Ochikubo monogatari (The Tale of Ochikubo) (落窪物語)

"Ochikubo monogatari" (The Tale of Ochikubo) is a tale of Japan's middle ages, which reportedly originated around the end of the tenth century. Four volumes in total. The author is not known. As it contains citations from Chinese classic books as well as explicit expressions and street jokes, it is supposed that the author was a low-class male court noble at that time. MINAMOTO no Shitago, MINAMOTO no Sukekata, etc. have been named for candidates and there is a view that the volume four was added by Seishonagon. However, none of them has been verified as true.


The title, "Ochikubo," came from the name of the room in which the heroine, an unhappy himegimi (daughter of a person of high rank), was placed. It is a tale of ill-treatment of stepchild which has a structural outline similar to that of the story of Cinderella, in which the lovely Ochikubo no Himegimi was forced to live in a humble place on the corner of the main house where, as the title expresses, the tatami floor sank into a hole, and she was ill-treated by her stepmother.

"Ochikubo monogatari" is a tale of from Japan's Middle Ages that precedes "Genji Monogatari" (The Tale of Genji) and is also mentioned in "Makura no Soshi" (the Pillow Book). Although its storyline is rather simple, drawing clear line between love and hate, it has been appreciated as a tale that represents realistically the society of nobles at that time, centering on ill-treatment of a stepchild.


The heroine is a daughter of MINAMOTO no Tadayori, who was Chunagon (vice-councilor of state), (Ochikubo no Himegimi). Ochibubo no Himegimi lost her mother and began to live with her stepmother. However, she was in a sad and unhappy position because she was ill-treated by her stepmother and made to live in Ochikubonoma (literally, a room with a sunken, hollow floor). However, she was found by a young noble, Michiyori, who was Konoe no shosho (Minor Captain of the Palace Guards). Michiyori, who loved the himegimi, began to visit her frequently. Although the himegimi was confined by her stepmother, she was saved by Michiyori, and they united. Michiyori took his revenge on the stepmother who ill-treated the himegimi, and the family lived happily under the protection of Michiyori.


Ochikubo no Hime: Heroine
As she had a princess for a mother, her status by birth was far higher than that of her stepmother or sisters-in-law, but she was ill-treated like a maidservant. Probably because she had been forced to sew kimono for the family, she was very good at sewing.

Chunagon (vice-councilor of state)(MINAMOTO no Tadayori): Ochikubo's father
He acted as instructed by Kita no Kata (his wife) and never treated or protected Ochikubo as his daughter.

Kita no Kata: Ochikubo's stepmother
She had four daughters. She ill-treated Ochikubo and tried in vain to make Yon no Kimi (fourth daughter) marry Ukon no Shosho.

Oigimi, Naka no Kimi, San no Kimi and Yon no Kimi: Daughters born between Chunagon and Kitanokata
All of them except Yon no Kimi had husbands before the beginning of the tale.

Akoki (also, written as "阿漕") and her husband, Tatewaki
An aspect of arrangements for marriage at that time is described vividly as Akoki, who was a nyobo (court lady) serving the himegimi, acted as a romantic go-between through her husband, Tatewaki.

Kurodo no Shosho: Husband of San no Kimi
He was disgusted with San no Kimi, who was not prepared to be a wife, and married a younger sister (Naka no Kimi) of Ukon no Shosho later.

Ukon no Shosho (Michiyori): A foster brother of Tatewaki; husband of Ochikubo no Hime
He was later promoted to Sanmi (Third Rank) Chujo, Chunagon and Uemon no kami (Captain of the Right Division of Outer Palace Guards) concurrently, Dainagon (chief councilor of state) and Sadaisho (Major Captain the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards) concurrently, Sadaijin (Minister of the left) and, then, Daijo-daijin (Grand minister of state). He had no other wives or lovers than Ochikubo no Hime and continued to love only her throughout his life. It was a rare case at that time in which the practice of polygamy prevailed. FUJIWARA no Michiyori, an actual person, is reputed to have been the model for this character.

Sadaisho: Father of Ukon no Shosho
Later promoted to Udaijin.

Tatewaki's mother: Foster mother of Ukon no Shosho
Because Ochikubo was ill-treated at home, she tried to make Ukon no Shosho marry another lady, but was persuaded by Tatewaki to give up.

Tenyaku no Suke: A freeloader in the Chunagon's house
Uncle of Kita no Kata of Chunagon
He tried to marry Ochikubo no Hime.

Hyobu no Shoyu: A son of Jibukyo, who was a maternal relative of Ukon no Shosho
Since he had a horse-face and erratic character, people made a fool of him, calling him "Omoshiro no Koma" (literally, funny horse). He was tricked by Ukon no Shosho into marrying Yon no Kimi.

[Original Japanese]