So here it is! What you’ve all been waiting for! (Well maybe not.) At any rate I feel like I’ve contributed to the Touhou society. Here’s the 21st chapter of Touhou Kourindou ~ Curiosities of Lotus Asia. If I come across lots of time, I’ll translate the rest of the untranslated chapters.
If anyone wants to put it up on Touhou Wiki before I get the chance to, please credit me and link back to my site :3 With that all said and done, I’m tired.
[Translated by Kafka Fuura; Original Story by ZUN]
What do the residents of Gensoukyou think of the brilliance raining down from far away…?
Touhou Kourindou ~ Curiosities of Lotus Asia
This time, awaiting the release of the new tankoubon “Touhou Guumonshiki ~Perfect Memento in a Strict Sense” (Isshinsha), this is a story where Marisa and Reimu view a meteor shower at Kourindou. To all the fans that can’t wait for the tankoubon as well, why don’t we all read this issue’s “Kourindou” and think about the puzzles of space?
Chapter 21: The Universe that the Youkai Saw
“Ah! Two just fell in a row!”
“Yeah, just one more to make ten.”
The excited voices of the two rang out inside the shop where the lights had been extinguished. Soon it’ll be midnight – It’s already time for crying children quiet down, but neither Reimu nor Marisa was.
The inside of the shop was occupied by those two and all of the lights were out. I, unable to read a book or write in my journal, moved over to where they were, relying on the little bit of moonlight coming in from the window.
“Really, I don’t know what to do with you two – haven’t you had enough? These so called “meteor showers” aren’t exactly rare you know…”
“What are you talking about? You said it yourself didn’t you? ‘Tonight the meteors will be amazing’, ‘I’m sure more than a hundred will fall.’
“I really do think about a hundred will fall… you don’t mean to watch all of them do you?”
“Well of course. I came prepared with over a hundred wishes.”
–At noon inside Kourindou.
The day when both Reimu and Marisa had the chance to appreciate the meteor shower.
I was had placed a newly acquired mysterious item on top of my desk and was staring at it. I say it was a newly acquired item, but the item itself was old and a bit dirty. The parts made of metal had spots of rust here and there as well.
That item was made up of a ball the size of a large watermelon and four foot supports. The ball was made of metal, but it had a very odd shape. There were a number of thin rings shaped from metal and connected together that looked like they were used for measurement; they formed a sphere that air could easily pass through, like a throwing ball made out of bamboo. Furthermore each of the metal rings could turn freely while the legs kept the whole thing in place.
Unfortunately a few of the metal rings were rusted, and didn’t turn very smoothly. Like this it wouldn’t make for proper merchandise, so I had thought I’d somehow try to fix it myself.
“What’s with this weird hole-y globe?”
“This isn’t a globe, Marisa. And – when did you come in?”
“I thought maybe a hole had opened up in the planet.”
Marisa asked if it wasn’t a globe then just what was it?
A globe is, just as the characters suggest, a model of earth. The humans living in Gensoukyou don’t know much about the planet they live on. If you must ask why, Gensoukyou is in the mountains of a small part of Japan, itself a small part of the world – plus, it’s not a place you can easily leave.
That said, it’s not like information or tools never get in. A globe is one of the various tools that have washed in from the outside world, and so we’ve been able to learn about the earth we live on. Speaking strictly “knowledge” we know it down to the finest detail, but for the human residents of Gensoukyou the land they live in isn’t quite connected with the knowledgeable world. For example if you were to say that a hole opened up in the earth, they would easily believe you.
Still, though this tool looks like a globe it is certainly not. It is a tool to measure objects like the earth, that though are always close to even Gensoukyou, we still don’t know much about.
“This is a tool called an ‘armillary sphere ’. If a globe is a tool used to provide information about the earth, an armillary sphere is used to provide information about space.”
While an armillary sphere is an unusually complicated tool, all it is used for is to measure the position of the stars.
However, there’s a reason for this complexity. Though it appears that the stars are just floating in the sky, correctly measuring their position is difficult. It’s not something you can measure absolutely, like how the ground you see from far away has mountains and forests giving varying degrees of height. In the night sky there are lines drawn like on graph paper, and there are many fundamental-like stars that don’t move and are simpler to calculate, but even those aren’t set in stone. Their positions are unreachable, and observing stars that exist apart from the fundamental model has long troubled many astronomers. In order to resolve that problem, the armillary sphere couldn’t have been made without being complicated.
“So how do you use this thing?”
“Well… that’s what I’m investigating now.”
“Ah, so you don’t know either? Well of course, that’s the way it always is.”
I felt I was being made fun of, but well what she said is true, so there’s no helping it.
“Well, this is how I imagine you’d use it. While looking at a star through this tube in the middle, you match up the turning ball with the star, and take a reading from the scale or something written here … Hmm?”
I just realized that there were strange letters written on this tool. What I thought was ‘a scale or something’ wasn’t a simple numbered system. There’s a possibility that these strange symbols broaden the usefulness of the armillary sphere.
