A-Yokai-A-Day: Hakoiri musume (page 21)

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Today we start the third and final volume of Hakoiri musume menya ningyo. And the mermaid starts a new chapter of her life as well. Unfit to work at a brothel, Denzō returns her to Heiji. She doesn’t seem to mind; she looks happy as a clam to see Heiji once again, despite her misadventure. And Kyōden once again shows us how much of a theater nerd he is with another famous kabuki reference.

And so, Denzō’s big idea failed on the first day. If rumors spread that there was a yōkai working at Maizuruya, he would be ruined, and so he could no longer put the mermaid on display. His seven and a half ryō had gone to waste, and he had to return the mermaid to Heiji.

Denzō was so flustered that he started rambling about how much the mermaid had cost him. He sounded like a victim of kitsunetsuki¹ who had taken uirō² and exaggerated³ the story.

Denzō: “Well you see, I know I did it to myself, but I spent a lot of money on her debut. There was her clothing, her hairpins and combs, the folding screen for her kimono, all of her bedding and nightclothes, her teapot, brazier, ashtray and pipe, dresser, lantern, sake decanter, her shoes, bureau, chest, cottonwear, pestle, mortar, bortar, portar, gara, gara, gara…”

Heiji: “If there are any more lines, it will become too expensive for the publisher to print, so I’ll just listen and nod.”

  1. Kitsunetsuki (fox possession) was the Edo period explanation of psychosis. In other words, he was babbling like a man possessed.
  2. Uirō was a famous wonder drug from Odawara that freshened breath, loosened phlegm, and made you able to speak quickly. This references a scene in the play Uirō uri (“The Uiro Seller”) in which an uirō seller quickly rattles off tongue twisters to demonstrate the drug’s efficacy. Denzō’s lines here mirror the lines from the play. The tongue twister effect sadly get lost in translation. Here’s a demonstration of the famous tongue twister scene.
  3. The book uses the Japanese idiom “to attach a tail to something” to describe Denzō’s exaggerations. It’s another silly fish pun that gets lost in translation. The English phrase “a tall tale/tail” could be used as a close analogue.

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