T/N: Translating the original work by Morimi Tomihiko in honour of the second season of an incredible anime. I hope to do this work a sliver of the justice it deserves. (More notes to be attached with chapter one.)
The Eccentric Family (Uchoten Kazoku)
Past the reign of Emperor Kanmu and the era of Manyou poetry, humans flooded into Kyoto.
They built homes, proliferated in number, struggled for power, feared gods, clung to buddhas, gave form to art, composed poetry, clashed blades; one moment they set fire and razed the city, only to tirelessly rebuild it the next, again multiplying, dedicating themselves to trade, imbibing knowledge with zeal, celebrating the harmony of the world; then they were shocked to the core by four steam ships, then again razed the city in recklessness, then again rebuilt undauntedly under the slogan of ‘Enlightenment’, overcome the inevitable years of war that arrived; laughter segueing to tears, tears segueing to laughter, and thus with considerable effort arrived in the present.
1200 years since its establishment as the capital city by Emperor Kanmu:
Today the city of Kyoto stands home to 1.5 billion humans.
But one moment.
Of the warriors and noblemen and priests who, all crammed into one city, left their trail of chaos in the Heike Monogatari, one third were foxes, and another third were tanuki. It is said the remaining third consisted of tanuki juggling two roles at once. With this it becomes apparent that Heike Monogatari is more our tale than humans’. Tanuki do not bow to the history of humans, but rather it is humans who submit to our history.
So crowed a certain elder, circulating this false history.
Needless to say it was a tanuki who said this.
He was quite hairy, and better described as a hairball tumbling about in the shadows of Chion-in Temple’s Amitabha Hall than an elder. I still remember well of last year when he evolved into an actual hairball without anyone’s noticing, joining the numbers of our dead.
While these Heike Monogatari tales are no more than the lofty fantasies of a hairball that had few years left to him, a great many tanuki still reside in Kyoto today. Occasionally they blend into the humans and mix around. Like how they played their minor roles in Heike Monogatari’s days of old, tanuki always yearn to mimic humans.
Other tanuki have said this as well: that humans and tanuki forged the history of this city hand in hand.
But one moment.
The heavens above the kings’ province have always been our territory.
We soar freely in the skies; with a majesty exclusive to tengu we spit on all the realm below, and wrap the land-dwelling peons around our fingers. The creatures we call humans like to gloat of their accomplishments and pretend their history was shaped with their own hands. Preposterous. It is a joke. Even with the aid of the tanuki with their furry paws, what power do mere humans have when a single breath can knock them over? The calamities of nature and the riots of society rest at the fingertips of we who live in the sphere of magic. The destiny of the country is dough in our hands.
Behold the peaks of the mountains that surround the city. Fear us, we who reside in the heavens.
So a certain being declared.
Needless to say it was a tengu who said this.
Humans inhabit the city; tanuki scurry on the land; tengu traverse the skies.
The triad of human and tanuki and tengu that has continued, even after the relocation of the capital to Tokyo.
It turns the giant wheel of this city.
The tengu instruct the tanuki; the tanuki guise themselves as humans; the humans cower before the tengu. Tengu abduct humans, humans boil tanuki into hotpot, tanuki snare tengu in their traps.
Like so, the wheel spins round and round.
There is nothing so fun as watching that spinning wheel.
I may be one of the so-called tanuki; but too proud to exist as a mere tanuki, I admire the tengu from afar, and delight in mimicking humans.
And so life is ever a whirlwind, with nary a time for boredom.