Kiich and Old Telephone

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(Translated and arranged by Saya)

An old telephone

Up until my grandfather Kiich (*pronounced as Key-tchi)  was 17, our family ran a pawnshop. He told me an interesting story related to it. 

In those days, when my grandfather was still a boy, people still believed in spirits, gods and yokai without question, especially in rural areas such as the town where my grandfather lived.

So it was not so uncommon for them to have people bring objects endowed with some supernatural power to their pawnshop.
I don't know how they judged the value of those objects, but my grandfather said, "my father was spiritually sensitive, so he could tell which ones were endowed with special power and which ones weren't."  

A boy**

A pawnshop

In Kiich's times, they didn't have a telephone yet. Or rather, there was one in government offices and large companies, but they didn't have one yet at home.
Kiich had of course seen it once or twice in the municipal office, but it was still something that seemed to him as if it belonged to a faraway land. 

Then one day he found a telephone in their kura (storehouse). *1 It was a serious matter to him. 
As soon as he saw it, he ran out of the kura, and rushed down the engawa (a sort of veranda) *2 to reach the pawnshop. 

"Dad! Why? A telephone in the kura! In the kura!!!" 
The overexcited Kiich only managed to stammer some incoherent broken words, but his father understood the situation immediately. 
"You brat.You entered the kura again without my permission." He glowered at him disapprovingly, but the boy was too excited to take notice of it. 
"Can I talk into it? Can we talk to Grandpa in the next town?" 

A kura 


His father gave a glance at the boy's sparkling eyes and scoffed. 
"Fool. We don't have a telephone line at home. And Grandpa has to have a telephone in his home too if we want to speak to him."  

His father's words felt like a cold shower which caused Kiich's excitement to suddenly die down.
"The only places you will find telephones around here are probably in the municipal office, military office and the Kimono store in the next town. In any case, a brat like you would have no business using it." 

His father then shooed him away, and Kiich left the shop, utterly crestfallen. 

He soon learned that a rich man had already purchased the telephone and it would be kept in the kura only for the next few weeks. The telephone was broken so it would be used just as an object d'art to adorn a wall of the rich man's house (the telephone at the time was huge and it was usually hang on a wall).

Even so, Kiich would often steal into the kura behind his father's back, and would pick up the handset of the telephone and talk into it, all by himself. 
"...and dad was so angry and mum started crying. It was so crazy..."

He suddenly heard someone laugh at his story. 

" Eh?" 
Kiich looked around him but of course there was no one apart from him in the kura. Then -- he concluded -- the sound could only have come from the telephone. 

"Mo..Moshi Moshi (hello)*3? Who is it?"  
Asked Kiich timidly. 

"Moshi moshi?" 
The person answered him. 

Dad lied to me! He didn't want me to use the telephone so that was why he said it was broken. 
Kiich thought, and he felt a surge of excitement rise up in his chest.
"G...good afternoon." He spoke into the telephone again. 
"Good afternoon.  I did not mean to make a noise, but your story was so interesting that I could not help it. Please pardon me for eavesdropping on you." 
The man on the other side of the line seemed to be a well-mannered gentleman. 

"Don't worry about that! But which prefecture are you calling from? " 
Kiich was full of curiosity. 

"Well... I live in a very faraway place. It is somewhere you do not know." 

"You don't mean a foreign country!? Is it further from here than Holland? " *4
The man chuckled when Kiich asked the question. 
"Yes. It is probably much further than Holland." 

Since then, Kiich would to sneak into the kura every night after his father had gone to sleep, and make a call to the stranger. 
Kiich would just need to pick up the handset and say "Moshi moshi," and the man would return "Moshi moshi" to him. 
The man told him many entertaining, real life stories.

One day, he asked the man:
"What do you do for a living, Ojisan (*lit. uncle, used to address any middle-aged men)?" 

The man sounded a little hesitant to answer it.
 "Ummm...Well,  my previous work was about making people happy." 

"Happy? How?" 

"There were a lot of things I did. For example, I made sure money flowed into them often. " 

Kiich assumed that the man was working for a bank or something. 
"Oh, is that so? How about now?" 

This question somehow caused the man's voice to drop low. 
"I finished my term in my previous work.   
Now I am doing something completely opposite...But I just have to do this for a while and then I can go back to my previous work again." 

