The Book of the Dead

——I am one of this world
But from tomorrow onward
I will be thinking
Of Mt. Ebony darkness. This way   … Come closer, Mimimo no Toji. The words broke the silence for only a moment, then nothing more. I’m a baby. They continued to gaze at the burial mound; they wound the white cloth around their heads once again. And then a feeling came over me, like I’d ventured out into the wide, wide world, so big and comfortable. There was no light penetrating the tomb, but as time passed, something like a thin membrane of ice crept in, making it pos­sible to sense the vaguest hints of the shapes of things. This way   … Still, I’d heard of you for many months, many years. What should I do? The Book of the Dead   focuses on the power of faith and religious devotion, and can be read as a parable illustrating the suffering an artist must experience to create great art. ——This is the boundary between Yamato and Kawachi, and we’ve just completed the ceremony to call back her soul. But even so, I’ve been thinking of you the whole time, Mimimo no Toji, thinking of you since even before I came here… Please! I was pulled out of the Osada residence and taken to Iware Pond. And now that I’ve awakened once again, you’re the only thought that fills my mind. 6   This is the first of a number of times in the novel that the executed prince entombed on top of Mt. Gradually, his knees, his elbows recovered their feeling, return­ing to his buried sensibilities. Here is where I lie, silent and still. then eight, nine. I can remember things from long ago with such vividness… English translation copyright 2016 by Kodansha Ltd. The pain was so intense that the joints between his bones seemed to be shattering. He felt as if he had been dozing and the thoughts that had been floating into his head were now joining with reality and seeping into his eyes. Later, I was conscripted to fix this road, so I know all about this gravesite. And where is this place?… By this point, the nine men had returned to an ordinary state of mind befitting their station as ordinary folk in the regular world. I was killed… He repeated the movements over and over again. As he did so, he let out a deep sigh like that of a real, living being. You mustn’t touch my body. ——What should I do? ——How long has it been? But still, there was the same constant darkness, just like before. This way   … The words did not come from any one person’s mouth in particu­lar. ——This is what was said at the time. No, I’ve been asleep for a long, long time. There was a decree that his body should stay here, keeping his spirit lying in wait and blocking the pass to prevent others who possessed hearts as wild as his – perhaps even wilder – from crossing over the pass into Yamato. A minute reverberation rippled through the tightened muscles of his body, and he began to cramp, all the way from the palms of his hands to the bottoms of his feet. Futakami stood, jet black, bearing down heavily upon the burial mound partway up its slopes. I was thinking of you even as I lay to sleep… The moon shone on unblinking, whereas the mountains closed their eyelids deeply. I died. It ambled downward for a while, descended sharply, and then began to slacken and flatten out somewhat. Gradually, his thoughts began to spread out, extended short strings of association until they began to connect with things he had seen in days gone by. They tried again. I’ve completely forgotten who I am. They were taking pity on me – they were in tears, wailing, all of them.1
——Even so, my heart was clear. Northwest of that was a string of several flat surfaces that reflected the light – most likely the surfaces of the Kusakae, Nagase and Naniwa Inlets from the bay. Another of the men chimed in, wanting to tell his own story. for instance, Mt. The fog also gave the cheerful moonlit night a sense of warmth. And then, even deeper darkness. It was back then   … With his eyelids now slightly parted, his pupils shifted to take in his surroundings. Resurrected from somewhere within, these words reverberated through his memories with an even greater insistency than the other thoughts. ——This way   … After hearing her recite her poem, I once again lost awareness. ——This is terrible. There was an order that his body be interred in an embankment above the pond, but he had com­mitted a crime and was given only a temporary burial. Futakami. 2 Prince Ōtsu’s sister was Princess Ōku (661-701), and in the year 674, she became the first generation of imperial miko to serve at the Ise Shrine, the most important shrine in the Shinto religion. Reprinted by permission of the University of Minnesota Press. Something rose up from behind his memories – a sort of self-reflection. Memories of Mimimo no Toji. A barely audible sound – shhhh – followed by something that sounded like punctuation – ta. This way   … Futakami in the Katsuragi Range to be entombed: ‘I, who belong / To the mortal race of man—   / From tomorrow / Shall I look on Futakami, / A mountain, as my brother?’ (Utsusomi no hito naru ware ya, asu yori wa futakamisan o iroso to ware mimu). ——But wait. Then, with the other, he scratched searchingly at the slab of rock over him. One hand searched in the pitch-black emptiness. That’s right. Little spots of light appeared throughout the valley like light catch­ing on snow flurries. The night was quiet. So he lay there silent and still… This way   … The men undid them, extended them to their full length, and then turned to­gether to face the burial mound. But I cannot say that you, the one I should see, are really there.’ When I heard her say this, I realized I must really be dead… They rushed off toward the Yamada valley, toward the Takenouchi valley, to the Osaka Pass, and back down the Tagima Road. Because Orikuchi was so careful in using the older version of proper names, I have preserved the old names in the translation. I felt that for just a moment, then that was all… His knees, which happened to be stiff, began to buckle, as if that movement were the most natural thing in the world. Perhaps a voice was speaking, but it was so faint that even ears used to extreme silence would have had trouble picking it out. I remember. Together, they rushed down the steep incline toward Kawachi. By then, my corpse must have already started to rot away. Please give me some­thing to wear. Their heads were sticking out all over, watch­ing me from the tall grasses and the thicket. If I don’t, my thoughts will scatter again. There, the Katashio River – now known as the Yamato River – emerged from between the mountains and cascaded downward. A great deal lies hidden beneath the surface of the story; the entire text is a modernist mystery waiting to be decoded. Back then, all these evergreens were just tiny saplings, but now they’ve grown into a big forest. 4 The poem is unmistakably similar to one that appears in the Man’yōshū   (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), also by Prince Ōtsu’s sister Princess Ōku.  
The moon was shining just like before. Tell me, oh noble mother. ——That must have all happened soon after I came here. I’m still thinking of you. This way   … The man was even hoarser than the previous speaker. This place – this is my tomb. A robe   … Nearby were the peaks of Sawayama. As the hour for the cock’s crow approached, the mountain grew quiet and seemed to dampen everything with a coat of dew. ——I can’t take this. This way   … If I were exposed to sunlight, my body would crumble apart in front of everyone’s eyes. There was where the twin peaks of Mt. He lived in the royal residence of Osada in Shiki in the province of Yamato. But how is anyone to know I’m here, crawling around on this bed of rock? She’s probably just fine. The first thing he became conscious of was the black boulder that formed a ceiling over him. As they repeated their movements, they felt a natural sense of gloominess and fatigue come over their exhausted bodies, and their fear­less, godlike hearts reverted to those of ordinary people. ——You must surely know this, but this burial mound has a pro­found history that deserves our attention. I fell in love with her at first glance. Ah, yes, I’m dead. As Ando Reiji explains in the commentary translated in this book, the first few chapters of the novel do not unfold chronologically; instead, they jump back and forth in time. What a terrifying place this was! I could no longer see the sky, the ground, or the colors of the trees and flowers. I didn’t know who or what I was. ——I feel as if I can take them in my hands. Maybe I’m wrong. This way   … ——Mimimo no Toji. I seem to remember them calling out in loud voices. What should I do? ——This way   … But more impor­tantly, who am I? Futakami is more commonly known in modern Japan at Mt. That was more than fifty years ago. This way   … ——That must be it. I only ever laid eyes upon you once, just one single time. The poem con­tinued. ——This way   … My body will freeze here on the cold stone. Startled by the strange groan, every last one of the pilgrims doubted his ears for a moment; then fear began to descend over their hearts. Definitely human. The road was white and broad, so at night it looked like a stretch of pale grass meandering over the mountain. Nijō (although the kanji used to write Futakami and Nijō are the same). For the first time, he became aware of how deeply he had slept. Translation from Edwin A. This way   … Even my big sword has grown so rusty.  
