‘What the Seasons Brought to the Almanac-Maker’ by Saikaku Ihara, translated by W. Theodore de Bary

Taken from the first of the classic Donald Keene collections, Ihara’s story takes the reader back to the late seventeenth century, where a beautiful woman, the titular almanac maker’s wife, meddles in the burgeoning relationship between a maid and one of her husband’s workers. However, in an act typical for this bawdy tale, she somehow ends up sleeping with him herself, upon which the two flee the capital and fake their deaths. Alas, as you may have guessed, their love is unlikely to have a happy ending, and after various escapades, the couple are brought to (rather severe) justice. Ihara was well known for his risqué books, and this tale was actually one of five in a work named Five Women Who Loved Love (again translated by de Bary, released by Tuttle Publishing in 1956), featuring five women whose inability to control their desires ended up costing them dearly.

First published in 1686. included in Anthology of Japanese Literature: From the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century, Grove Press, 1955