The Charm, the Curse: A Beggar’s Luck

The Charm, the Curse: A Beggar’s Luck

Editorial Note- This is the second in a series from Amy Bexley we at the JSD are calling the Higashino Tenjin-dori Chougakukan Jinja Tales. That would be the East Field Tenjin Street Hall of Wealthy Shrine tales.

Part 1: The Summons

Koto moved with practiced grace through the verdant shrine grounds, the sweeping of dry leaves a rhythmic whisper against ancient stone. Here, enveloped by towering cedars, the hum of the city seemed distant, a world apart. Koto tended the garden with care, each plant nurtured as if a sacred charge, until the peace was shattered by the arrival of an agitated figure.

A building owner, face flushed with a mix of exertion and indignation, stormed into this tranquil domain. “You must do something about a homeless man behind my building,” he blurted out, his voice tinged with a blend of fear and disgust. “He’s a blight on the neighborhood, a potential liability lurking at my doorstep.”

Koto’s response was as calm as the morning dew, face serene yet eyes firm. “This shrine serves as a beacon for spiritual purification, not as a ward for social ailments,” Koto stated, voice echoing softly through the shrine’s expanse. “Perhaps addressing this matter with the prefecture would yield more suitable solutions for your concerns.”

The suggestion seemed to frustrate the building owner even more. “The prefecture? That’ll take ages! Papers, forms, endless back and forth,” he spat out, the very notion stirring his ire.

Yet, a compromise was struck. Koto agreed not to forcibly eject the man but would, in turn, attempt to reason with him. “A gentle word can often reach far deeper than the harsh edge of authority,” Koto mused, proposing a path forward.

The building owner, dubious yet visibly desperate, acquiesced. “Fine, but if he’s still there come tomorrow, I’ll have no choice but to take matters into my own hands,” he warned, his departure as tumultuous as his arrival.

The pressure on Koto was clear, a heavy mantle to bear. She wasn’t trained to be a social worker, only a mere shrine maiden. All she could do is talk to the man and try to reason with him. Maybe he’d respect her opinions because of who she was, but who knows with so many no longer religious.

Part 2: The Alleyway & The Charm

The narrow alleyway twisted like a forgotten scar behind the row of buildings on the bustling street block, a stark contrast to the open warmth of the shrine. Towering walls on either side cast long shadows, making the cramped space feel even more suffocating. Amidst a scattered collection of worn-out belongings, the homeless man in his early 60s sat, his presence almost blending into the drab surroundings. There was a palpable sense of guardedness about him, a defensive posture not born of hostility but of a life shaped by constant vigilance.

Koto approached with a respectful demeanor; her voice soft yet carrying the gravity of her mission. “I’ve come because there have been concerns addressed by the building owner,” she began, ensuring not to invade the man’s limited space physically or emotionally. The man eyed Koto warily before a resigned sigh escaped him, the invisible barriers around him wavering but not falling.

Bit by bit, as the conversation flowed, the man unraveled his story. A tragedy striking in the mid-1990s, also known as the lost decade- a period of economic downturn in Japan, had uprooted his life, claiming his job, his wife, and his home within the span of a week. The loss seemed to echo in his voice, a somber melody of a past he could not return to. Despite Koto’s gentle urging, he remained adamant, refusing to abandon the only shred of existence he felt he had control over. “This is my place,” he stated, a fierce determination underlining his weary tone.

Sensing the depth of his resolve, Koto reached into the folds of her white hakui and retrieved a small, beautifully crafted omamori (a Japanese amulet believed to provide protection and luck). It was not presented as a magical cure or a promise of instant change but as a symbol of hope and the potential for a better future. “This is a wealth charm,” she explained, her expression a mixture of frustration and compassion. “I cannot guarantee it will change your fate, but perhaps it can offer you the courage to envision a new path.”

The man looked at the charm with a mix of skepticism and curiosity. The power of the omamori remained ambiguous, its true effectiveness shrouded in mystery and whispers of belief.

Upon returning to the shrine, Mitsuru, the monster cat yokai, emerged from the undergrowth at the steps of the torii gates, his expression twisted in a scowl. “Koto, you interfered unnecessarily,” he hissed, the annoyance clear in his tone. “That was my meal you stole from me today. That homeless man I intended to consume. Solving the building owner’s problems.”

Koto, holding her ground, responded calmly, “It was not your place to eat him. It was mine to offer guidance, to help him find purity in this life that’s been so cruel to him.”

Mitsuru meowed with a short, snarky laugh. “Oh, and you think your little charm will save him? Please. Wealth always brings humans to ruin. That charm will lead him down a path directly to me. Soon enough, he’ll be my meal again, mark my words.”

Koto merely sighed, a serene look in her eyes, unbothered by Mitsuru’s cynicism. “We’ll see. People sometimes surprise you. And maybe, just maybe, the hope I’ve given him will be stronger than the despair you feast on.”

