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“The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love” by Ihara Saikaku

“The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love” is a short story written by a famous Japanese poet Ihara Saikaku. In this work, the author addresses several issues: first, the relationships between love and religion, in particular Buddhism. Secondly, he explores the conflict between individual happiness and general welfare within the context of the then Japanese society. Prior to analyzing the story, it should be mentioned that it originates from the famous novel “The Tale of Genji” by Murasaki Shikubu who also analyzes the collision between desire and Buddhism: however, Saikaku takes a slightly different view on this problem.

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First, at the very beginning of the story, he shifts stress from desire, which is the main cause of all our hardships according to Buddhist tradition, on love. The authors says “Life is short; love is long.” (Saikaku, 75). The main character of the novella, Osen, tenaciously adheres to this maxim and it can be observed in her behavior.

The dialogue between Osen and old Nanny represents the conflict between love and religion. Osen thinks that probably she will join the Fudo Chapel and become a nun eventually, the old woman does not object to this idea, saying that it is “better than to live on in a world full of disappointments” (Saikaku, 96). These words reflect traditional Buddhist views. Nevertheless, the heroine rejects such doctrine or outlook because for her the world is full not only of disappointments but also of love.

It may seem that the author condemns her behavior when he says in this world “a sin never goes unpunished”(Saikaku, 113). Naturally, her adultery to her husband is a sin not only in Buddhist tradition but he also makes allowances saying that she lived “in a stern world” In this story Saikaku emphasizes that Osens infidelity is motivated but by her search for love and also by her hopelessness, therefore her actions can be validated by Buddhist religion.

Another issue, which the author raises, is the collision of individual happiness and general welfare. Social order in the then Japanese society relied on the belief that individual interests should be sacrificed for the well-being of the majority. In accordance with this principle, which is also known as “the way of the warrior” Osen should have been always faithful to her husband even if she had never loved him. The main character defies such doctrine and the pursuit of individual happiness is her main priority. Probably, this is the reason why her body was “exposed in the Shame Field”(Saikaku,,113) Such behavior might disrupt the foundations, ensuring effective functioning of the society.

In addition to that, it should be taken into consideration that Osens pursuit for individual happiness is not egoism, it is a search for love. In the authors opinion, love cannot be governed by social laws, which are entirely inapplicable in this case. One should not confuse love with sexual desire, based mostly on egoism. Saikaku stresses this idea throughout the text, frequently using the word “love”. Apparently, his intention is to attract the readers attention to this particular concept.

Therefore, having analyzed Ihara Saikakus short story, “Barrelmaker Brimful of Love”, it is possible for us to conclude that the author views love as the dominant force which shapes or determines a persons behavior. Additionally, it cannot be governed by religious or social laws. Any attempt to subdue this feeling will eventually result in rebellion; Osens adultery is also a form of protest.

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Ihara Saikaku, William Theodore De Bary, Yoshida Hambei, Richard Lane.” Five Women Who Loved Love: Amorous Tales from 17th-Century Japan”. Tuttle Publishing, 1977.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 15). “The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love” by Ihara Saikaku.

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"“The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love” by Ihara Saikaku." StudyCorgi, 15 Oct. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "“The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love” by Ihara Saikaku." October 15, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "“The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love” by Ihara Saikaku." October 15, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "“The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love” by Ihara Saikaku." October 15, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) '“The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love” by Ihara Saikaku'. 15 October.

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