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TRAVEL WRITING FROM HELL? MINAMOTO NO YORIIE AND THE POLITICS OF FUJI

TRAVEL WRITING FROM HELL? MINAMOTO NO YORIIE AND THE POLITICS OF FUJI NO HITOANASŌSHI

Kimbrough, Keller R. (University of Colorado, Boulder)

PAJLS, Volume 7 (2007)

Abstract

Within the fantastic world of late-medieval Japanese prose fiction, extraordinary, supernatural, or otherwise improbable journeys are the norm. Whether the eponymous Urashima Tarō’s visit to the underwater palace of the Dragon King, or Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s Odyssey-like voyage to the islands of horse-people, naked people, and miniature people in On-zōshi shima watari, otogizōshi travelers’ tales frequently concern themselves with the transcendence of mundane boundaries and the exploration of superhuman spaces. Within the corpus of imaginative travel narratives is a sub-genre of stories concerning human travelers’ journeys to the realms of hell, animals, hungry ghosts, and other non-human planes. As a rule, these stories include vividly detailed descriptions of the ghastly punishments to be found in those places, as well as ample and often sectarian religious advice on how readers and listeners might avoid visiting there themselves. Among the longest and most harrowing of these late-medieval hell-tour tales is an otogizōshi by the name of Fuji no hitoana sōshi, “The Tale of the Fuji Cave,” which in its central section purports to describe the shocking journey of a Kamakura-period samurai to the depths of hell and back.

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