“Matasaburo of the Wind” is a story by the well-known author Kenji Miyazawa that I originally began translating in 2016. Then, when I noticed increased interest last year due to a video by the band Yorushika being made about it, I decided to translate more of the story. This article captures part 4.
It seems likely that I will eventually finish the translation (which will probably take 1-2 more articles), but if you want to help motivate me to finish sooner please comment and spread the word. For those studying Japanese you can find the original text here, though due to a regional dialect the dialogue is a bit difficult to follow.
If you haven’t read parts 1-3, I would highly recommend going through them before reading this part. You can start with part 1 here.
If you enjoyed this translation please consider taking a look at my books (mostly translations of classic Japanese literature). I also have an audiobook out about classic Japanese fairy tales.
風の又三郎 (Matasaburo of the Wind) by 宮沢賢治 (Kenji Miyazawa), Part 4, translated by J.D. Wisgo
To the others, all of that seemed to be taking place far, far away.
Matasaburo lay on the ground with his feet sprawled out before him, quietly gazing up at the sky. On top of his usual gray jacket he wore a glass cape, and on his feet glowed glass shoes.
A chestnut tree cast a pale shadow upon Matasaburo’s shoulders, and the boy’s own pale shadow fell upon the grass beside him. The wind blew with a terrible sound.
The boy neither smiled nor spoke. He only gazed quietly into the sky, tiny lips pursed tightly together. Then Matasaburo suddenly jumped up towards the sky, his glass cape glittering brightly.
Kasuke’s eyes snapped open. Gray fog blew by at a mighty speed.
A horse stood sluggishly before him. The animal’s eyes were cast aside, avoiding Kasuke.
Kasuke sprung up and took hold of the horse’s name tag. Behind the horse appeared Saburo, his tightly pursed lips completely drained of color.
A shiver ran through Kasuke.
“Hey!” Ichiro’s voice came through the fog. Thunder rumbled loudly.
“Hey, Kasuke! Are you there, Kasuke?” said Ichiro’s voice. Kasuke jumped up in delight.
“Hey! I’m here, I’m here. Ichiro, Hey!”
Before he knew what was happening, Ichiro and his brother were standing before him. Kasuke suddenly broke out into tears.
“We were searching for you. It was dangerous out there. You’re soaking wet.” Ichiro’s brother skillfully grabbed the horse’s neck and put the bit he carried into the horse’s mouth.
“Alright, let’s go.”
“Matasaburo really surprised us,” Ichiro said to Saburo. The boy only nodded quietly, his lips tightly pursed as always.
With Ichiro in the lead, the boys went over two small hills. After that they came to a large road and walked down that for a while.
Twice they saw a faint flash of lightning. There was the scent of burning grass, and smoke flowed through the fog.
Ichiro’s brother screamed.
“Someone is here! Hey everyone, someone is here!”
An elderly man stood before the children in the fog.
“Oh, I was so worried! I’m really happy to see you, Kasuke. It’s freezing out here, come inside,” he said. It seemed that this man really was Kasuke and Ichiro’s grandfather.
At the base of the large, fire-scarred roots of a chestnut tree was a small enclosure made of grass, and inside flickered a red flame.
Ichiro’s brother hitched the horse to a nearby oak tree.
The horse whinnied.
“You poor boys. You must have cried your eyes out. That boy is the son of the gold miner. Come now, everyone have a dumpling. I’ll cook some right now. How far did you all go?”
“We went to the other side of Sasanagane mountain,” said Ichiro’s brother.
“That’s a dangerous place. A very dangerous place! If you had tried to descend on the other side, it would be the end of all of you and the horse too. Now Kasuke, have a dumpling. Boy, you should have one too. And this boy too.”
“I’m going to drop off the horse,” said Ichiro’s brother.
“Sure. If the herders come you’ll get hell. But wait a little first. It’s going to clear up soon. But oh, how worried I was! Torako and I went all the way down to the bottom of the mountain. But things turned out well in the end. And the rain will let up.”
“But the weather was so nice this morning…”
“Yeah. It will clear up again. Oh, the rain is getting in.”
Ichiro’s brother went outside. A rustling sound came from the roof. The man smiled as looked up at it.
The boy came back inside.
“The sun has come out. And the rain stopped.”
“Oh, really. Now you boys warm yourself by the fire while I go out to cut grass again.”