Translator’s notes

1 In chapter 5, Orikuchi gives the name Shiga Tsuhiko to the character who is waking up and returning to life, but beginning here in chapter 1, he drops numerous, undeniable hints that his character is modeled upon the seventh-century short-lived prince Ōtsu (663–686), one of the sons of the emperor Tenmu. But wait, you serve the great gods. This might happen at times of trouble, psychological stress, and so on. These were the words he tried to say, but they quickly faded away without ever really forming a proper voice. He began to move his arm. This way   … They had already forgotten how lonely it was to sit on top of the mountain and talk of things long gone. The flowers ‘have fallen… ——Ohhhhhhh   … The sound of dripping water? 5 In ancient Japan, there was a belief that the souls of people could leave their bodies and wander even while a person was still alive. Immediately, however, the momentary burst of noise faded, plunging the landscape once again into its original silence. 1, The Gem-Glistening Cup (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 184. the call of a wild duck, I think… Back then, I used to construct tombs. The moonlight and the faint shade of the trees fell upon a round burial mound along­side the forested incline. But now that I think of it – wait a moment. Its author, Orikuchi Shinobu, was a well-received novelist, distinguished poet, and an esteemed scholar. ——This way   … Come down the road! ——I   … We call to you, the soul of the maiden from the Southern Branch of the Fujiwara clan.5
——You shouldn’t be lost in the depths of these mountains. He shifted his shoulders and the base of his neck. They were more like nine Shintō gods than nine ordinary people. If a soul could not find its way back to the host’s body, then it could cause prolonged illness or other abnormal psychological effects. I was still partially aware, at least. In their hands they held walking sticks that stuck out above their heads. In using these older readings, Orikuchi, a specialist in ancient Japanese history and folklore, worked to transport his readers into the ancient past and to show a stratum of history that lies beneath contemporary knowledge. Come to my tomb and fling the doors open… It seemed that blood, or something like it, was rushing through his body, making the muscles feel as if they were tightening. The mountains crested over and over again as they stretched onward to the south – those were the Katsuragi Peaks. ——We were really in our prime in those days. ——This way   … Much later, in chapter 15, we learn that her odd, distracted behavior on the night of her arrival at the temple inspired a local storyteller to send other locals into the mountains to try and call back her wandering soul. ——This way   … This way   … This was the Tagima Road. The Ishi River extended into the distance like a great, sparkling sash. The eight other voices responded with an ‘oh.’ As if they had been trained to do so, they all quickly sat down and relaxed upon the grass, placing their walking sticks to the side. And then a bright sense of purpose rose up once again within his death-withered body. The nighttime chirping of a bird sum­moned another, distinctly different echo. ——That’s right. A single road ran straight ahead. Whose child am I? When they reached the spot where the ground leveled out temporarily, they stood for a moment before the forest. Different thoughts rushed through the minds of each of the nine men.  
Excerpt from   The Book of the Dead   by Orikuchi Shinobu, translated by Jeffrey Angles. I’ve been lying here without anything on at all. Futakami – the Male Peak and the Female Peak. One time, the spirit from this tomb possessed one poor fellow – a stone-transporter who had come from Asukabe in Kawachi. I hear those sounds. Sounds from long ago   … This old road ran from Naniwa to the former capital of Asuka, and, depending on the day of the week, there might be a lot of foot traf­fic during the day. ——Everyone, this is all the farther our silent work can take us. Surely, it wasn’t the day before that either, nor the day before that. He is often considered one of the fathers of Japanese folklore studies, and   The Book of the Dead   is without a doubt the most important novel of Orikuchi’s career and it is a book like no other. As we find out in subsequent chapters, the maiden from the Southern Branch of the Fujiwara clan is doing penance in the small heritage nearby. This tomb is the resting place of someone who frequented the emperor’s Shiga palace in the province of Ōmi. ——She was a fine person. They wore white robes and cloths wrapped around their heads, and their hands and feet were covered in traveling garb. Still   … He continued for a long while to mouth his words silently. Everything vanished – I   … The pilgrims followed the old man’s suggestion and once again began the spirit-summoning ceremony. Beyond the gathered foothills was a riverbed that sparkled with white sand. Then all sounds stopped for a moment. Two, three, five   … He acted on habit – on the way he had lived on earth and the ways people had behaved since the time of the ancestors. Next, the icy stone bed beneath him. For that rea­son, the quiet echoes did not seem at all unusual or out of place. He had committed a crime – he, a child of the imperial family. I might as well be a new­born baby without a stitch of clothing. What light remained rebounded toward the heavens, reflecting vividly into the remaining nooks and crannies. Let’s go back. ——Oh, it’s so cold! Voices. What should I do? In other words, the rites, which are fully accounted for and described for the first time only in chapter 15, are depicted in chapter 2, but they appear to be the acts that resuscitate the dead prince in chapter 1.
