Excerpt from What the Seasons
Brought to the Almanac-Maker:
"The Beauty Contest"
... There was in the capital a band of four inseparable young men who
were known for their handsome appearance and riotous living. ...
the theater one evening they were lounging around a tea shop called Matsuya
and one of them remarked, "I have never seen so many good looking
local girls as I did today. Do you suppose we could find others who would
seem just as beautiful now?" They thought they might, and decided to
watch for pretty girls among the people who had gone to see the wisteria
blossoms and were now returning to their homes. After a worldly actor
in the group had been chosen as chief judge, a beauty contest was conducted
until the twilight hours, providing a new source of amusement for the
At first they were disappointed to see some maids riding in a carriage
which hid them from sight. Then a group of girls strolled by in a rollicking
mood — "not bad, not bad at all" — but none of the girls quite
satisfied their exacting standards. Paper and ink had been brought to
record their entries, and it was agreed that only the best should be
put on their list.
Next they spied a lady of thirty-four or thirty-five with a graceful
long neck and intelligent-looking eyes, above which could be seen a natural
hairline of rare beauty. ... Underneath she wore white satin, over that
light blue satin, and outside — reddish-yellow satin. ... Assuredly
this was a woman of exquisite taste.
... Around her head she had draped
a veil like that worn by court ladies; she wore stockings of pale silk
and sandals with triple braided straps. She walked noiselessly and gracefully,
moving her hips with a natural rhythm. "What a prize for some lucky
young buck exclaimed. But these words were hardly uttered when the lady,
speaking to an attendant, opened her mouth and disclosed that one of
her lower teeth was missing, to the complete disillusionment of her admirers.
From Anthology of Japanese Literature: From the
Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century, edited by Donald
Keene (Grove Press, 1955), 336-337.