“What? Is there something on that ring or something?”
“Hmm, there certainly is. I thought for sure that this tool was something from the outside world but… the characters written here could overturn that idea.
“Where, where? Can I see? Hmm… I can’t read it.”
“Well that was fast.”
The strange symbols written on the armillary sphere were the names of the constellations.
“Written here is… yuki-nyuudou constellation, kaenba constellation, bashou-no-sei constellation… At any rate they’re names of constellations.”
“What’s with those constellations? They’re all awfully maniacal constellations aren’t they?”
“It’s not that simple of a problem. I haven’t heard of those constellations either. Well it’s probably just that a number of constellations with extremely maniacal names were written together. Well that would be funny, but even if that was the case, these constellation names…”
“Te-no-me” constellation, “Tsurube-otoshi” constellation, “Great Tengu” constellation …
“Isn’t every single one of them the name of a Japanese youkai?”
The constellations we know ― well I don’t think this is limited to the humans of Gensoukyou; it’s probably the same for the humans from the outside ― mostly came from the continent. They were historical things that were used before Gensoukyou separated from the outside world.
Furthermore, though there are still some constellations originally from ancient Japan, there are few remaining now. The Japanese ones were simply stars themselves rather than the interconnecting lines between them, and were given names and worshipped – well at least that’s what I’ve always thought. After looking at this armillary sphere I’ll probably have to rethink my assessment. It’s hard to think that constellations with the names of Japanese youkai would have come over from the continent. If this many constellations named in Japan exist, it wouldn’t be strange to think that Japanese astronomy has advanced a lot…
“However… all of them are youkai names. If this was the work of Japanese astronomy they should have used more names of gods or heroes. If you think of it that way, rather than Japanese astronomy… Is it possible that this armillary sphere is not a tool of the outside world but –”
This is probably a youkai armillary sphere. Youkai have continued living for thousands of years, so it wouldn’t be strange if they had their own astronomical knowledge. There are many youkai that make fun of practices made by humans. With astronomy as well they must have created their own instead of using the astronomy of the humans. It’s possible even to think that astronomy used by humans is in fact a field of study thought up by youkai.
Additionally, it is said that over a thousand years in the past youkai travelled to the moon. At that time humans wouldn’t have yet known the meaning of the moon or stars. For that reason alone youkai astronomy must have been excellent.
Holding festivals on days when the moon is full and calming down when the new moon comes, for youkai, the moon is an important celestial body. It’s easy to imagine that youkai study of the moon has greatly advanced.
However, the youkai names of constellations on this armillary sphere suggest that not only is their study of the moon, but also the stars very extensive.
For example, the Milky Way is called the Oni’s River, and there the sake of oni flows above the ground. Close to the river the powerfully bright Orion’s belt is called by youkai the Ibuki-doujii constellation and indicates the Ibuki-douji’s three powers of harmony, finite, and infinite.
Because of planets’ brightness and inconsistent movement they are called tengu stars. They move here and there and can be read as an existence that disrupts the youkai rings.
Within the youkai constellations, comets are also defined. Even the circuit phases of the comets have been researched. Since youkai can live for a long time, you can say it’s easier for them to investigate it than humans. Comets are called detested or condemned stars because they are apparently bad omens that threaten youkai society.
The one written with the largest characters is the celestial dragon constellation. This is the so-called big dipper. The celestial dragon always stares at one point, and looks as if it might at anytime fly. The star at the point is Polaris, the north star.
In youkai constellations Polaris is the “unmoving star”. Basically, it is the face of the unmoving lord of night, the unmoving lord, an embodiment of Mahavairocana . Though it goes without saying, Mahavairocana is an avatar of the sun that renders youkai powers void. In the night world he is said to become Polaris and eat youkai power in order to prevent their festivals from getting out of hand. It is said that the celestial dragon is plotting to eat the unmoving lord to control the sky day and night. According to records, it is prophesized that after a few thousand years the celestial dragon will move, and then youkai society will also grow. Though it’s something to occur a thousand years later, youkai foresight is incomparable to humans’, so this may be troubling.
“Anyway, getting such a detailed explanation is a complete waste of time, but I have something I’d like to ask. I know that with this tool you can find the position of the stars and know the youkai constellations, but what about that? The ‘lead role of the night sky’…”
“The lead role of the night sky? Isn’t that the moon? So then you should be able to calculate the position of the moon as well.”
To youkai the moon is a very important celestial body, the leading role of the night sky would have to be the moon.
“No, It’s not the moon…”
“Is there some celestial body other than the moon worthy of the leading role?”
“Those, the stars that flow down disappearing in an instant, the stars that stand out the most.”
“In an instant… do you mean shooting stars?”
“Ah, that’s right. Out of all the stars shooting stars are the ones I like the best. They grant your wishes too.”
Ah, I see, shooting stars… liking flashy things is very like Marisa. But that is different, those aren’t celestial bodies.
“Shooting stars aren’t stars you know.”