Kiich pondered on it. 
The man was now probably taking away people's money instead of giving it to them... So perhaps he was now a debt collector hired by yakuza! It must be hard being a bank clerk sometimes and then being a debt collector at other times. 
He gave the man some words of sympathy. 

Those exciting days went by so fast and the day came when the telephone was to be handed over to the rightful owner. 

"Moshi moshi... You do not seem so cheerful today. Has anything happened?" 
The man sounded worried. 

Kiich told him about their pawnshop and said that this was the last day they could talk, because the owner would be coming to get the telephone the next day. He was feeling quite sad. 

"I see... I shall miss you. But it is a good thing because I could not have kept myself from carrying out my duties any longer. I am glad no harm shall be done to you now." 

Kiich didn't understand what he meant by those words, but he could feel that the man was feeling sad too, which comforted his heart. 

"I have only one more thing to ask you. Is the person who is to become the owner of this telephone wealthy? " 
The man asked him a strange question. 

"Yes, he is a rich man. But a nasty one, according to my dad. So you probably shouldn't call this telephone from tomorrow." Kiich told him. 

"Hahaha ... That is good to know... I hope we shall meet again." 

 "But we haven't met yet. What you should say is: "I hope we will meet someday." " 
Kiich replied and shortly after that he hang up. 

The next day, the rich owner came to the shop to pick up the telephone. Kiich stood beside his father and watched it leave the shop.  

After the owner had left, his father turned around to face him. 
"So you have become pretty chummy with that telephone." 

Kiich nearly jumped out of his skin.   
"W - what are you talking about?" 
He tried his best to look innocent but his father wasn't about to be deceived. 

"You have done a good job though. Because you became friends with that god of poverty, no misfortune has fallen on us until today.  Not only that, our sales have gone up too." 

That surprised Kiich even more. 
"God of poverty !?*5 That telephone? What about that man I was talking to?" 

"That's why you are a fool. I said we have no telephone line here. How could someone have called you?" 
Kiich hadn't yet really understood what telephone lines were. 

"Is it OK to sell something that's haunted by a god of poverty to someone? " Kiich asked, realising the situation. 

"I wouldn't dream of exorcising a god. And besides, that man has been a scoundrel from the time I can remember. He will only get his just deserts. He will come here again if he becomes pressed for money. I hope it will have turned into a god of fortune by that time." His father gave a little chuckle, yawned, and disappeared into the chonoma (tea room/ living room *6).

A traditonal chanoma

Kiich had just began to reflect on the conversations he had with the man when his father stuck his head out of the chanoma and said: 
"Remember this was only a one-time thing. Don't you start putting any funny ideas into your head.  If you ever go into the kura again without my permission, I'll hang you from the tree in the backyard."

His father's stern stare left Kiich trembling like a little bird.

I don't know what happened to the telephone after that. 

But my grandfather told me that when they finally installed a telephone line at home, and he picked up a call for the first time, for a moment he imagined he would again hear that man's voice saying "Moshi moshi" on the other side of the phone. 


** The boy in the picture is sort of how I imagined Kiich to look like in this story. The picture was apparently taken in Taisho period (1912-1926). 

Watch some interesting videos of Japan in Taisho period below:

Tokyo 1917 --- a film showing some important places in Tokyo.

Views of Tokyo 1913 -1915 --- a film showing lives of ordinary people

A 8mm film from Taisho period -- this seems like a private video taken by a wealthy family.

Etiquette in public places: Sight-seeing in Tokyo -- a fragment from a film created by the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture showing examples of bad manners in public places. 

*1 Kura -- Kura (倉 or 蔵) are traditional Japanese storehouses. They are commonly durable buildings built from timber, stone or clay used to safely store valuable commodities.(Wikipedia)

*2 Engawa --- engawa (縁側/掾側) or en (縁) is an edging strip of non-tatami-matted flooring in Japanese architecture, usually wood or bamboo. The en may run around the rooms, on the outside of the building, in which case they resemble a porch or sunroom (Wikipedia). 

*5 God of Poverty --- A binbōgami (貧乏神, lit. "kami of poverty") is a kami or god who inhabits a human being or his house to bring misery and poverty. (Wikipedia)
cf. Fuku-no-kami -- God of Wealth of Fortune, who is synonymous with Daikokuten (Wikipedia). 