Part 3: The Tsukumogami & The Rise

In the still of the night, the charm began to glow subtly, a halo of light in the darkness that drew the attention of some coin yokai, a merry band of tsukumogami (a type of yokai that are animated household objects) animated by the spirit of lost and forgotten things. Their eyes glittered with playful curiosity as they circled the homeless man, who, awakened by the soft light, found himself mesmerized by their mischievous aura. Led as if by a dream, he followed them through the winding city streets until they reached the neon-lit entrances of Pachinko Parlors.

The tsukumogami, with their whimsical guidance, escorted him from machine to machine. At first, the man’s wins were inconsequential—chocolate bars and small trinkets that brought a smile to his weary face. However, as the night progressed, his fortunes escalated. Vouchers to local convenience stores, a sleek cell phone, and even prepaid money cards fell into his hands. With these small treasures, he transformed; better clothing hugged his frame, and nights were spent in the compact luxury of a capsule hotel. Each win was met with a whispered prayer of thanks to the gods, not knowing his grateful heart was overshadowing an impending danger.

Even as he basked in this new lease on life, ominous glances followed him. His winning streak, all thanks to the capricious guidance of the yokai, had attracted the attention of the local yakuza who controlled some of the parlors. His naivety became a glaring beacon, and one fateful night, as he sat before a pachinko machine, his luck seemingly unending, he found himself enveloped by the intimidating presence of three tattooed men in business suits, their intent clear as they closed in.

Part 4: Reversal, Retribution, & Resolution

The beating was swift and brutal. Dragged from his seat and taken to a shadowed alleyway behind the parlor, the man received a ruthless lesson on the true cost of relying on the yokai’s “help”. Each strike was a grim reminder that their guidance had drawn exploitative eyes, making him an unwitting pawn in a dangerous game he had no understanding of. Left battered on the ground, his winnings scattered and stolen, the man realized with painful clarity that this luck was never sustainable.

He stumbled towards the one place he hoped he would find sanctuary—the shrine. Bloodied and bruised, he managed to cross its threshold just as dawn began to break. The coin yokai, curious and still playful, followed but halted at the entrance, the sacred ground forbidding them entry. Inside, he collapsed, his heart beating a desperate plea for safety.

Koto, the shrine’s keeper, found him at sunrise. She was shocked at the sight of his injuries, but realization quickly dawned upon her about the charm’s unintended effects and the yokai’s mischief. A tinge of guilt washed over her, but it was swiftly replaced by resolve.

“Koto, I… I was wrong,” the man whispered through split lips, his voice a mix of shame and a newfound wisdom. “The luck… it was never mine to keep.”

Koto nodded; her eyes soft yet filled with a spark of determination. “And yet, you’ve learned a hard truth many spend their lives denying. There are no easy paths to stability.”

Leaving the safety of the shrine with the man, Koto confronted the yokai who awaited the man’s return. Koto’s exorcism was precise—not out of cruelty but a need to enforce the sacred boundaries they had callously violated. With her gohei (a wooden wand) in hand, she chanted softly, the shide (two zigzagging paper streamers attached to the gohei) fluttering in the morning breeze, guiding the yokai back to their realms, reminding them of the delicate balance they must not upset.

After the yokai vanished, Koto turned to the man, her voice filled with a gentle authority. “The shrine will support you, but remember, honest work is the true path to stability. It’s fraught with difficulties and tests of character, but there are no honorable shortcuts.”

The man nodded, his eyes reflecting a hard-earned realization. His encounter with the tsukumogami, brutal and enlightening, had set him on a path of reevaluation. With Koto’s help, he would begin the difficult yet rewarding journey toward a life built on steadfast effort and honest gains.


Koto sat at the koi pond bound by the shimenawa (lengths of hemp rope used to mark sacred spaces, and ward off evil spirits) in contemplation of the day’s events.

The shimenawa rustled as Mitsuru approached from the reeds. “Mitsuru, why are you here?” Koto inquired; her tone marked by curiosity rather than surprise. Mitsuru’s frown deepened, the annoyance clear in his voice. “I was merely passing by when I remembered the homeless man. Surely, the beating would have tenderized him perfectly for a meal. But alas, your meddling with charms has cost me that pleasure,” he complained bitterly. Koto sighed, acknowledging her oversight. “It was not my intention to cause harm or interfere with your plans. Humans, as you often point out, don’t grasp the full extent of the kami and the consequences of our actions.”

Mitsuru snickers, a sound filled with mockery and a hint of superiority. “Exactly! You admit then, humans aren’t omniscient, especially concerning the kami.” Koto nods, her expression serene. “Yes, that’s precisely why the shrine will support him while he seeks honest work. It’s our duty to guide and protect.”

But Mitsuru is not easily appeased. “And what if he becomes a burden? What if honest work never comes his way?” he challenges, his yellow eyes narrowing.

Koto meets his gaze, unmoved. “Then we trust in the balance and purity of all things. The shrine has stood for centuries on such principles, and it will continue to do so. Every being has its place, and every problem, its resolution.”

Mitsuru huffs, a sound of frustration and disbelief, as he turns his back. “You’re too trusting in your faith, Koto,” he calls over his shoulder, disappearing into the whispering reeds.

This story was in part written with AI.


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