“… Perform gagaku and kick ass. And gagaku has a very limited repertoire by this point in history.”

X. Jie YANG 楊暁捷 has uploaded a YouTube playlist of himself (I assume?) reading selected parts of the story “Karaito” (named after its heroine) over images of the illustrated manuscript that contains it. Purists may be disappointed to learn that the text is pronounced as if it were contemporary Japanese—e.g. no attempt to reconstruct an Edo-period palatalized /e/—but you can’t always get what you want.

“But Matt, I’ve never heard of ‘Karaito’ before!” I hear you say. “I can’t watch a YouTube video without a solid grounding in the scholarly background it assumes.” Fortunately, Lora Slobodian’s Karaito sōshi: A Tale of Optimism and Good Fortune is available online, and includes a serviceable translation of the complete story.

Karaito, one of the female servants of the palace, was also present before the commander of Kamakura, Yoritomo, at the decisive moment [when the plan to kill Lord Kiso was revealed]. This woman was of Shinano province, and a subordinate of Lord Kiso. She was excessively skilled at playing the biwa and the koto, and so, in her eighteenth year, was summoned to Kamakura and placed in charge of the gagaku, but felt great pity as she was performing for the ones who would ultimately be responsible for the deaths of both Lord Kiso and her father. She felt that she must, by all means, inform Lord Kiso of this plot, and so secretly sent a highly detailed letter to the capital […]

In the letter she not only informs Lord Kiso of the plot, she also offers to assassinate the conspirators, and requests the use of a specific, named dagger to do so.

(Via Kasama Shoin.)

Author: Matt

I live in Japan and read less books than I used to before I had kids, but still quite a few.

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