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A story that may appear in 5th-grade textbooks in Japan.

The Spider’s Thread(蜘蛛

Akutagawa, Ryūnosuke

芥川あくたがわ 龍之介りゅうのすけ


This is what happened one day. 


Shakyamuni was strolling alone around the banks of the lotus pond in Paradise.


(Tense change)


The lotus flowers that bloom in the pond are all pearl-like white, and the indescribable scent is incessantly overflowing from the golden pistils of its center.


It seems Paradise is just in the morning.


After a short while, Shakyamuni stands at the edge of the pond and taking a look at the state below through the lotus leaves that cover the surface of the water.

やがて 釈迦様しゃかさまはそのいけふちにおたたずみになって、みずおもておおっているはすあいだから、ふとした様子ようすをごらんになりました。

Since beneath the lotus pond of this Paradise hits exactly at the bottom of hell, you can clearly see the scenery of the three crossings river (Styx) and the mountain of needles through the crystal-like water, just like looking through the peeping glasses.

この 極楽ごくらく蓮池はすいけしたは、丁度ちょうど地獄じごくそこあたっておりますから、水晶すいしようのようなみずとおして、三途さんずかわはりやま景色けしきが、丁度ちょうどのぞ眼鏡めがねるように、はっきりとえるのでございます。

Then, at the bottom of Hell, with the other sinners, a man named Kandata’s wriggling figure caught his eye.

すると その地獄じごくそこに、犍陀多かんだたいう男おとこ一人ひとり、ほかの罪人(ざいにん)一緒いっしょうごめいている姿すがたまりました。

This man named Kandata is a master thief who had killed people, had set fire to houses, and had done various evil deeds, but he still remembers only one good thing he had done. 

この 犍陀多かんだたというおとこは、ひところしたりいえけたり、いろいろ悪事あくじはたらいた大泥棒おおどろぼうでございますが、それでもたったひとつ、こといたしたおぼえがございます。

That is, as this man was passing through a deep forest one time, he had noticed a tiny spider crawling along the roadside.


So, Kandata immediately raised his foot and tried to trample it to death, but he suddenly reconsidered like “No, no, Even though it’s tiny, it must be a living thing. To take its life for no reason would be way too cruel.” and he eventually saved the spider without killing it.

そこで 犍陀多かんだた早速さっそくあしげて、ころそうといたしましたが、「いや、いや、これもちいさいながら、いのちのあるものにちがいない。そのいのち無闇むやみるということは、いくらなんでも可哀かわいそうだ。」と、こうきゅうおもかえして、とうとうその蜘蛛くもころさずにたすけてやったからでございます。

While looking at the state of Hell, Shakyamuni recalled that this Kandata had saved a spider. 


Then, in reward for doing such a good thing, he thought that if possible, he would relieve this man out from Hell.

そうして それだけのことをしたむくいには、出来できるなら、このおとこ地獄じごくからすくしてやろうとおかんがえになりました。

Fortunately, when he looks at the side, a paradise spider hangs a beautiful silver thread on the jade-colored lotus leaf.


Shakyamuni softly picked up the spider’s thread and dropped it through the pearl-like white lotus to the bottom of Hell far below.

釈迦しゃかさまは その蜘蛛くもいとをそっとおにおりになって、たまのような白蓮しらはすあいだから、はるしたにある地獄じごくそこへ、まっすぐにそれをおおろしなさいました。


Here is Kandata who is floating and sinking in a blood pond at the bottom of Hell with the other sinners.

こちらは 地獄じごくそこいけで、ほかの罪人(ざいにん)一緒いっしょに、いたりしずんだりしていた犍陀多かんだたでございます。

Anyhow, no matter where he looks, it’s pitch-dark, and when it looks like there is something that sometimes dimly emerges from the darkness, that’s the gleam of the needles of the terrifying mountain of needles, so there is nothing more lonely than this. 

なにしろ どちらをても、くらで、たまにその暗闇くらやみからぼんやりっているものがあるとおもいますと、それはおそろしいはりやまはりひかるのでございますから、その心細こころぼそさといったらございません。

On top of that, the place is filled with profound silence as inside of graves, and the only thing that can be heard from time to time is the faint sigh of sinners.

