2016-08-10

saba mackerel legends

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. Japanese legends and tales 伝説 民話 昔話 - Introduction .
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saba 鯖と伝説 Legends about mackerel, Makrele

. mackerel, saba 鯖 / サバ Scomber japonicus .
sababi 鯖火(さばび)fire to fish for mackerels
saba tsuri 鯖釣(さばつり)fishing for mackerels
sababune 鯖舟(さばぶね)boat for fishing mackerels
- kigo for all summer -

. saba kaidoo 鯖街道 Makerel road .
transporting the fish from Obama, Fukui to Kyoto.
And some special dishes with this fish!



- quote -
Mackerel is a common name applied to a number of different species of pelagic fish, mostly, but not exclusively, from the family Scombridae. They are found in both temperate and tropical seas, mostly living along the coast or offshore in the oceanic environment.
- Japanese Spanish mackerel - Scomberomorus niphonius
- Japanese horse mackerel - Trachurus japonicus. The Japanese name for this fish is Aji (あじ)
- - - More in the WIKIPEDIA !

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There are some legends about the Tengu, who dislikes 生鯖 mackerels.
天狗は鯖が苦手 / 天狗は鯖が嫌い

There are various theories about this.
Maybe the Tengu, as a being from the mountains and forests, is not used to fish and usually does not get fresh fish. So when some had been carried to the mountains and got half-rotten on the way, by the time the Tengu ate it, he got ill.

sabayomi 鯖読み "to read a makerel", to understand its age by the body length and weight.
Many salted makerels carried from Obama to Kyoto lost their freshness on the way and a professionel Sabayomi had to check their condition.
In some regions, the search for a lost child comes with calling out
「鯖読んだ◯◯帰ってこーい」saba yonda (00) kaette koi!
This might just have been a misunderstanding of calling
「鯖食った○○やい」saba kutta (00) yai! - or - 鯖食った○○おらんかー

tengu sarai 天狗攫い / tengu kakushi 天狗隠し - kidnapped by a Tengu

In our modern times and tales, it even helps to show a metal can of mackerels to a Tengu to make him run away.

The real reason why a Tengu dislikes mackerels is not quite clear, however.
「天狗の嫌うものは鯖である」とあるが、なぜ嫌うかは不明。
- source : crd.ndl.go.jp/reference -


. Tengu 天狗と伝説 Tengu legends "Long-nosed Goblin" .


source : tengart.com

.......................................................................... Fukui 福井県 ......................................
福井市 Fukui town

When someone looses a hatchet or sickle in the mountains, they mumble
サバ(鯖)の骨はどこへいったかな」
Where did I loose the bones of the mackerel?
The Tengu, who dislikes mackerels, will soon come and help find the sickle.


.......................................................................... Ishikawa 石川県 ......................................
白山市 Hakusan district 河内町 Kawachi

The Tengu likes to build his nest in a new home.
Therefore when building a new house, people put up an amulet to prevent this and ward off all kinds of evil. A six-cornered reel is set up, with a mackerel inside, during the rituals for building a new home.
After the ritual, the fish is let free in the river.
Similar rituals are held for new homes in other parts of Ishikawa prefecture.
The fish can be hung from the main pillar or outside under the eaves of the roof, to ward off a Tengu.

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石川郡 Ishikawa district

Sometimes children get lost and do not come back home. People think they are kidnapped by a Tengu. So the men from the village walk around to look for the child, calling out loud that the child likes mackerels or has just eaten mackerels.
This custom is also common in other parts of Ishikawa prefecture.


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能美郡 Nomi district 川北村 Kawakita

During the Meiji period, a boy named サク Saku got lost and was missing. His parents called out for two nights:
「鯖食うたサク」 saba kuuta saku
(Saku has been eating mackerels)
(It is said that the Tengu dislikes mackerels!)
And then found him sleeping in the store house.
He told them he had been caught by a Tengu and spent the time as prisoner in the branches of a Zelkova tree. Eventually the Tengu had let him down.


.......................................................................... Nagano 長野県 ......................................

Guhinsama グヒンサマ Guhin Sama Tengu
Sometimes children get lost and do not come back home. People think they are kidnapped by a Tengu or Guhin. So the men from the village walk around to look for the child, calling out loud that the child has just eaten mackerels, 「鯖食った鯖食った」.


guhin, kuhin 狗賓 "dog guest"
Guhin can either be a Tengu in the guise of wood spirits or a Tengu with canine mouths.
Hence their name 天狗, lit. "dog from heaven".
- reference : tengu guhin -

- reference : yokai database -
24 to explore

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Saba Daishi 鯖大師 "Mackerel and Kobo Daishi"
On the Shikoku Henro road, located between Temples 23 and 24. in Tokushima Prefecture

In Buddhism, SABA is spelled 生飯(さば), offering some rice from one's own food to the hungry souls and demons and wild beasts.
Also read さんば sanba or sanban 散飯.



- quote -
Shikoku 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage, Temple Saba Daishi
The story is that Kobo Daishi (in the 800’s) met a dried Mackerel seller on the road.
He was hungry, and he asked the trader to spare a dried fish.
The trader thought that Kobo Daishi was a beggar, and he refused.
He said that it is his livelihood, and that he cannot give all of his supplies away.
A bit later the man’s horse got very sick.
The trader realized that the beggar was the famous but humble Kobo Daishi, and he ran down the trail to ask Kobo Daishi for his forgiveness.
- - - Kobo Daishi forgave him and healed his horse.
The man insisted that Kobo Daishi eat one of his mackerel.
Kobo Daishi ate the dried Mackerel and then excreted the fish, fully alive.
- source : talilandsmanart.com -

. Shikoku Henro Temple List .


- - Now back to more regional legends about the mackerels ! - -
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- - - - - ABC List of the prefectures :

.......................................................................... Nara 奈良県 ......................................

During the 華厳会 Kegon ritual of painting eyes for the statue of the Great Buddha at the temple 東大寺 Todai-Ji an old man passing by, who had carried a bamboo basket with mackerels was summoned to read the Kegon Sutra. This was done because the 聖武天皇 Shomu Tenno (701 - 756) had a dream telling him to summon the first person passing the Hall in the morning should read the Sutra.
When the rituals were over, the old man suddenly disappeared.
The mackerels turned into 80 volumes of the 華厳経 Kegon Sutra.
The old man had been an incarnation of the Buddha himself.



The old man had forgotten his 杖 walking staff in the Eastern part of the temple, where it turned into a tree in the course of time. Now it is known as
saba no ki 鯖の木 the mackerel tree.



- More tales from Yamato and Nara:
- reference : nara.jr-central.co.jp/campaign/wokashi -


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- reference : nichibun yokai database 妖怪データベース -
56 to explore (01)

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. Legends about Kobo Daishi Kukai - 弘法大師 空海 - 伝説 .

. Japanese legends and tales 伝説 民話 昔話 - Introduction .

- Yookai 妖怪 Yokai Monsters of Japan -
- Introduction -

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. Join the friends on Facebook ! .

- #saba #mackerel -
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