Photograph ©   Sai Mr. This way   … ——We who have wandered these mountains over and over again have come in search of your soul. Everyone undid the cloths wrapped around their heads and set aside their walking sticks, thus transforming themselves into ordinary pilgrims dressed in white clothing. I felt around with my hand just like I’m doing now, and I found to my surprise that underneath my kimono, my body had grown flat, like a dried-up slab of meat. It couldn’t have been yesterday I came here and fell into my deep slumber. ——Ahhhh, Mimimo no Toji. This way   … ——It was then, at that very moment, that I forgot who and what I am. The travelers stood there, walking sticks in hand. ——Noble sister, here I am!… To the north and south of that stretched a long streak of light, and at the northern extremity one could see it grow suddenly wider – that was probably where the village of Ōshikōchi lay. I need to quiet my heart… This way   … Quickly, return to your body. The nine travelers with their walking sticks were like gods in their hearts. And at that moment, it was like my heart and my flesh were quickly bound up, but I made it through. He floundered like a baby throwing a fit. My foolish sister. But wait, I still don’t know who I am. Here and elsewhere in the text, Orikuchi prefers to use the old pronunciations of place names. I remember hearing the call of a wild duck floating on the surface of the water. What had at first appeared to be shadows had taken on a clear out­line and were approaching along the Tagima Road. My clothing has completely rotted away. Something reverberated in the man’s head… The mountains were tall, so the moonlight illuminated relatively few things directly. I’ve completely forgotten who I am. ——Come on, that’s enough. Translated from the Japanese by Jeffrey Angles 
First published in 1939 and extensively revised in 1943,   The Book of the Dead, loosely inspired by the tale of Isis and Osiris from ancient Egypt, is a sweeping historical romance that tells a gothic tale of love between a noblewoman and a ghost in eighth century Japan. This way   … This way   … My hakama has turned to dust and scattered. But maybe that’s just as well. The noble miko from the province of Ise – my noble elder sister.2 She must have come to call me back to life. I had for­gotten until just now. ——Don’t you know? Another elder picked up the explanation and continued. For the first time, the University of Minnesota Press will publish the complete English translation of Orikuchi’s masterwork, whose vast influence is evidenced by multiple critical studies dedicated to it and by its many adaptations, which include an animated film and a popular manga. They scattered in different directions like white clouds torn to bits upon the mountain peaks. Shall we try once more to summon her spirit? My sister also recited her own variant of this poem. This way   … Futakami is compared to the rebellious god Amewakahiko from the ancient legends of Japan. Some of the small cherry trees that were so plenti­ful in the Yamada valley were still putting out late blossoms. He had slumbered for a long time. He lay there solemnly, making no effort, hands outstretched, as if his body were a streak of pure white incised into the gigantic, jet-black stone. ——Ohhhhhhh   … They were only half visible because of the slight fog that had settled as night fell. As clear as the water of the pond. He made a sud­den effort to raise himself, but he experienced a pain so severe it was as if his muscles were tearing. A pale glow, reminiscent of moonlight, had penetrated the tomb. The outlines of nine people. There were lots of people standing on the banks of the pond. Where am I? Still, something is amiss. It suddenly descended from be­tween the twin peaks of Mt. Only a single voice now remained, reverberating over the creases of the mountains and the valleys below:
