the opportunistic arsonist

Yesterday, I heard this story from my neighbor:

During a fire in the Edo period, a sixteen-year-old girl took refuge in a nearby temple. She met and fell in love with one of the temple pages. When the disaster passed, she returned home and pined for the boy she had fallen for. The following year, she tried to recreate the event that brought them together. She lit the temple on fire, and while she waited for the page to appear, she was caught and sentenced to death.


When she stood trial, the judge could see she was frightened. He said to her, “You’re so young. You must be fifteen, aren’t you?”

The girl answered, “I’m sixteen.”

The judge hesitated. He knew that no one under the age of sixteen could be given the death penalty, and he softened his voice to make his intention clearer.

Once again, he said to her, “But you must be fifteen, isn’t that right?”

The girl, unaware of the loophole and the judge’s kind intentions, answered honestly, “No, I’m sixteen.”

The judge had no choice but to convict her, and she was burned at the stake for arson.

Sadly, it’s a true story, though the details shift from source to source. It’s been the subject of both kabuki and bunraku plays.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s