Between many years of playing Legend of the Five Rings and Nicki expanding her collection of Zen texts, I’ve picked up a reasonable number of Japanese folk tales; thus, a little while ago, I made a comment to a friend about the ‘Meanness of Raiko’ and then had to explain the story. As many of you have probably not heard it either, I shall tell you as it was told to me.
Many years ago, in a province far from here, there lived a samurai of a family much less honourable than your own called Raiko. Raiko had offered patronage to many merchants and thus had so many coin that some called him Raiko with the Fat Obi. With each season the peasants had less and his obi grew fatter. Until one day the headman set aside what little he had for his family, tied his head cloth, and went to Raiko’s residence. Exposing his neck, he told his lord that his people starved and—though it meant his death—his duty required he advise his lord of this threat to his holdings. Raiko killed him and had the head displayed in the centre of the village.
That evening as he prepared for bed, a wandering priest entered his chambers and, before Raiko could overcome his astonishment, gently reminded him that the Fortunes gave more so we might do more. Raiko scoffed in his face and demanded he leave. The priest’s face grew red and he shouted that if Raiko would not accept wisdom he would receive wrath. Suddenly the lanterns went out and Raiko felt something loom over him. Grabbing a knife, he lashed out.
When his retainers burst in a breath later, they found their lord alone save for a severed claw on the floor. Raiko demanded they hunt down the monster that had attacked him.
After searching for half the night, deep into the forest, they saw a white fox slip behind a tree and, thinking the Fortune Inari sent aid, raced after it. When they arrived they found not a white fox but an overgrown temple. The bravest entered and saw a massive spider, pure white but for the bloody stump of one leg, slumped on an altar to Inari. Filled with fear, they raced back to their master. Upon hearing their story, Raiko realised the error of his ways and became a beloved lord to his people.
If you ask a monk, they are likely to say the story is a warning that where we do not heed the many examples of wisdom and virtue the Fortunes have provided, the Heavens will send a scourge to cleanse our sins. If you ask many people, they are likely to say the story is a happy one because Raiko finds virtue. But, despite being a messenger of that virtue, the spider ends the story alone.
But that was in a province far from here where they are not as honourable as your family.