PEARLY and lustrous white, like a cloud in the far-off blue sky, seemed the floating figure of the moon-maiden, as she flew to earth. She was one of the fifteen glistening virgins that wait attendant upon the moon in her chambers in the sky. Looking down from her high home to the earth, she became enraptured with the glorious scenery of Suruga's ocean shore, and longed for a bath in the blue waters of the sea.
So this fairy maid sped to the earth one morning early, when the moon having shone through the night was about to retire for the day. The sun was rising bright and red over the eastern seas, flushing the mountains and purpling the valleys. Out amid the sparkling waves the ships sailed toward the sun, and the fishermen cast their nets.
It was in early spring, when the air was full of the fragrance of plum blossoms, and the zephyrs blew so softly that scarce a bamboo leaf quivered, or a wave lapsed with sound on the silvery shore.
The moon-maiden was so charmed with the scenery of earth, that she longed to linger above it to gaze tranquilly. Floating slowly through the air, she directed her course to the pine groves that fringe the strand near Cape Miwo. Lying at the base of Fuji mountain, whose snowy crown glistens above, fronting the ocean, whose blue plain undulates in liquid glory till it meets the bending sky, the scenery of Miwo is renowned everywhere under the whole heavens, but especially in the land which the mikado's reign blesses with peace.
Full of happiness, the fairy maiden played sweet music from her flute, until the air was full of it, and it sounded to the dweller on earth like the sweet falling of rain drops on the thirsty ground. Her body shed sweet fragrance through the air, and flowers fell from her robes as she passed. Though none saw her form, all wondered.
Arriving over a charming spot on the sea shore, she descended to the strand, and stood at the foot of a pine tree. She laid her musical instrument on a rock near by, and taking off her wings and feathered suit hung them carefully on the pine tree bough. Then she strolled off along the shore to dip her shining feet in the curling waves.
Picking up some shells, she wondered with innocent joy at the rich tints, which seemed more beautiful than any color in the moon-world. With one, a large smooth scallop, she was particularly pleased; for inside one valve was a yellow disc, and on its mate was a white one.
"How strange," said she. "Here is the sun, and there is the moon. I shall call this the Tsuki-hi-kai--'sun and moon shell'," and she put them in her girdle.
It chanced that near the edge of the pine grove, not far away, there dwelt a lone fisherman, who, coming down to the shore, caught a whiff of sweet perfume such as had never before delighted his nostrils. What could it be? The spring zephyrs, blowing from the west, seemed laden with the sweet odor.
Curiosity prompted him to seek the cause. He walked toward the pine tree, and looking up, caught sight of the feathery suit of wings. Oh! how his eyes sparkled. He danced for joy, and taking down the robe carried it to his neighbors. All were delighted, and one old man said that the fairy must herself be near by. He advised the man to seek until he found her.
So with feathered robe in hand the fisherman went out again to the strand, and took his place near the pine tree. He had not waited long before a lovely being, with rose-tinted white skin and of perfect form, appeared.
"Please good sir, give me back my feathered robe," said she, in a sad voice of liquid sweetness, though she seemed greatly frightened.
"No, I must keep it as a sacred treasure, a relic from a heavenly visitor, and dedicate it in the shrine yonder as a memorial of an angel's visit" said the fisherman.
"Oh, wicked man, what a wretched and impious thing to rob an inhabitant of heaven of the robe by which she moves. How can I fly back to my home again?"
"Give me your wings, oh ye wild geese that fly across the face of the moon, and on tireless pinions seek the icy shores in spring time, and soar unwearied homeward in autumn. Lend me your wings."
But the wild geese overhead only whirred and screamed, and bit their sprays of pine which they carried in their mouth.
"Oh, ye circling gulls, lend me but for a day your downy wings. I am prisoner here", cried the weeping fairy.
But the graceful gulls hovering for a moment swept on in widening circles out to farther sea.
"Oh, breezes of the air which blow whither ye list! Oh, tide of ocean which ebbs and flows at will! Ye may move all, but I am prisoner here, devoid of motion. Oh, good sir have pity and give me back my wings," cried the moon-maiden, pressing her hands together in grief.
The fisher's heart was touched by the pathos of her voice and the glittering of her tears.
"I'll give back your winged-robe if you'll dance and make music for me", said he.
"Oh, yes, good sir, I will dance and make music, but first let me put on my feather-robe for without it I have no power of motion."
"Oh, yes", said the suspicious mortal, "If I give you back your wings you'll fly straight to heaven."
"What! can you not believe the word of a heavenly being, without doubting? Trust me in good faith and you'll lose nothing."
Then with shamed face the fisherman handed to the moon-maiden her feathered robe, which she donned and began to dance. She poured out such sweet strains from her upright flute that with eye and ear full of rapture, the fisherman imagined himself in heaven. Then she sang a sweet song in which she described the delights of life in the moon and the pleasure of celestial residence.
The fisherman was so overjoyed that he longed to detain the fairy. He begged her to dwell with him on earth, but in vain. As he looked, he saw her rising. A fresh breeze, rippling the face of the sea, now sprang up, and wafted the pearly maiden over the pine-clad hills and past Fuji mountain. All the time sweet music rained through the air until, as the fisherman strained his eyes toward the fresh-fallen snow on Fuji's crest, he could no longer distinguish the moon-maiden from the fleecy clouds that filled the thin air.
Pondering long upon the marvelous apparition, the fisherman resolved to mark the spot where the fairy first descended to earth. So he prevailed upon the simple villagers to build a railing of stone around the now sacred pine.
Daily they garlanded the old trunk with festoons of tasseled and twisted rice-straw. Long after, when by the storms of centuries the old pine, in spite of bandages and crutches, and tired of wrestling with the blast, fell down like an old man, to rise no more, a grateful posterity cleared the space and built the shrine of Miwo, which still dots with its sacred enclosure the strand of Suruga on which the fairy danced.