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Teresuko( ) is a Japanese folktale and is recounted in rakugo , a form of Japanese spoken entertainment. In the story, "teresuko" is the name given to a fish, and "suterenkyou" is the name of this fish when it is dried.

<i>Rakugo</i> traditional form of Japanese verbal entertainment

Rakugo is a form of Japanese verbal entertainment. The lone storyteller sits on stage, called kōza (高座). Using only a paper fan and a small cloth as props, and without standing up from the seiza sitting position, the rakugo artist depicts a long and complicated comical story. The story always involves the dialogue of two or more characters. The difference between the characters is depicted only through change in pitch, tone, and a slight turn of the head.


At a particular fishing place, a strange fish was caught. None of the fishermen knew the name of this fish, so they brought it to the magistrate's office to find out. The officials at the magistrate's office also did not know the name of the fish so, after a discussion, they decided to put up a gyotaku and offer a cash reward to the person who could tell them the name of the fish.

<i>Gyotaku</i> method of Japanese fish printing

Gyotaku is the traditional Japanese method of printing fish, a practice which dates back to the mid-1800s. This form of nature printing was used by fishermen to record their catches, but has also become an art form of its own.

A man then came forward and said that the fish was called "teresuko". The officials were suspicious of this strange name, but since they had no way to confirm or deny it, they reluctantly paid the reward to the man.

The magistrate heard this story, so he dried the fish out and made another gyotaku of it and offered a reward to the person who could name this fish.

The same man came forward and said that this fish was called "suterenkyou".

The magistrate was furious and immediately accused the man of committing the capital offence of trying to defraud the government. The man asked to see his wife and child one more time before he was put to death. When he saw his wife, he said to her, "When our boy grows up, make sure you don't let him call squid 'surume' when it is dried." (In Japanese, raw squid is called "ika". Dried squid is called "surume". The man was making the point that sometimes there are different words for raw foods and dried foods, such as 'beef' and 'jerky'.)

When the magistrate heard this statement, he acquitted the man of the charges and set him free.

The wife had been on a hunger strike where she would not eat prepared (e.g. dried) foods. Staging this kind of hunger strike was a contemporary way of trying to make a wish come true, and she was doing this to try to save her husband from his death sentence. (Since she was feeding a nursing child, she was eating dried soba powder dissolved in water so that her milk wouldn't dry up.) The man's comment was referring to her hunger strike and indicating that when the boy was older and could eat prepared (dried) foods, he needed to be careful about how he talked about squid so that he didn't meet the same fate as his father had.

The "punchline" of this rakugo story is that the hunger strike was effective in bringing about the wife's wish because it gave the man the right to talk about raw products vs. dried products in front of the magistrate, and thus it did save his life.

Three for the Road is a 2007 Japanese film directed by Hideyuki Hirayama.

Content in this edit is translated from the existing Japanese Wikipedia article at ja:てれすこ; see its history for attribution.

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