The Stories

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The First Story. Seijr, a handsome, gallant young man disowned by his wealthy father for his profligacies, apprentices himself to a shopkeeper and proves hardworking and reliable. When Onatsu, his master’s younger sister, falls in love with him, he, after some reluctance, at last fully returns her affection. As an apprentice, he is far from an eligible suitor, and so the lovers are forced to elope. Seven hundred gold pieces disappear at the same time. When the lovers are discovered, Seijr, condemned for theft as well as for seduction, is executed. The gold is later found where it was mislaid. Onatsu goes mad for a time. Later, she enters a nunnery.

The Second Story. Osen, a country woman, is married happily to a cooper. When Chzaemon, the yeast maker, is planning to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of his father’s death, Osen offers to help in the preparations. While she is arranging sweetmeats, Chzaemon accidentally drops a bowl on her head, disarranging her hair. Chzaemon’s suspicious, jealous wife accuses Osen of adultery. Because she is unjustly accused, Osen impulsively decides to revenge herself on the wife by truly making love to Chzaemon, although she cares nothing for him. When her husband, the cooper, discovers the lovers, Osen commits suicide and Chzaemon is executed.

The Third Story. Osan’s husband goes to Edo on business. Her maid, Rin, is in love with Moemon, a clerk. Moemon, however, feels...

(The entire section is 570 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Kato, Shuichi. The Years of Isolation. Vol. 2 in A History of Japanese Literature. New York: Kodansha International, 1983. Pages 104-112 deal primarily with the third story in the collection, is related to Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s dramatic version of the same episode.

Keene, Donald. World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600-1867. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976. Pages 167-215 discuss Five Women Who Loved Love in relation to Saikaku’s other works, particularly Life of an Amorous Man and Life of an Amorous Woman.

Kirkwood, Kenneth P. Renaissance in Japan: A Cultural Survey of the Seventeenth Century. Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle, 1970. Pages 192-223 provide a general biographical sketch of Saikaku, including his work as a poet, playwright, and writer of fiction. It comments particularly on the Osaka cultural milieu.

Morris, Ivan. Life of an Amorous Woman and Other Writings. New York: New Directions, 1963. Pages 3-51 deal with Saikaku and his cultural and historical context. Comments as well on elements of literary style and on illustrations.

Rimer, J. Thomas. A Reader’s Guide to Japanese Literature from the Eighth Century to the Present. New York: Kodansha International, 1988. Pages 66-69 contain a brief discussion of one of the five stories in the collection. Also comments on Saikaku’s literary background.