25 October, 2009

A story on promises

We've had a busy day today with deputation, boys and a Scripture Union pre-camp meeting (more on that later). I'm tired, so here is a Japanese story which came through my inbox some weeks ago. PROMISES ARE TO BE KEPT A fascinating anecdote is told in Japan of the famous 16th-century warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who wanted to reward one of his faithful retainers. “You can have anything you desire,” Hideyoshi said. “In that case, please give me one grain of rice today, then two grains tomorrow, and four on the day after that,” the retainer replied. “Please continue to double the grains of rice for the same number of days as there are squares on a shogi board.” (A shogi board is a Japanese chess board with 81 squares). “If you only want grains of rice, you're a man of few wants,” he said. “You shall have your wish.” Hideyoshi was dumbfounded by his request. One month later, however, a commotion broke out at Hideyoshi's residence, Osaka Castle. Upon the retainer’s request, a succession of rice bags was being brought out from the rice granaries. The number of rice grains continues to double each day, and by the 30th day, the amount due was 540 million grains. Since one rice bag, weighing about 60 kilograms, can contain about 2.5 million grains, the retainer was due to receive more than 200 bags on the 30th day. The combined amount of rice Shinzaemon received up to the 30th day would have reached 400 bags. Likewise, the retainer was due to receive 800 rice bags on the 31st day and 1,600 bags the following day. On the 45th day, he was due to receive more than 2.5 million bags of rice. Even if Hideyoshi, who managed to unify the nation, had given away all his assets, he still would not have been able to keep the promise he made to the retainer. He turned white and was at his wits end. “It's my fault. Won't you please name something else as your reward?” Hideyoshi begged the retainer. “You should never make a thoughtless promise by offering someone anything they want,” the retainer cautioned his master. The overconfident Hideyoshi had a pang of regret for having made a promise that he was not able to keep. Source: Yomiuri News, by Mr. Akio Hayashida, 2008-05-13

1 comment:

Ken Rolph said...

This story pops up across the world in various cultures. The common thread seems to be that they are based on some kind of grain (wheat or rice) and they have a depth of intellectual culture and some kind of game board. I've heard it from Middle Eastern cultures, but didn't know it reached as far as Japan.