The Fukuda Brothers
By Dan Chaisson
Once upon a time in ancient Japan, there lived a middle-class man of the Fukuda clan. He married a beautiful woman and started a small family. They inherited and raised a pair of boys, two brothers named Ryoichiro ( “Ryo” ) and Ono; the former born four months before the latter. These two boys were the most well-behaved childeren in their village; they always did good deeds for their neighbors, gave respect and kindness to others, and never skipped a day doing more than what was necessary in work and learning. Their strong spirit was given to them by their father, and their compassion from their mother.
One day, when the boys were about 5 years of age, the mother began to read them stories of mythological beasts and folk characters of traditional Japanese customary. At age 8, she then started to get them into music, her husband recommending the emerging instrument of what is now the Shamisen, a kind of guitar. The two boys learned to play the instrument very well, but had to share because the family could only afford a single instrument. This was the brother's first real instant of being....well, brothers.
Every couple of days, the brothers would get in some kind of conflict or another over the instrument and learning from their parents how to play it. Ryo, the elder, would scold his younger brother, while Ono, the youngest, would try to tease him about not doing as well as he could had he been nicer. This would continue until 2 years later.
Eventually, the younger brother saved enough money to buy his own Shamisen. The older brother got a little jealous at him getting a brand new instrument and being able to have saved enough money for it. If before there wasn't enough competition in musical talent, now there most certainly was; each would try to impress their parents with their ability, attempting to convince them that he was better than the other.
When Ryo was 15 and Ono was 14 (Since they were born a little off balance to each be the same age), their mother began to fall ill. This truly was a depressing time for the family. Ono saw a rat that snooped around their home, and one day it spoke to him. The words of the rat were always the same: “You are like me; shumbling around looking to greaten his own image and be dominant. Are you a rat? No, you are man; be something other than a creature pursuing pride.”
Ono would never have any words to respond. He couldn't tell his brother Ryo either; he would think him a fool. But one night Ryo himself was visited by a beautiful swan, whom spoke these words: “Pride and jealousy will put a wall between you and your goal; instead of scolding your brother for how poor he is, teach him how he can become wise like you.”
After their mother's death not too long after, both brothers were so grieved that there could be no pain in embarassment; they both told each other of their tales. They also wondered what they should do now. Their father always told them that “your mother's spirit will always guide you. There is another trial coming in life, and you two must use the skill you have with you to overcome it.”
Both Ryo and Ono were confused. The only true skill they learned from their mother was writing and playing music. Neither believed they could be good writers, so they tried to think of a way to use their talent.
Fate would provide the answer. On Ryo's 17th birthday, the rat and the swan appeared again to both of them; they could tell they had grown in age, for they seemed very weak. The creatures told them to talk to the wise Golden snake of the Lake Hill, which was in another province. The Brothres told their father of their needed departure, and that they would return soon. He gave them words of good fortune for their journey....
Sadly, this would be the last time they would ever see their father.
The brothers traveled across the land, and in 3 days made it to their destination. They came upon a small stone shrine, where they met the Golden snake of the Swan and Rat's telling. The Golden snake said that he would reveal their purpose if they were to show him their best talent; if they were good enough, they would be told their path.
The two brothers used their Shamisen and played a song taught by their mother. At the end, however, they realized they had faltered in several sections of the song... they believed their lives to be over.
But the snake shook his head. “You two have played the best of your ability. It is not the destination, it is the journey towards it that is important. Your attempt was greater than any power of man.”
The snake spoke of a powerful creature with 5 heads and 5 tails whom had brought terror to many people and animals. The beast would consume livestock and steal riches. It would also break marriages and snatch childeren, and worst of all, ruin all hope in life. Then the Snake told them if they showed the beast their talent, it would scare the creature away.
Ryo and Ono traveled another day to the place of the creature's dwelling: The Red River. The name fitted the place well, for the water running across the clay land was crimson like blood. They found the creature sleeping lazily in a rock den. It's body was of a dragon, had the heads of bulls, and tails of scorpions. The beast taunted them that their destination was the wrong one, that they had somewhere else to be. The brothers spoke back, saying: “It is not the Destination, it is the Journey that is important.” They then played the same song their mother taught them, several years ago. The beast convulsed in rage, until the brothers annoyed it so much that it left. However, the beast then found their old home, and consumed their father; it returned, telling them of the deed.
The beast succeeded in grieving them very much; now they had no one to return to. However, Ono realized that now they could play better, because both their father and their mother could now guide them in spirit. They played in rejuvinated vigor, and this time the music was so magnificent it felled the creature and it burned into ash.
It immediately begun to rain. The brothers looked up in the stormy clouds and saw the same golden snake, slithering across the sea of sky that was falling with rain. The rain showed them that the snake had become a Dragon, replacing the beast who demolished lives with a newer, wise creature that always blessed those in need. In this way, the Brothers gained the fame they wished they could have; they literally impacted the lives of countless people in this one province.
Years later, the Brothers became famous mucisians. None knew of their magnificent tale; but if one looks with the eyes of a child, looks into their hearts, they would see the spirits of their passed loved ones and the Golden Dragon guiding them along life's boat.
This is the tale of the wonderous Fukuda Brothers.