——Ohhhhhhh   … ——But wait… The sound of something being wrenched open – that also was so long ago. Maybe there’s no one there at all. ——Sure, sure. If I’ve done something wrong, then I apologize. It was autumn. I’m lying here, but who am I? She composed the following poem at the time Prince Ōtsu’s body was transferred to Mt. Please, won’t you come? Instead, the light simply struck the mountains and fell into the sparkling valleys in be­tween. I seem to remember her grief-stricken voice in particular. Whose husband am I? His ankles, his kneecaps, his hip joints, his hairline, his temples, the hollow at the bottom of the back of his neck – all of these began to shift as he raised his skull. If I bang my hands and feet on the stone like this, can anyone tell I’m here? ——This way   … They placed their walking sticks in the ground and undid their headdresses, which were merely strips of snow-white cloth. The silence grew deeper than before, restoring a clarity that swelled to the fullest. This way   … It sounded like my noble sis­ter was just speaking and knocking on the door of my tomb just minutes ago, but that was an illusion. ——But what is this place? I belonged to a world that was completely unfathomable. His upper and lower lashes began to separate of their own accord in the congealed darkness frozen around him. It was the tenth month, so the wild ducks were calling out.3   That was when I lost all consciousness of the world; my head hung, wrenched off to the side like one of the ducks with its neck broken. This time, a voice emerged clearly from deep inside the tomb – a voice of solid ice that had only just now regained its breath. I feel as if I can see them with my eyes. Now I feel like I’ve awoken from a long slumber. Using the top of his chest, hips, and knees, he tried to feel around him. When my noble sister, the miko of Ise, visited, I felt like I was waking from a dream during a short nap. He felt his eyes begin to open in the pitch-black night, in the midst of so much stagnation and cold pressure. Open the door please. Cranston, trans., A Waka Anthology, vol. The late hour lubricated their memories, so the thoughts flowed back quickly. This way   … Deeply congealed memories of her and nothing else. Believing his vengeful spirit might bring about a natural disaster, people heeded the ancient story of the god Amewakahiko, transported his body here, and reburied him in this mound.6
One of the voices from before picked up the story. The nearby village of Tagima is know today as Taima; the nearby temple of Manhōzō-in is now called Manpōzō-in; Shujaku Boulevard is now Sujaku Boulevard, and so on. Futakami. It’s the pass on the Tagima Road, which crosses Mt. That explains everything. 3 Until the Gregorian calendar was implemented, in 1873, Japan used the lunar calendar, so the tenth month did not necessarily overlap with the modern month of October. That must have happened long ago, too. There, one could see a forest of evergreens with pointed branches that stood uniformly in the same formation they had held for half a century. Please come… That’s how I came to know that my tomb is on the twin peaks of Mt. By now, the soul of the noble maiden must’ve returned to her body where it lies in the her­mitage. Futakami
As my brother4

——I heard someone recite this funerary verse. Supporting himself with his forearms, he lifted the top half of his body into the darkness. ——Until four or five decades ago, this place was simply known as ‘the Gate’, and there were no markers anywhere to identify it. Time went by… All of that happened so long ago. ——Please, Mother. And then – I seem to remember hearing my sister wailing at the doors to my tomb and reciting a poem – ‘The ashibi growing over the rough stones.’ I realized winter had gone by and spring was coming. The peaks, which looked so dark, wove in and out of one another and grew tangled as they undu­lated into the distance. ——This way   … A terribly long time, I imagine.  
Quietly, gradually, the man felt sleep depart. Calm down. I vaguely recall something. ——Ahhhh, Mimimo no Toji. And the sound of dripping, reverberating off the stone – shhta shhta. I’ve lost my clothing. Oh yes, it was you, Mimimo no Toji. Then, the roughly hewn stone walls on both sides. This is the great pass that serves as the bound­ary between the provinces of Yamato and Kawachi. I’m not far, just over here. What were these quiet sounds that reached his ears? Startled at what they thought was the soul of the mountain echoing around them, the travelers all raised their voices. Shhta shhta shhta. As his voice let out a whine, his corpse legs thrashed about. The mountains – Fushigoe, Kushira, Kogose – grew higher and higher until it seemed they would pierce the heavens themselves. Still, he felt as if the visions that had presented themselves to him one after another were nothing but shallow dreams.