*6 Chonoma --- Lit. tea room. A living room where a family gather and eat meals. It is usually situated next to a kitchen. (For the more traditional usage of chanoma, see Edopedia). 


  1. Saya_In_Underworld4 June 2021 at 19:21

    Oops I have weird background colour on some of the sentences. I will need to fix it but I can't at the moment 😅

  2. Holland. Shirou Tokisada Amakusa. Samurai X. "Dutch Sciences". America was just saying "Hey, open up! Will 'ya?" to Japan with ports open only to the Dutch and some countries. I am getting the vague pictures before reading the footnotes.

    The story reminds me of a childlike wonder someone gets from a telephone. Toy phones that plays an English song about a butterfly (Ay-ay-ay butterfly). Two open lidless cans connected by a long string. A toddler holding a phone imitating their parent with their unintelligible yet down-to-tone baby babble. Imaginations aplenty.

    The God of Poverty seems to be a nice guy, unless you a miser or greedy person. If you are an ascetic, he can be a friendly neighbor.

    1. Saya_In_Underworld4 June 2021 at 20:59

      You know Samurai X?😆✨I used to like it a lot!

      This story seemed to have brought out the poetic side of you!

      I agree with your opinion about the god of poverty 😆👍✨

      Thank you for commenting!💎✨

  3. That was a fun story. I could almost see short film being based off it. It was really refreshing.

    On another note, I recently rewatched Kate Bush's video for her song Wuthering Heights, I would have to declare that at the end of the video, she was becoming a red kunekune.

    1. Saya_In_Underworld4 June 2021 at 21:41

      I am glad you enjoyed it! I thought I would post something more light-hearted this time. I don't want to post depressing stories all the time 😆✨

      That's so interesting! I thought about translating a kunekune story myself, but I think many other people have done that already, so I see no point in doing it anymore! 😆🌈✨

    2. Saya_In_Underworld4 June 2021 at 21:42

      Oh also thank you always for your contribution to the blog! 😊✨

    3. :D I think I should say: こちらこそ? As this blog has always been enjoyable.

    4. Saya_In_Underworld5 June 2021 at 07:17

      Yes こちらこそ or どういたしまして😆🌸✨
      You are becoming so fluent in Japanese!

      I am glad you enjoy reading those stories!

    5. Cool. Wanted to make sure as Duolingo does not always teaches you context.

    6. Saya_In_Underworld5 June 2021 at 20:34

      I understand. It's good you know some Japanese words. It makes it easier for you to travel around in Japan. 😊✨ I myself always try to learn some words and phrases of the country I plan to travel to before I go there.

    7. The cool part is that I have learned enough Japanese, that sometimes I can grasp meaning. I was listening to a song in Japanese from Leo Ieiri and she sang Anata ga hoshii, and I thought, she wants the person, she was singing about. Pretty good on hiragana, not bad at katakana and I know some kanji, but I doubt that will ever be a strong point.

    8. Saya_In_Underworld7 June 2021 at 12:19

      That's brilliant! You must have been studying hard!😊✨

      You can learn kanji bit by bit. It's not easy even for Japanese people, so take your time. No problem!✨

  4. Saya-san thank you for your efforts for making this story long. The most scariest part is there were no telephone line, but that boy talked to God of poverty!
    Saya-san please make some scary long stories such as demonic possessions and urban legends if possible.
    In India there are many myths, supernatural elements, deities, God's, spirts, ghosts, myths demons etc as beloved by the people.
    If you don't mind I'll share them Saya-san with our family of readers.
    Thank you Saya-san, have a Great day

    1. Saya_In_Underworld4 June 2021 at 22:51

      PLEASE as I told you before, your comments don't appear immediately on the blog, but they need to be checked by me first. So don't keep sending so many messages.😅

      You are welcome to share your stories here in the comment section. My other readers do that too sometimes.

      Thank you for your comment!

  5. This was a charming story. I enjoyed it very much! Thank you!

    1. Saya_In_Underworld5 June 2021 at 07:19

      I am so happy to hear it! 😊🌈✨ I wasn't sure if people would like the story because it's not scary. Thank you for your lovely comment 💖✨

  6. That's a nice story :D
    Eat the rich, god of poverty!!!

    I remember a movie from my country about an old telephone and the main character was talking to a person from the past. That twist was revealed in the middle. In the end it was revealed that the phone wasn't connected to anything.

