Translation Works
To Japanese
The 1st Selected Works
Mistress Oriku: Stories from a Tokyo Teahouse
(Shigurejaya Oriku)
ENGLISH / Royall Tyler published
Originally Published by:
Kodansha (1969)
  • Made into a popular theatrical production featuring the star Showa-era actress, Isuzu Yamada
You couldn't tire of my teahouse's shigure chazuke even if you ate it 366 days a year.
The elegant Shigurejaya teahouse stands amid the reedy wetlands along the Sumida River in the shitamachi district of Eastern Tokyo. Appearing to be a farm house from outside, it has an interior that features a sukiya-style tea-ceremony arbor and it serves customers fish taken from the Sumida River along with vegetarian dishes. The final dish served to each customer is a chazuke (cooked rice with green tea poured over it) made with shigure clams (sweet cooked clams) shipped in from the Kuwana district of Ise, and this dish is the pride of the proprietress, Mistress Oriku.
Oriku was born into a poor family in the countryside and came to Tokyo at the age of 19, when she was sold to a Yoshiwara brothel. After prospering at the brothel, she began doing teahouse business in an area that was tantamount to a swamp. Because of the bad location, most people expected the business to struggle, but kabuki actors became Oriku's first customers, and they also invited their friends to come along. Oriku was not initially confident that her customers would like her shigure clam chazuke, but it was enthusiastically received, and the "Shigurejaya" name and reputation quickly spread. The eminent statesman Hirobumi Ito and other famous politicians, businessmen, and artists became regular customers.
Customers would consult with Oriku about love affairs and diverse other topics. Each time, Oriku would respond by drawing on her long experience in the ways of the world and her warmhearted kindness, and she became very busy with such consultations.
Written by an author who was born and raised in the Asakusa area of Tokyo's shitamachi district, this masterpiece portrays the district itself and the humanity of the shitamachi residents at the end of Japan's Meiji Era.
GENRE: Popular fiction
Awards: 3rd Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature
(Given for outstanding contributions to Japan's national literature)