife’s death. Pretending to befriend the tanuki, the rabbit instead tortured it through various means, from dropping a bees’ nest on it to ‘treating’ the stings with a peppery poultice that burned.
The title of the story comes from an especially painful trick that the rabbit played. While the tanuki was carrying a heavy load of kindling on his back to make a campfire for the night, he was so burdened that he did not immediately notice when the rabbit set fire to the kindling. Soon, the crackling sound reached its ears and it asked the rabbit what the sound was. “It is Kachi-Kachi Yama” the rabbit replied. “We are not far from it, so it is no surprise that you can hear it!” Eventually, the fire reached the tanuki’s back, burning it badly, but without killing it.
The tanuki challenged the rabbit to a life or death contest to prove who was the better creature. They were each to build a boat and race across a lake in them. The rabbit carved its boat out of a fallen tree trunk, but the foolish tanuki made a boat of mud.
The two competitors were evenly matched at first, but the tanuki’s mud boat began dissolving in the middle of the lake. As the tanuki was failing in its struggle to stay afloat, the rabbit proclaimed its friendship with the human couple, and that this was the tanuki’s punishment for its horrible deeds.”
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