[What follows – my introductory note & Richard Johnny John’s account of his life as a traditional singer & songmaker – was originally published in Alcheringa, the journal of ethnopoetics that Dennis Tedlock and I co-published & co-edited in the early 1970s.
Translation from Japanese by Hiromi Ito & Jerome Rothenberg
It was Sugaru of the Little Boy Clan who was the chancellor of the Emperor Yuryoku, as vital to him as his heart and liver. One day when when the Emperor was residing at Iware-no-Miya palace and was having sex there with his wife, Sugaru burst into the chamber and the Emperor, feeling shame, broke off his foreplay. At that moment they heard thunder and the Emperor told Sugaru: Go forth now and send a summons to the God of Thunder. Sugaru replied that he would go. The Emperor then proclaimed: Go forth and send a summons to the God of Thunder.