“It’s a shooting star isn’t it? Isn’t it a star?”
“Shooting stars are… scales from the celestial dragon who flies through the heavens, that sparkle when they fall off. So this tool can’t find their position.”
“Hmm, well it’s because they move. I thought it wouldn’t be able to measure it, but still that’s too bad.”
“Why is it ‘too bad’?”
“If you could know what time they fell you could have as many wishes granted as you wanted. If you have enough free time to study other stars you should study shooting stars instead.”
“It’s not like they were studying them because they had free time… Well certainly you can’t tell when shooting stars will fall. However, I know a way to certainly see some.”
“What did you say? Is that true? If so, tell me!”
“A few times a year on certain days a large amount of shooting stars pour from the sky, if you look then, during a single day you can probably see ten… no a hundred shooting stars.”
––So, I told Marisa one of the days that you can see a meteor shower, and immediately on that day Marisa brought along Reimu and we had a sort of meteor shower viewing party.
I wonder how much time has passed. The two counted the fifteenth shooting star.
“This is amazing! It really looks like about a hundred will fall!”
“I’m starting to feel a bit tired.”
After saying Reimu shouldn’t be, Marisa went further outside the window to take in the astronomical show.
“Ah, the sixteenth one. Um, curse-curse-curse,” Reimu whispered.
“What’s with that?”
“Saying a wish three times before a shooting star hits the ground is pretty impossible isn’t it? So I tried shortening my wish as much as possible.”
“You shortened it too much. By the way, what sort of wish was that?”
“A wish related to curses. What are you wishing for?”
“Ah, ‘I want to use stronger magic’.”
Both of them were excited about seeing a hundred shooting stars, but as the time between them continued to get a little longer, they ended up losing count, got tired and fell asleep. The curtain had closed on the first shooting star wishing party.
––Present day, four or five years later.
I stared at the memorable armillary sphere. From then on the shooting star wishing party became a yearly tradition, and we’ve already had quite a few of them.
When I think about it, I get the feeling that ever since the first shooting star wishing party Marisa started to use star-like magic. Now when it comes to magic shooting stars, it’s Marisa’s number one specialty. Plus, every year she comes asking for the dates of the meteor showers and I hear she’ll watch them by herself.
I wonder if Marisa was enchanted by the celestial dragon, and I wonder if her wishes were granted.
The polar opposite of the static movements of the stars, big, strong, bright, and immediately disappearing. Every now and then they’ll become “meteorites” that reach the earth, and hold a power capable of dealing incredible damage. I wonder what people see in that kind of shooting stars.
“Oh, the youkai armillary sphere? That sure brings back memories. So you still had it all this time?”
“Yeah, I took it out for the first time in a while and was looking at it. … When did you come in?”
“You were just daydreaming and didn’t notice me.”
“I was just reminiscing a bit about the past…. Huh!?”
“What is it?”
I just read the name of a youkai constellation written on the armillary sphere. There are various youkai written down, but I found one that particularly caught my attention. Well it wasn’t the name of a constellation, but it stood out the most.
“……Never mind, it’s nothing.”
“It looked like it was.”
And it was. The “saying” about youkai going to the moon over a thousand years ago isn’t really a saying, I heard it from the mouth of one of the youkai herself. In other words that youkai is still living in Gensoukyou. Still in Gensoukyou and still controlling things from behind the scenes.
On this armillary sphere that youkai’s name was written. Furthermore it was written as the creator’s name.
“Let me see, let me see. Oh if it’s those characters I should be able to read it. ‘Author, Yakumo……Yukari’? Really? Was this armillary sphere a tool that she made?
Marisa was clearly annoyed, and strangely I knew why. The reason is that the place where those characters were written was in a place where a constellation name should be. Furthermore it wasn’t “maker” but “author”.
“So that’s it. So this is something made by that troublesome youkai. That’s pretty boring.”
“At any rate she’s smart and has a lot of knowledge. If you were honest about it you probably would do well to learn from her.”
“I don’t feel like it. Anyway if you’re talking about her that way because she made this, you can’t say that she’s really that smart.”
“Your humility and guesswork isn’t enough is it?”
This doesn’t mean that Yakumo Yukari is the youkai that made this armillary sphere. Most likely the she’s the author of the constellations written on the armillary sphere. In other words, I think she’s the one that made the constellations.
Gensoukyou, a place where these sorts of characters still bustle around. Until now I’ve looked down on the power youkai have to live very long lives, but now when I think of it that way, I feel a chill.
An armillary sphere is a spherical sort of astrolabe.
Most of the other funny named things are youkai. The really strangely named thing is a Buddhist deity. If you want more full notes, pdf or docx links below :)
Side by Side Japanese|English for those who want it:
Touhou Kourindou ~ Curiosities of Lotus Asia – Chapter 21 “The Universe that the Youkai Saw” (docx)
Touhou Kourindou ~ Curiosities of Lotus Asia – Chapter 21 “The Universe that the Youkai Saw” (pdf)
Scans of Original Text: