This is a story from Misasa, out in Tottori.

Way back in the Edo when class-based fuedalism was strictly enforced, there was once a villager who admired samurai, and hoped to someday be one. What with the laws and class division, however, this was an unattainable dream.

One day while taking a hike up the mountain pass, he took a break and and noticed a samurai seated among the rocks. Knowing that being rude to a samurai could cost him, he made sure to great him politely. “Hello there, Samurai-san. Nice weather today, isn’t it?”

However, the samurai made no reply. The villager ventured to speak again. “Hello there, Samurai-san!”

Still there came no answer. Upon further inspection, the villager noticed that the samurai had died. Well, this is a fine chance if I’ll ever get one! Since the guy’s dead, I might as well fulfill my dream to be a samurai, he thought, and switched his clothes with that of the deceased warrior. As he started back down the mountain, he noticed the local overlord’s procession passing through the streets. Oh man, if I go down there and get caught pretendin’ to be a samurai, I’m a goner for sure!

He made a break for the fields instead of the village, but he did not go unnoticed. The overlord was curious about the samurai he did not recognize. When they caught up to him in the fields, he sent his aide to inquire about the warrior. “You there!” the aide shouted. “State your name!”

Aw, shoot. Now what do I do?

Looking around for any sort of name, he noticed some greens (aona) and dried strips of gourd (kanpyou) in the fields around him. “I am Aona Kanpyou,” he replied.

“I see. Thank you,” replied the aide, who reported to the overlord.

“Ah, Aona Kanpyou. I see,” said the overlord thoughtfully. “Have him to come along to my residence as one of my retainers.”

In no position to refuse, Kanpyou the improvised samurai went along. He was wined and dined that evening and given a room right next to that of the overlord, which was filled with bows and arrows and treasures. Excitedly, he tried one of the bows out.

It just so happened that there was someone who meant to kill the overlord that night, but when Kanpyou let the arrow he was trying out fly, it went through the screen and struck the attacker just before he reached his target. “You saved me,” the startled overlord said. “But how did you know he would attack?”

“It was nothing special, My Lord. I have two eyes, you see–and I only sleep with one of them at once. Until the middle of the night I let only my right eye sleep, and for the rest of the night I let my left eye sleep. That way I can always see what is going on.”

“How marvelously prepared!” he exclaimed. “I shall bestoy on you a great reward!”

Uh oh, this is goin’ a lil’ too well, Kanpyou thought.

The next day he also wound up staying at the overlord’s residence again, and the following day a villager came to make a request of the lord. There had been a very large snake in the pond terrorizing people, and he hoped that the government could step in and help get rid of it. “Very well,” asked the overlord. “Who will go rid them of the beast?”

Geez, that sounds terrible! thought Kanpyou. If this is the kind of thing samurai hafta do, I better get away while I still have the chance. “I will go, My Lord!”

Very pleased, the overlord consented. Before he left, Kanpyou packed his things, including a couple bags of rice flour he purchased. Instead of going alone to make a getaway, however, a few other retainers went along and showed him the way to the pond. Aw, great, he grumbled, With these guys around I can’t make a break for it. Now what am I supposed to do?

Just then, a gurgling sound came from the pond, and a gigantic snake lifted its head out, then charged towards them. Thoroughly frightened, Kanpyou wanted to get away, but there would be no time. Instead, he got the idea to throw the bags of rice flour at it. The snake caught them in its mouth, and it just so happened that the flour got struck in the beast’s throat and choked it. When it fell down dead, Kanpyou breathed a sigh of relief and inspected it.

“Well, that’s that. It’s dead now! Go on, take it back home!” he told the others, who happily did so and told the overlord of Kanpyou’s victory. The overlord rewarded him yet again, but Kanpyou thought, If I hafta do this day in an’ day out, then the samurai life isn’t for me. I’m getting outta this gig before it’s too late!

In the middle of that night, he escaped. That’s the end of the story. Nothing else to it.

But here’s some pictures from modern-day Misasa:

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