Elinor Benjamin, Storyteller

Work in schools
Stories I tell
Rune Words
Reiko's Story

A pilgrimage to the shrine of a great Japanese storyteller and meeting with Reiko Kajitani

It was my great fortune to have visited Japan in May 2001, where I made a small pilgrimmage to the shrine of  Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi (Earless Hoichi) at Akama-Jingu Shrine in Shimonoseki.  Hoichi was a famous reciter and singer of the tales of the feudal Heike clan who were wiped out in a battle that took place in the Straits of Shimonoseki.

I had been telling his story for a number of years before my husband identified the locale of the story.

Elinor by the Hoichi Shrine

wooden statue of hoichi

On the left is the lovely little wooden statue of Hoichi with his biwa (lute) - minus his ears.

The story was brought to the West by the writer Lafacadio Hearn in his collection of Japanese folklore entitled Kwaidan, and can be found on at http://gaslight.mtroyal.ab.ca/kwaidanB.htm You can also find it in Apples from Heaven: Multicultural Folk Tales About Stories and Storytellers by Naomi Baltuck

I tried, without success, to find the origins of another another favourite Hearn ghost story from Japan: The boy who had to draw cats. If you know, I would love to hear from you. I first discovered this story in Frances Carpenter's Wonder Tales of Dogs and Cats which was bought for me when I had my tonsils out as a child.


At the right are the graves
of the Heike clan, whose ghosts
play an important role
in the story of  Hoichi.


Graves of the Heike

At the train station,
just outside the H.C. Andersen Danish Bakery, from which familiar aromas arose, we fell into a conversation,with Reiko Kajitani, a retired English teacher who lives in Shimonoseki. Reiko is a hibakusha, one who survived the  atomic-bomb attack on  Hiroshima. She wrote us her first person account of this experience and asked us to tell her story. We thought it  best to let her tell it in her own words. We have stayed in touch with Reiko ever since. Our thoughts are with her especially as we watch the events of 2011 unfolding in Japan. She has written of her sadness at seeing nuclear radiation damage her country once again: "We have to think over and over again, when we make a new material, if it is tender to the earth or not. The earth is the only place for us to live."

Ron and Reiko


Ron with Reiko Kajitani, poet, caligrapher, teacher and Atom Bomb survivor, Shimonoseki