The Water of Yoro or the Fountain of Youth

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Long, long, ago, when the oldest stork was young, there lived an aged woodcutter and his son on the slopes of the mountain Tagi, in the province of Mino. They gained a frugal livelihood by cutting brushwood on the hill-side, and carrying it in bundles on their back to sell in the nearest market town; for they were too poor to own an ox. With the money thus received they bought rice and radishes, their daily food.

Only once or twice a year, at New Year’s and on the mikado’s birthday, could they afford to treat themselves to a mess of bean-curd or fresh fish. Yet the old man was very fond of rice-wine, and every week bought a gourd full to keep his old blood warm.

As the years rolled on the aged father’s limbs became so stiff that he was unable any longer to climb the mountains. So his son, now grown to be a sturdy man, cut nearly double the quantity of wood and thus kept the family larder full. The old man was so proud of his son that he daily stood at sunset in front of his rustic gate to welcome him back. And to see the old daddy and the young stripling remove their headkerchiefs, and bow with hands on knees in polite fashion, bending their backs and sucking in their breath, out of respect to each other, and to hear them inquiring after one another’s health, showering mutual compliments all the time, one would have thought they had not seen each other for eight years, instead of eight hours.

One winter the snow fell long and thick, until all the ground in field and forest was covered several feet over. The bamboo branches bent with their weight of white, the pine boughs broke under their load, and even the stone idols along the wayside were covered up. At first, even with the hardest work, the young woodcutter could scarcely get and sell wood to buy enough food to keep them both alive. He often went hungry himself, so that his father might have his warm wine.

One day he went by another path up one of the mountain dells with his rope basket strapped to his back, and the empty gourd-bottle at his belt. While gloomily grieving over his hard luck, the faint odor of rice-wine seemed borne on the breeze.

He snuffed the air. It was no mistake. “Here’s luck, surely,” said he, throwing down his bundle.

Hurrying forward he saw a foaming waterfall tumbling over the rocks in a thick stream.

As he drew near, some of the spray fell on his tongue. He tasted it, smacked his lips and throwing down his cord and basket to the ground, filled his gourd and hastened home to his father.

Every day, till the end of his father’s life, did he come to this wonderful cascade of wine, and thus the old man was nourished for many a long year.

The news of this fountain of youth spread abroad until it reached the court. The mikado, hearing of it, made a journey to Mino to see the wonderful waterfall. In honor of this event, and as a reward of filial piety, the name of the year-period was changed to Yoro, (Nourishing Old Age).

To this day, many people young and old go out to enjoy picnic parties at the foot of the waterfall; which now, however, runs honest water only, which makes the cheeks red; and not the wonderful wine that once tipped the old daddy’s nose with perpetual vermilion.

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