    Just reminded me of that but this one has a god on the other line. Interesting. Can that happen to a Nokia 3310 too? xD

    1. Saya_In_Underworld5 June 2021 at 07:21

      That sounds like a cool movie!

      It could happen to Nokia too😆✨

  7. That's.... a good story. I was getting the creeps on their last talk but it turned out to be a good one.

    1. Saya_In_Underworld5 June 2021 at 12:03

      I wanted to post something cheerful! 😆✨I am so glad you like it!

  8. chimmy enthusiast5 June 2021 at 15:53

    This was a cute story in my eyes, I wonder if I will ever get a chance to talk to a God myself lmao, thanks for the update Saya!! 💖

    1. Saya_In_Underworld5 June 2021 at 16:25

      Yes it is really cute😊💖✨ The conversation the boy had with the god is sort of heartwarming 💕💖✨
      I hope you will meet a god one day too! Thank you so much for your feedback ⭐✨

  9. This was a really beautiful story,Saya-san.I like everything you share whether they are scary or not.I hope everything is okay in your life ❤

    1. Saya_In_Underworld5 June 2021 at 18:52

      Thank you so much for being so nice!
      I am so happy to hear that you like my not so scary posts too! 😊💗🌸✨

      I am so grateful for your kind words. I hope you are happy and everything is going well in your life too!💖💖💖✨

  10. That was surprisingly wholesome, though I doubt the new owner had an equally wholesome experience.

    1. Saya_In_Underworld6 June 2021 at 10:47

      If the new owner repents and mends his ways, he might become a friend of the god, too!😆💛💕✨

  11. Reading this makes me want to work at a pawnshop now to find all sorts of supernatural things xD. Cool story Saya!

    1. Saya_In_Underworld8 June 2021 at 08:39

      Oh 😆⭐
      I do hope you would find only good things, like a telephone haunted by a god of fortune!

  12. I really enjoy this heartwarming story. Thank you, Saya!
    I also find it interesting that god can change jobs just like a person lol. I hope he get promoted again to god of fortune :D

    1. Saya_In_Underworld9 June 2021 at 07:35

      I am so glad you like it! 😆🌈💘✨

      Yes, no one else mentioned that part, but I think that's the most interesting part of the story.😆✨

      Thank you so much for your comment!💓✨

  13. Hi Saya, I love your blog
    I am just commenting to inform you of a typo in this piece. You wrote "bank clark" but should have written "bank clerk" as that is the name of that occupation.

    No need to approve this comment, I just wanted to give you a heads up.

    Love from New York ♥️

    1. Saya_In_Underworld9 August 2021 at 20:47

      Thank you so much 😊💖✨I appreciate it! I hope you are safe in New York!

  14. Hi Saya!! This is such a sweet story <3 I have to wonder though, can god of poverty change into god of fortune and vice versa? Thank you for the translation as always!

  15. I'm surprised the boy knew to say "moshi moshi", though, if he had never used a phone before. Did people say "moshi moshi" back when phones were so rare?

  16. binbougami... ive seen such an entity referenced in a few stories, but it's such an ambiguous person that i always think it's interesting to see. this story feels more like a fairy tale or a short story than a horror story. Still, thanks for sharing!

    i think it's interesting that a poverty god can be a prosperity god at different times. a rags to riches deity...

  17. Woah. While reading I thought the phone was haunted by a lonely spirit. Apparently Gods can also haunt stuff and get lonely. :|

    The grandpa was very fortunate. He saved his family from misfortune, and he got to be a phone buddy to a God. Not many people can say they have the same experience.

    I was wondering how come the God was a god of Fortune at one time, then become a God of Poverty the next time, and then back again as God of Fortune. Do Gods have task rotation? Or is the first switch due to a punishment?

    This story reminds me a lot to a horror anime series that I liked years ago. I forgot its title. But it's about a high school boy who has to work for a sorceress (? or witch?) as an errand boy. People come to the sorceress all the time for help with their personal issues. And the sorceress has a store house full of cursed or haunted items.

    Very cool story, Saya-san. I love it. Thank you :D

    P.S I love all your stories.

    - nunu -

    1. >> Do gods have task rotation?

      I wondered about that too!😆✨ It is an intriguing part of the story!

      That sounds like an interesting manga!

      Thank you! I always look forward to your comments!💓✨


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