Silver raindrops fell in the sunny sky creating a magical world of light and rainbows.
“Ah – a sunshower! Today is the day that Kitsune marries. We should go to the woods and see if we can see the wedding procession!” whispered Tampopo giggling.
“Don’t be silly Tampopo … since when does a fox get married?” Replied Momoko who was older than Tampopo and didn’t believe in fairy tales anymore.
“Everyone knows that when the rain falls on a sunny day the foxes have their wedding procession … then they all go to Kitsune’s house at the end of the rainbow to celebrate.” Tampopo replied seriously.
“Well, we can go to the willow and invite them for tea then. I do like the idea of taking a walk in this sunshiny rain … let’s go!”
The two girls in their bright sundresses grabbed an umbrella each and took off for the nearby woods. Momoko who was the more conscientious of the two, scribbled a note leaving it on the table for their mother; it read “Gone to Kitsune’s wedding!”
The trees seemed to whisper as the gentle rain fell among the leaves. Tiny crystals of rain caught the sunshine on the flowers, looking for all the world like tiny diamonds.
The little girls found their favourite copse where they’d often played together that summer. A willow tree created the perfect protection for their alcove in the woods. Over the summer, they’d brought their china tea set, a small table and pillows to sit on and often pretended to invite the wood kami, or some beautiful princess to have tea with them. Today, they intended to invite Kitsune and her wedding party.
“Kitsune will surely be very beautiful dressed in a white kimono. And her own true love will be dressed in red!”
“Oh can you imagine the music they will make … I can almost hear the shakuhachi, cymbals and drums!” said Momoko.
And indeed, drifting through the woods there did seem to be the sound of a lilting flute followed by the crash of drums and cymbals. The sound came nearer and nearer and the little girls looked at one another a little worried. It was one thing to imagine a fox’s wedding procession, but quite another to actually be where one would pass. Everyone knew that the foxes didn’t like for humans to interfere in their affairs.
Soon the music was upon them, and the first members of the wedding procession appeared on the path near their alcove. The girls made themselves as small as possible trying to hide behind an old oak near their copse, but they’d already been spotted.
“Who are you? Why do you spy on our Lady Kitsune!” said the forerunner of the party.
The little girls fell on the ground in deep gassho, avoiding the eyes of the courtesan.
“Honourable sir, we were having a tea party under the willow and never meant to spy on Lady Kitsune!” said Momoko. Technically speaking, Momoko didn’t really believe in wood spirits anymore and she’d never have imagined to actually see a fox’s wedding, so although they were there to spy on the foxes for her it was only make-believe.
“Oh, honourable sir,” said Tampopo, who did believe in wood spirits and could taste tea from an empty cup, “Would you and your party like to have some tea with us?”
Momoko trembled in fear and hoped the procession would soon pass on, but at that moment, Kitsune herself had reached the alcove and had heard Tampopo’s invitation.
“Ah – what a most generous offer!” said Kitsune “My consort and I will have tea with you and then, you will come to our house at the end of the rainbow and sip sakè with us to celebrate this happy day!”
They sipped invisible tea, complimenting Tampopo for the perfection of her serving manner.
“Would you like to live in my house Tampopo? I could do with a person like you who knows how to serve tea so exquisitely.”
Before Tampopo could reply, Momoko said: “Oh honourable Kitsune, my sister is expected to serve tea today for our mother and we really should be running home.” She was afraid that Tampopo would accept Kitune’s invitation.
“The duty to one’s mother of course must come first!” said Kitsune “Let’s proceed to my house then so that I may honour you with a cup of sakè before you return home.
So the two girls followed the procession until they reached a small house. A servant had prepared a table in the garden, which was full of peonies and other bright flowers, including a plum-tree and a beautiful jasmine bush.
In the breeze the flowers swayed. The raindrops that had fallen on their petals looked like tear drops. Momoko had a very bad feeling about tasting Kitsune’s sakè. The cups were set before the girls. At that moment, the rain stopped. Momoko pretending to be clumsy fell into her sister jerking the sakè cup from her hand and dropped her own. A single dark cloud appeared in the sky, obliterating the rainbow and with it Kitsune’s house. Only the garden remained. Where the sakè had fallen, two little girls now stood.
“I am Umeko and this is my sister Riko. It is so lucky for us that your sakè fell on us as the rain stopped and the rainbow disappeared! We’ve been in this garden, captives of the foxes since the day of her Kitsune’s mother’s wedding now more than twenty years ago!”
Momoko imagined that the garden would have had the addition of a peach tree and dandelions if they had drunk the sakè. Momoko and Tampopo grabbed the hands of their new sisters thinking it would be better to be far away when the rainbow returned … deciding to avoid the wooded paths when sushowers fell in the future.
(Meaning of the names – Momoko – peach blossom child, Tampopo – dandelion, Umeko – plum blossom child and Riko – Jasmine child)