Islands shaped by Yoshitsune
Kamomejima Island is in clear view from Okushiri Island. To the left, where large volcanic plumes could once be seen, is Oshima Island. In Hokkaido, Yoshitsune appears as two contrasting figures. A good-natured Yoshitsune and a villanous Yoshitsune. Hokkaido is geographically bisected by the Hidaka mountain range which is said to represent a boundary where to the east Yoshitsune's reputation is bad and to the west his reputation is good. The tale of his villainy perhaps stems from a story in which some heartless "wajin (non-Ainu Japanese)" deceived the "Ainu (Hokkaido natives)." Long ago, Yoshitsune rowed a small boat to the shores of Hidaka. He stayed at the Hidaka chief's house where he became lovers with the chief's only daughter. This is a canonical pattern often seen in Yoshitsune legends. The two were eventually wed as husband and wife.
In the chief's house was a secret cellar where a magical scroll was kept. This magnificent scroll could take any predicament and provide an immediate solution. Having heard of this, Yoshitsune decided that he must have the scroll for himself. However, the chief was a cautious man and always reminded his daughter, "He may be your husband, but Yoshitsune is still a Shamo (Ainu word for Wajin). You mustn't open up your heart to a Shamo." Day by day Yoshitsune's desire for the scroll grew until one day he said to the chief's daughter,
"Once, in the mountains of Kurama in Japan (referring to the main island of Japan) I received a scroll from a Tengu (a humanoid creature in Japanese folklore). While this scroll was magnificent, it surely falls short in comparison to the chief's scroll. Tell your father that I would very much like to see it for myself." Upon hearing this story from his daughter, the chief stubbornly refused: "It hasn't been long since Yoshitsune became your husband and he is sure to leave you once he lays his eyes on the scroll. He mustn't ever be allowed to see it." Half a year passes since Yoshitsune's arrival. The chief's daughter realizes she has conceived Yoshitsune's child. Despite having been deemed untrustworthy by her father, Yoshitsune would never abandon his own child. So the chief's daughter believed.
As fall deepened, and winter approached, the chief went out to hunt with the members of his Kotan (Ainu word for village). Once alone with the chief's daughter, Yoshitsune said, "I have a child, have become one of the Ainu, am to become the chief's son, and this house will eventually be mine. Thus, having things in this household that I do not know of is an inconvenience, so starting with the magic scroll, show me everything I haven't yet seen." Yoshitsune's begging was too much for the chief's daughter to sternly refuse. Once being shown to the secret cellar by his wife, Yoshitsune took the magic scroll in his hands and pretended to examine it while observing his wife for the right opportunity. By the time Yoshitsune's wife was suspicious of his behaviour, and her face paled in realization, Yoshitsune had flown out of the cellar and ran toward the shoreline through the trees. "Lord Yoshitsune! Lord Yoshitsune!" The maddened chief's daughter chased after him, but her pregnant body prevented her from running as she hoped, and by the time she arrived at the shoreline Yoshitsune was rowing his small boat out into the ocean.
Having lost sight of Yoshitsune, the chief returned home to scold his daughter once again, but seeing her eyes red from crying and her head hung low from sorrow, she was also so pitiful. When the sea changes color, the wind changes its sound, and the city huddles in for winter, if you cast your eyes towards the open ocean from the island, you just might glimpse Yoshitsune, the chief in pursuit, and their two boats. Like phantasms.
From "Esashi Hyakuwa, Traditional Folktales / Legends / History"
Oiwake Sightseeing Department
Esashi Town Office
Address: 193-1, Aza Nakautacho, Esashi, Hiyama, Hokkaido
Postal code: 043-8560