Bunbuku Chagama

One day, Jinbei the junkman was on his way home from town as usual with a cart full of junk he had bought that day. Suddenly, he heard loud, jeering voices, and he turned around to see several boys chasing around and bullying a girl. "Hey, boys! Stop being mean to her!" shouted Jinbei. The boys then ran off. When he turned to speak to the girl, though, she was nowhere to be found. "How odd. Where could she have gone?"

Jinbei walked on, and soon he came across the chief priest of the Buddhist temple that stands on top of a nearby hill. "Hello Jinbei," said the priest. "I've recently been looking for a teakettle. If you find a nice one, make sure to tell me. I'll buy it for a good price." The priest then walked off.

Back home, Jinbei started putting all the junk in order. He had a habit of buying even things that would never sell, and because of this, he always had a houseful of junk and was very poor. After a while, Jinbei discovered a very fine teakettle he had never seen before sitting in a corner of the room. "Hmm, when did I get this?" marveled Jinbei. Then he remembered what the priest had told him, and so he set off for the temple carrying the teakettle on his back.

"Phew! This is pretty heavy," Jinbei muttered as he toiled up the hill. Just then he heard a voice from behind saying, "You're getting closer. Keep it up, keep it up." Looking back in surprise, Jinbei realized that what he was carrying was really a raccoon taking the shape of a teakettle. "I'm the girl you saved today. Let me help you in return," the raccoon said. The girl he had seen that day was also the raccoon in disguise.

Jinbei arrived at the temple and showed the teakettle to the priest. "This is beautiful!" exclaimed the priest. "I'll be happy to buy it." So the priest purchased the teakettle, not knowing its true form.

As he headed home Jinbei thought, "I've done a terrible thing to the priest, and I wonder if the raccoon will be OK." Meanwhile the priest, who was excited to have a new teakettle, decided to brew some tea and placed the teakettle over the fire. The raccoon tried with all her might to stay still, but soon she could bear the heat no longer. "Yikes!" she jumped up and yelped, then scurried out of the temple. The priest was so shocked at seeing the teakettle come to life that he fell over and hurt his back. "I've been cheated!" he steamed.
Jinbei was sitting at home worrying about the raccoon, when the raccoon came rushing into the house. "Ouch, ouch, what a terrible experience!" The raccoon clung onto Jinbei tearfully, and Jinbei saw that the raccoon had been badly burnt. "There, there, you poor thing. It's all my fault," he said.

Just as Jinbei was rubbing ointment on the raccoon's burns, the priest came stomping in with a red face and yelled, "Hey you! How dare you cheat me! You'd better give me back my money. And since I've been hurt too, all because of that raccoon, you'll also have to pay for my treatment." So Jinbei had to give the priest even more money than he had received for the teakettle.

The raccoon apologized to Jinbei as she lay in bed. "I'm so sorry, Jinbei. I meant to return your favor, but I've only caused you trouble. It's all gone wrong." But Jinbei replied, "No, no, that's all right. You just rest and get well soon. Don't worry about the money, because I've got a good idea." Jinbei apparently had something in mind.

Thanks to Jinbei's care, the raccoon's burns healed in no time. The raccoon, wanting to help Jinbei out somehow, asked, "The other day you said you had a good idea. What was it?" "Oh, that?" Jinbei answered. "You see, I was thinking that maybe you and I could perform on the street. I'll play the flute and drums, while you dance and walk the tightrope as you turn into different things. I'm sure we can draw a good crowd. What do you think?" The raccoon thought this was a great idea and said, "Yes, let's do it! But before that, we'll have to practice." And so the two began training hard.

After some time Jinbei and the raccoon started showing their tricks here and there. They became popular very quickly, and a big crowd would form wherever they went. In this way, not only was the raccoon able to return Jinbei's favor but the two of them also became very rich and lived together happily ever after.