Lovers of pine is a Japanese folktale about two lovers that become two young pine trees by sitting under a shade of an old pine tree.
It happened in ancient times when the capital of Japan was still the city of Nara. (Nara, located around 30 km south of modern Kyoto, was the capital of ancient Japan between 710 and 784 CE.)
There lived a young man named Iratsuko and a girl named Iratsume. They were both very beautiful people which caused many people to gossip about them.
“It would be good if the Iratsuko and Iratsume fell in love,” people would say.
But the two of them didn’t notice each other at all. Iratsuko heard what people were saying but he only waved his hand while Iratsume only smiled as she continued on her way.
One evening while the people of the village were staging a big celebration they gathered in the forest glade and began to sing, dance and compose poems.
Then the young man approached Iratsume.
“Turn to look at me,” he asked her. “You are beautiful, like a young pine. Give me some sign that you love me.”
“Do not befit me to listen to such speeches,” she said blushing. “I confess however that I have loved you for a long time. People noticed us, which lead to conversations which in turn made me curious.”
Then everyone began to eavesdrop on their conversation.
“When are you going to be married?” the people called.
“Leave us in peace. Do not look at us, do not touch us” Iratsuko said with anger as he grabbed the girl by the hand and ran into the forest.
“It’s not like we hurt them,” the people said shaking their head. “We were just happy at their good fortune in finding each other at last.”
The two lovers ran into the woods and sat down under an old pine tree.
“Those people never give you a moment’s peace,” Iratsuko snarled.
“It’s true, people are forever sticking their noses into others business,” Iratsume agreed.
It was dark and quite, with only the moon in the sky for light and the gentle sound of the leaves falling from the trees. The two of them sat up all night by the old pine and didn’t notice that morning had come. When the sun rose over the mountain they looked around, they could hear roosters in the distance and a dog barking.
“Let’s go back to the village,” Iratsuko said, but as he tried to rise he found that he was rooted to the ground.
“I’ll help you!” Iratsume exclaimed, but her feet were rooted to the ground as well.
“What’s happened to us!?” the two lovers exclaimed in surprise.
Meanwhile the rest of the villagers came into the forest to search for Irasuko and Iratsume. And lo and behold at the edge of the woods they found two young pine trees. The people gasped when they saw these pines.
“Look, look! It’s Iratsuko and Iratsume. They have turned into pine trees,” the people cried.
Iratsume and Iratsuko heard this and grew frightened for they realized that they must surely have become pine trees. So they were now two pine trees at the edge of the forest. Sometimes farmers come into the woods and sit under them while asking, “How are you my pretty Iratsume? And is Iratsuko feeling well?”
That’s when the pine creaks and the pines wave and the tree seems to say. “Again you break our peace! We get no salvation from you. Do not look at us, do not touch us.”
So the farmers sigh and eventually go away. So the pine Iratsume is called “do not look at me,” and the pine Iratsuko is called, “do not touch me.”