Nonogawa River Valley Post Occupation Truce
IncidentDuring the Occupation of Japan, the yokai of the Nonogawa River Valley found the American soldiers, with their modern dismissal-of-old-wives'-tales ways, to be easy targets and the tricksters made sport of them. News came that the occupation was ending. They tried in vain to keep the Americans here, even being very nice and showing that they had learned English. (Though they would not show their true nature, always disguising themselves as humans.) After the occupying forces left in 1952, the Kitsune’s and Tanuki’s favorite hobby disappeared. They grew bored.
So, in 1953 their tricks turned to the locals, in particular the farmers. In the fall, things would ‘disappear’ only to reappear in a different place on the farm. A few thefts happened, though. The worst of which was an entire harvest. Many areas around the valley were in tough straights from a poor harvest which cut the farmers already thin margins, thus the theft caused panic in the valley and brought flashbacks of the food shortages just after WWII. They blamed any yokai they found. So the Farmers Co-op of the Nonogawa River Valley began hunting down all the spirit folk in the area. But thefts continued to occur.
Rice by Freepik
Yokai ReactionThe spirit folk fled or hid and formed the Yokai of the Nonogawa River Valley organization, meeting in secret as they investigated the crimes. True to Japanese style, they patiently waited for the right time. The kitsune and tanuki used their human disguises to work alongside the police. Ultimately, the two groups working together discovered that a town to the north, whose crops had been decimated, was stealing from neighboring towns. The yokai felt that this was the time to approach the humans for a truce. Bringing in the culprits, a lone representative disguised as a short, pudgy, bespectacled man, dropped the unconscious thieves at the Nonogawa police station and asked to talk with the Chief, then arranged to meet with the Farmer’s Co-op the following week.
Smoking farmer (Public Domain) by Kōno Bairei (1844-1895). Digitally enhanced from our own original 1913 edition of Barei Gakan.
ResolutionWhen the meeting came, the farmers and the yokai brought their grievances to the table. Police were on the scene to witness the event and discourage violence. Many farmers proudly brought tanned pelts of the yokai they killed. But the spirit folk came empty-handed and humble to show the truth of their intentions. It took the police physically retraining several yokai, as they saw the skins of their dead loved ones, to calm the room down. Then, a familiar portly man, dressed in a well-tailored suit, stood on the yokai side. Awed whispers of ‘lawyer’ came from the farmers. “Doctor, actually. I’ve treated some of you at the clinic,” he dared to address the assembly. “Good farmers...” A rash of catcalling broke out from behind him. “Good farmers? The only good one is a dead one!” So, the farmers shot insults back. The doctor's face reddened so brightly his cheeks glowed. One staccato word spewed from his mouth as a hand slashed through the air, sending a rippled blue glow to fill the room, “Silence!” The powerful kotodama magic hovered over all who dared interrupt. It left the room quiet enough to hear a pin drop. Members of both sides tried in vain to move their mouths and wriggled in their seats. Dropping his disguise, the man showed he was truly a tanuki and waited until he had the attention of the entire room before releasing the silence spell. “Good farmers. It was not the yokai that stole your crops. Last week we hunted down the thieves and turned them over to the authorities in good faith, and they are working on recovering your harvest. Part of it has been located. The thieves were mortals. Humans.” Several police officers nodded their testimony.
Now that the crowd settled down, he met the gaze of each farmer to ensure they understood the repercussions. “You have accused us and killed several of our kind, for a crime we did not commit. Yes, we had played tricks. But we too remember the days where food was scarce after the war. We will leave no one to starve as these humans from north of Nonogawa would have.” The farmer’s heads fell in unison. They had taken lives. Innocent lives of powerful spirit folk. The head of the co-op muttered, “We won’t see any good harvests for quite some time now, will we?” Jumping on the opportunity to extend an olive branch, the tanuki leaned forward causing all the farmers to lean back. One even sprinted for the door. But the raccoon dog’s voice remained mild. “If you return the pelts of those you killed, do not hunt us ever again, and help any spirit folk in need, then we will drop our case against you before the gods and the kitsune will intercede for you so Inari will bless your harvests. The tricksters among us, myself included, shall refrain from hiding anything of sustenance. Everyone here knows hunger all too well from just after the war. Is that acceptable?”
Tanuki (Public Domain) by Hiroshige
The farmers’ eyes were wide and they expressed their agreement with eagerness. Those who brought pelts, slowly, with reverence, laid them on the table and stepped away. Yokai family members used their magic to transport the remains of their loved ones from the room. Then the tanuki laid a contract out, read it aloud (since some present couldn’t read), and stepped aside for all to sign. A few yokai and farmers did not have a hanko signature stamp, so they used a hand or paw print.
Hanko (Signature Stamp) by j4p4n
Once the tanuki stamped it, a great tengu with a long white beard appeared from nowhere to scoop up the scroll. Every human in the room trembled at his booming voice, “I will deliver this to the official records office.” Then he flicked his fan with finality. “W… where might that be, M’Lord?” the head farmer squeaked. “The Vault of Guardians in Kyoto. Your question insinuates you would like a local copy, yes?” “P… please, M’Lord. If it would not be too much trouble. Th… then our children and theirs will have access to the proof of the treaty at Nonogawa City Hall.”
Great Tengu by ultimatearm
LegacyPlentiful harvests continue to this day. Farmers up until a few years ago left sizable offerings for the yokai of the area at each town’s Inari shrine. But the spirit folk do well enough and most of the generation of humans that hurt them have passed, so they take no offense. A few belligerent farmer’s sons have been dragged by the ear into the Nonogawa City Records Office, to view the treaty for their infractions. The young ones make atonement quickly afterward. One of the sons disappeared entirely. The secret of what he did is lost to history.
A stout man with a tanuki mask attends the Rice Harvest Festival to Inari every year. Is it the same tanuki that paved the way for the treaty and lasting peace in the area? Either way, farmers of the area consider his presence to be a good sign.
Tanuki Mask by Smashicons - Modified by AWV
Onsengadake Seen from Amakusa (Public Domain) by Kawase Hasui