Tsutsuizutsu (Curb of a Well) (筒井筒)

Tsutsuizutsu (also read as tsutsuitsutsu in some cases. It is written as 'tsutsuizutsu'(つつゐづつ) in the old kana notation) is a story in "Ise Monogatari" (The Tales of Ise) and "Yamato Monogatari" (The Tales of Yamato). It is about a man and a woman, who were childhood friends and attracted to each other, getting married. It is 'Tsutsuitsuno' in the old text of "Ise Monogatari."

Nijusandan (23 Steps)

Long ago, there were children in the countryside, playing by a well. They became too shy to see each other when they grew up, but the man wanted to marry the woman. The woman also wanted to marry him, so she was not interested in the suitors her parents picked. Then, she received the following from the man, who was her neighbor.

Curb of a well, I used to be shorter than the height of the well, but in all those years that I did not see you, I grew taller than the curb of the well.

The woman returned a poem, 'My hair, which we used to be like your hair, has grown below my shoulders, for whom else, but you, would I wear my hair up,' and they finally found out their true feelings.

Years went by, the woman's parents passed away, and life became hard. The man developed intolerance of poverty and began to frequent another woman in Takayasu county in Kawachi Province. However, the woman showed no sign of anger when she sent him off. He grew suspicious, and he pretended to go to Kawachi but he hid himself behind the bushes and watched his wife as she put on her make up.

When the wind blows, white waves appear at sea behind Mt. Tatsuta, you come alone at night.

When he heard her read this poem, he was so moved that he no longer went to Kawachi.

(the rest omitted)


Long ago, a boy and a girl, who were childhood friends, were playing together around a tsutsuizutsu (a bamboo fence around a round well) comparing their height.

As they got older they became shy about seeing each other, and they ended up distancing themselves from each other. However, they could not forget each other. The girl remained single, refusing any marriage arrangements her parents brought to her.

The girl received a poem from the boy. They exchanged poems and they promised to each other that they would get married.

I used to be shorter than the height of the well, but in all those years that I did not see you, I grew taller than the edge of the well.'
My hair, which we used to short like yours, has grown below my shoulders, but I cannot wear my hair up (signifies coming of age, often means getting married) for anybody but you.'

Thus, the two got married. However, before long, the wife's parents died, and they became poor. The husband began to pay frequent visits to another woman.

However, when the wife sent off the husband she would not even show the slightest hint of anger. The husband, being suspicious of her behavior, hid himself and watched her. He saw her putting on make to make herself look pretty, and she read a poem as if she was lost in thought.

When the wind blows, white waves appear at sea beyond Mt. Tatsuta, are you climbing over the mountain all alone at night. (alas, I am worried)'

The husband was so moved by her emotion that he returned to his wife.

Influence on later generations

It was taken by Zeami, and it became the origin of a classic song of noh play, "Izutsu (noh)."
In the noh play, it is sung, 'tsutsuizutsu izutsunikakeshi marogatake oinikerashina imomizarumani (tsutsuizutsu, I used to compare my height to the bamboo fence around the well, I grew taller while I did not see you).'
Oinikerashina (I grew taller)' means the boy matured and grew taller. The girl, remembering this poem, sings, 'I grew taller, I grew older' (I grew taller, no I grew old).

Based on the content, it developed to imply 'a boy and a girl who were friends since their childhood (growing affectionate to each other and getting married).'
It is used as in, 'they finally got married, it seems that many things happened, but those two went to the same preschool together and they were tsutsuizutsu.'


Ido Chawan (tea bowl) (Important Cultural Property)
This is a tea bowl from Yi Dynasty of Korea, which was given to Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI as a gift from the Ido clan of Tatsuichi Castle. It was a unique and favorite item of Hideyoshi, but one time a pageboy serving him dropped it and broke it into 5 pieces. Immediately, Yusai HOSOKAWA read a satirical poem, 'Tsutsuizutsu, a tea bowl broken into 5 pieces, let the blame fall on me,' and he calmed Hideyoshi's anger (a cultural property of Ishikawa Prefecture).

There is this thing called 'Tsutsuizutsu' at Dososhin (traveler's guardian deity) in Shimooike, Yamagata Village, Higashichikuma County, Nagano Prefecture. There is a carving of a man and a woman snuggled against each other.

[Original Japanese]