Japanese Tales : The Six Jizos and The Braided Hats
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The Six Jizos and The Braided Hats

Once upon a time, there was an old man and an old woman. Though the old man earned his living making braided hats, the two of them lived poorly. One year, at New Year's Eve, they had no money left and could not even buy traditional rice cakes. The old man then decided to go to the town and sell some braided hats; he took five of them and went out.
The town was quite far from his house and he walked for a long time in the fields. Then at last he arrived at the town and started crying,
"Braided hats, who wants some braided hats!
Fine braided hats!"
The town was crowded with people shopping for New Year's Eve, buying fish, alcohol and rice cakes. At the end of the day everybody would go back home without buying a braided hat. People did not need braided hats on New Year's Eve, since they will be staying at home. The poor old man had walked so far to the town and for the whole day, though he shouted his voice off had not sold a single braided hat. Sadly, he could not buy any rice cakes and had to go back home.

When he walked out of the town, snow began falling. The old man was very cold walking through fields in the snow when he happened to see a few statues made of stone, called Jizos. There were six of them and snow was piling up on their heads and icicles hanging from their faces.
The old man was good-hearted and thought, "Oh, they must be so cold!" Then he wiped the snow from their heads, and put the braided hats he had not sold on the head of the statues, one by one, saying to them, "Nobody wanted these braided hats, so please use them."
But he had only five hats, and there were six Jizos. One hat was lacking, so the old man gave his own braided hat to the last of the Jizos, saying, "I am sorry to give you an old hat." Then he went back home, walking through the fields.

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The old man came home covered with snow as he had given his own hat to the Jizo and walked bare-headed. When his wife saw him, she asked what had been going on and why he had not even his own hat. Then he told her the story of the Jizos,
"Actually, I didn't sell even one hat today in town. But on my way back, I saw some poor Jizos. They seemed so cold with all this snow falling that I wiped the snow piled on their heads and gave them my unsold braided hats. However, there were six of them and I had only five hats, so I gave mine to the last of them."
The old woman who was very kind too was happy about her husband giving the hats to the Jizos and said to him, "You did a very good thing; even if we are poor, we've got a house and they do not." Then they sat near the fire because it was quite cold, and had dinner. They had no rice cakes because the old man had not sold any hats, and there was also nothing else to eat, so they had some rice with pickles and went to bed early.

In the middle of the night, they were awoken by the sound of singing. The voices were at first far from the house but then they came closer and closer.
"Grandpa gave braided hats to the Jizos,
Where does Grandpa live?
Grandpa are you here?"
The old man and the old woman were very surprised, and much more when they heard a loud noise, "Bang!" They went out to see what was going on, and were amazed when they opened the door.
Lots of parcels were piled up in front of the house, on the threshold. There was rice, alcohol, fish, traditional rice cakes, New Year's Eve ornaments; nice, warm blankets and kimonos. They looked around them and saw the six Jizos walking away, and on their heads the braided hats the old man had given them. The Jizos had brought presents to the kind old man, showing their gratitude for his help and making him have a happy New Year.

Translated and adapted by Myriam Dartois


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