The fog had suddenly lifted. Sunlight streamed down towards them. The sun leaned slightly to the west and waxy clumps of fog glowed reluctantly, as if unable to escape the sun’s rays.
Sparkling drops of water fell from the grass, with each and every leaf, stalk, and flower absorbing the sunlight of the last day of the year.
To the west, a distant green meadow smiled brightly as if just getting over a bit of crying, and a pale halo surrounded each chestnut tree.
The boys were all exhausted, and Ichiro was the first to go down into the plain. When they reached the spring, Saburo went off by himself towards his father’s hut, silent with pursed lips as always.
Kasuke began talking as he walked.
“As I thought, that boy must be a god of wind. The child of the god of wind. They must be living over there.”
“You’re right!” said Ichiro.
In the morning the next day rain came again, but from second period the sun gradually emerged and by the end of third period the weather was completely clear, the bright blue sky seeming to have just been polished. Below that white cirrocumulus clouds moved rapidly to the East, the remaining pieces of clouds looking like fluffy fried tofu stuck to the torreya and chestnut trees.
“Once we get down there, do you want to go pick some grapes?” Kosuke said quietly to Kasuke.
“Yeah, let’s go. Saburo, do you want to go with us?” Kasuke asked.
“Oh, don’t tell Saburo about that place!” Kosuke said, but Saburo immediately responded.
“I’ll go. You know, I picked grapes in Hokkaido. My mom even pickled them in barrels.”
“Would you mind taking me to pick grapes?” asked the second-grader Shokichi.
“No way. I’m not telling you where they are. I just found a new place last year,” said Kosuke.
All of the children could barely wait for school to end. Once fifth period ended, the group of six boys––Ichiro, Kasuke, Sataro, Kosuke, Etsuji, and Saburo––left the school building and went upstream the river. After traveling a little ways they came to a house with a straw roof, and a tobacco field in front. The lower leaves of the tobacco trees had already been plucked off so the green stalks stood nicely in rows like a forest, making an extremely interesting sight.
Then suddenly Saburo said, “What’s this leaf?” and tore off a single leaf that he showed to Ichiro.
Surprised, Ichiro replied with a pale face, “Matasaburo, if you take these leaves the tobacco bureau will scold you badly. Why did you do such a thing?” The other children also clamored.
“The bureau records the number of leaves on each tree in a notebook. I don’t want to get involved.”
“I don’t want to get involved either.”
“Me neither,” said the other children.
Face burning red, Saburo waved the leaf around for a while and thought of what to say. At last he angrily said, “I didn’t know that when I took it!”
The children all looked fearfully towards the house to see if anyone was watching them. Beyond the fluffy clouds rising above the tobacco field the house was dead still, with no sign of anyone around.
“Kosuke in the first grade lives in that house,” Kosuke said with a soft voice. But from the beginning Kosuke wasn’t happy to have everyone come to the grape vines that he had discovered, so he complained to Saburo.
“Well Saburo, I don’t care how many times you said you didn’t know. Now you better pay me back.”
Saburo showed an anxious expression for a little while. Eventually he said, “In that case, I’ll leave it here so everything should be OK,” and gently placed the leaf on the ground below the tree.
Then Ichiro said, “Get moving!” and started walking away so the others followed him, but Kosuke stayed behind and said, “Well I have nothing to do with this. Matasaburo took the leaf from over there.” However, the other children were quickly gaining distance so Kosuke finally followed after them.
When the children climbed up a small path passing between the torreya trees, there was a cluster of chestnut trees in the hollow on the southern side below which grew a large thicket of grapes.
“I’m the one who found these grapes, so don’t take too many,” said Kosuke.
“I’m going to take some chestnuts instead,” said Saburo as he picked up a rock and tossed it at a branch. A single green burr fell to the ground.
Saburo opened it with a stick and took out two white chestnuts. The others were furiously collecting grapes.
Eventually Kosuke passed under a chestnut on his way to another bush, when suddenly a mass of water droplets fell from above, soaking his shoulders and back. Kosuke opened his mouth in surprise and looked up to find Saburo climbing a tree as he wiped his face with his sleeve, a slight smirk on his face.
“Hey Matasaburo, what are you doing?” he said and looked up at the tree with a disapproving stare.
“The wind just blew!” Saburo said from above as he tried to keep himself from laughing.
Kosuke stepped out from below the tree and started gathering grapes at another bush. He had so many grapes he could barely carry them, and his mouth was purple and appeared larger than normal.
“Alright, let’s take what we have and go back,” said Ichiro.
“I’m going to pick some more,” said Kosuke.
Just then, a bunch of chilly drops came down again on Kosuke’s head. He looked up again in surprise, but this time Saburo wasn’t in the tree.
However, on the other side of the tree he caught sight of Saburo’s gray-colored elbow and heard his stifled laughter, so Kosuke grew very angry.
“Hey Matasaburo, you got somebody wet again.”
“The wind just blew!”
The children broke out into laughter.
“Hey Matasaburo, you just shook the tree over there.”
They all laughed again.
Kosuke stayed quiet for a few moments with an angry look, then looked at Saburo and said, “Aggh Matasaburo! I wish you would just disappear from this world.”
At that Saburo grinned slyly.
“Sorry about that, Kosuke.”
Kosuke was going to say something else, but he was too upset to think clearly so he simply screamed out again.
“Aggh, Matasaburo! I wish a wind like you would just disappear from this world!”
“Sorry, but you are just as mean to me.” Saburo blinked his eyes and spoke with pity in his voice. But Kosuke’s anger wouldn’t die down easily. So he said the same thing three more times.
“Aggh, Matasaburo! I wish the wind would just disappear from this world!”
Saburo seemed to enjoy hearing this and started laughing again.
“Why do you want the wind to disappear from this world? Explain the reasons to me in detail this moment!” Saburo stuck out one finger, his face set in a serious expression like a teacher.
Kosuke felt like he was being tested and was frustrated by how droll things had become, but he reluctantly thought for a few moments before speaking.
“It’s always being mischievous. Breaking peoples’ umbrellas and such.”
“What else, what else?” Saburo said with a smile as he stepped forward with one foot.
“And it’s always capsizing trees and breaking their branches.”
“What else? Tell me what else.”
“It destroys houses too.”
“And what else? What else is there?”
“It extinguishes lights.”
“So what else? What else? Tell me.”
“It blows away hats.”
“And? What else? Tell me what else.”
“It blows away lamp shades.”
“So what else? What else?”
“And…it knocks over…la…la…utility poles.”
“And what else? Tell me what else.”
“It also blows away roofs.”
“Ha ha! Roofs are part of houses. So is there anything else? Anything else?”
“And…la-la…it extinguishes lamps.”
“Ha ha ha! Lamps count as lights. But is that all? Is there any more? Tell me.”
Kosuke was stumped. He had already said everything he could, so no matter how much he thought nothing came to mind.
At last, Saburo smiled and raised a finger again. “What else? Huh? Is that all?”
Kosuke’s face grew red, and after thinking for a while he finally answered.
“It breaks windmills too.”
Then Saburo laughed again, this time so hard that he practically leapt up off the ground. The other children also laughed. They laughed and laughed some more.
Saburo spoke after he finally finished laughing.
“Look, you just said, ‘windmill.’ But a windmill doesn’t mind the wind at all. Of course there are times the wind breaks a windmill, but most of the time it only sends it spinning. A windmill doesn’t think badly of the wind, even a little. Not to mention that you were speaking oddly near the end. You kept saying ‘la…la…’, weren’t you? Then you ended by mentioning the windmill. Oh, how funny that is!”
Saburo laughed again so hard that tears came to his eyes.
Kosuke’s terrible embarrassment made him gradually forget he was angry. Eventually he started laughing together with Saburo. Then Saburo started to cheer up too and said, “Kosuke, I’m sorry for playing a trick on you.”
“Alright then, let’s go,” said Ichiro as he gave five bundles of grapes to Saburo.
Saburo divided the white chestnuts among everyone, two per person. The children then went down to the lower road together, and after that went home to their respective houses.
(English Translation Copyright © 2022 by J.D. Wisgo)
Here is the link to the next part (part 5).
If you enjoyed this translation please consider taking a look at my books.
Hey, I’m not sure if you’re working on part 5 at the moment so I’ll just keep hoping you are. There were so many wonderful stories that I’ve heard about but because I can’t speak their language I kinda just ignored them and pretended they didn’t exist. I was so excited when you picked up Matasaburou. And then when I discovered that Yorushika made a song about it I hoped you’ll do part 2. I was in the 7th grade when I read part 1, I’m about to go to college now. This short story, fleeting as it was became a part of my life and I do hope I’ll see how it ends. I wish you the best and thank you so much.
Thanks much for the comment. Here is the link to part 5 (sorry about the delay):