Once upon a time, a famous dance master lived in the city of Kyoto. She was renown far and wide and many disciples came studying under her guidance. One of her students was the lovely Yukie, a young lady who eagerly praticed the art of fan dancing.
Yukie cherished her dancing fan. It was an amazing piece of art her father had comissioned for her. The hand of renowned artist had painted blooming cherry blossoms, so lively you could nearly hear the trees rustling caressed by a sweet Spring wind.
Yet one day, after the lessons, the dance master realised Yukie had forgotten her fan in the rehersal room.
– That’s very strange, this fan is so dear to her. Yukie always takes good care of it. Well, I’ll return it to her tomorrow.
Not willing to let the precious fan unattended, she put it on her desk.
But the next day, Yukie did not attend her usual lesson. Nor did she come the following day or the day after.
The dance master wondered at her desk:
– What happened to her? It’s not like her to miss so many lessons.
She took the fan and opened it. Spreading all over its surface, bright flowers were blooming.
At this moment, one of her friend, a fortune teller, came in visiting. The dance master greeted him warmly:
– Welcome my friend, your visit honour me!
Settling near her desk, the fortune teller took notice of the fan she was holding.
– How pretty! I didn’t know you had bought such a beautiful piece of art!
The dance master handed it to him laughing:
– It’s not mine, one of my student left it behind. It’s true this fan is striking though!
His friend was inspecting the fan, a faraway look on his face:
– How terrible those flowers will soon come to fall…
The dance master was taken aback:
– What do you mean ?
Her friend quickly looked up
– No-nothing, you know how us fortune tellers are : always blablering!
Later that evening, after the fortune teller had returned home, the teacher took the fan opening it once again. The words of her friend kept dancing in her head, worrying her:
– Flowers will soon fall, what on earth does that mean?
Her servant’s voice echoed in the house:
– Mistress? Diner is ready!
As she was turning to answer her, opened fan still in hand, the dance master suddenly froze. A single white petal was gently falling to the ground.
Standing up on shaking feet, she slowly turn the fan face down.
Cherry blossom petals scattered on the tatami and butterflies, fluttering to no wind, flew hight and disapeared in the night sky.
The dance master stood petrified. A tremor in her hand, she turned back the fan and gasped. What had been lavishly decorated by luscious trees was now no more than white paper.
The cherry blossoms were completely gone.
– It cannot be…
Realisation struck her:
– Oh gods, Yukie!
Heart beating fast, she caught a palanquin and rushed to the young woman’s house. Yukie’s mother came to answer the door. At her teary face, she completly stilled.
– My daughter, my sweet daughter! Oh dance master, she has just breathed her last breath! She…
Weeping, she told her how Yukie had died just a moment ago, quietly in her sleep.
– I’d wish to tell her goodbye.
Nodding, the mother guided her to the young lady’s room. Her blood turned to ice.
Yukie looked peacefull, a half smile playing on her lips. And all around her, were scattered a myriad of cherry blossoms petals.
Kyo-man (« dances of the capital ») is a very refined dance style, today mostly kept alive by the Geisha and Maiko. Dance Masters are often women who have received their school from their mothers and hand them down to their daugthers. The most famous of Kyoto’s schools is Yashiyo Inoue’s one (shown in this documentary).
Tsukimono (« possessed things ») are often depicted in japanese folklore and are not always evil doers. In this tales, the fan turned into a tsukimono because Yukie care so much for it that she left a piece of her soul in it. Makes us think about our connection to material things, isn’t 😉