228 The People’s Chimneys

The People’s Chimneys
Make a hanging scroll

“The People’s Chimneys”

Emperor Nintoku once climbed high up a mountain and, looking out in all directions, proclaimed, “There’s no smoke rising from anyone’s chimney—all the people must be too poor even to eat. Well, then, for three years I shall waive all land taxes and servitude rules.”
With no income for repairs, the Emperor’s castle started taking on damage, leaking rain water in places, but still he made no repairs. Pipes were placed to catch the leaks, and the Emperor’s family spent their time in the castle’s still-dry rooms instead.
One day, he noticed smoke rising from chimneys here and there. “This is wonderful—I am now a wealthy man.” The Empress thought this a strange thing to say, to which Emperor replied, “The people are the foundation of our rule. If the people have no wealth, then neither can we.” He continued the waiver for three more years and then, finally, reinstated the taxes and servitude rules. Having escaped poverty, the people paid taxes and began repairs on the castle.
Putting the needs of his people first in this way, Emperor Nintoku is also acclaimed as “Nintoku the Virtuous.”