そのうえ あたりははかなかのようにしんとしずまりかえって、たまにこえるものといっては、ただ罪人(ざいにん)がつくかすか嘆息たんそくばかりでございます。

It seems that human beings who have fallen into here are already exhausted from the various tortures in Hell, and even lost the power to make a crying voice.

これは ここへちてるほどの人間にんげんは、もう様々さまざま地獄じごく責苦せめくつかてて、泣声なきごえちからさえなくなっているのでございましょう。

Therefore, even a master thief Kandata, suffocating by the blood in the blood pond as well, could only be struggling as if he were a dying frog.

ですから さすが大泥棒おおどろぼう犍陀多かんだたも、やはりいけむせびながら、まるでにかかったかわずのように、ただ藻掻もがいてばかりおりました。

However, this is what happened once.

ところが あるときことでございます。

As Kandata casually raises his head and looks at the sky above the blood pond, he sees a silver spider’s thread, gleaming straight and thinly, falling down above him in the silent darkness from the faraway heaven, as if it were afraid of being noticed.


As Kandata sees this, he was delighted with clapping his hands unintentionally. 


There is no doubt that he would get out of Hell if he clings to this thread and climbs up as far as he can.


No, if it goes well, he would even be able to enter Paradise. 


If that happens, he would never be chased up to the mountain of needles, or be sunk in the blood pond anymore.


Since he thinks like that, Kandata immediately reels in and begins to climb up and up with his utmost effort, grasping the spider’s thread firmly with both hands.

こうおもいましたから 犍陀多かんだたは、早速さっそくその蜘蛛くもいと両手りょうてでしっかりとつかみながら、一生懸命いっしょうけんめいうえうえへと手繰たぐのぼはじめました。

Since he is originally a master thief, he has been too accustomed to this sort of thing from before.


However, the distance between Hell and Paradise is tens of thousands of miles, so no matter how impatient he tried, he cannot come out to above easily. 

しかし 地獄じごく極楽ごくらくとのあいだは、何万里なんまんりとなくございますから、いくらあせってみたところで、容易よういうえへはられません。

While climbing for a little while, Kandata finally gets tired, and he cannot climb up to above anymore even one reel.


So, he had no choice but to intend to take a rest first, while hanging in the middle of the thread, looked down far below his eyes.

そこで 仕方しかたがございませんから、まず一休ひとやすやすむつもりで、いと中途ちゅうとにぶらさがりながら、はるかにした見下みおろしました。

Then, it was worth climbing up with the utmost effort, the blood pond that he was in until a while ago is now already hidden in the bottom of the darkness before he knows it. 


And then, that dimly glowing and terrifying mountain of needles has also become beneath his feet. 

それから あのぼんやりひかっているおそろしいはりやまも、あししたになってしまいました。

If he climbs up at this rate, getting out of Hell might be easier than he thought.


Twining both hands in the spider’s thread, Kandata laughed like, “I ‘ve done it. I ‘ve done it.” with a voice that he has never made in years since he came here.


However, he suddenly noticed that at the lower part of the spider’s thread, countless sinners are also climbing up and up intently following after him like a procession of ants.

ところが ふときますと、蜘蛛くもいとしたほうには、数限かずかぎりもない罪人(ざいにん)たちが、自分じぶんのぼったあとをつけて、まるであり行列ぎょうれつのように、やはりうえうえ一心いっしんによじのぼってるではございませんか。

When Kandata saw this, he did nothing but only move his eyes in surprise and fear, with his big mouth open like an idiot for a while.

犍陀多かんだたは これをると、おどろいたのとおそろしいのとで、しばらくくはただ、馬鹿ばかのようにおおきなくちいたまま、ばかりうごかしておりました。

How can this thin spider’s thread, likely to snap even from his weight alone, bear the weight of that many people?


If the thread should snap in two, even he, who had climbed up to this point with considerable effort, must fall back to original Hell.

もし 万一まんいち 途中とちゅうれたといたしましたら、折角せっかくここへまでのぼってたこの肝心かんじん自分じぶんまでも、もと地獄じごく逆落さかおとしにちてしまわなければなりません。

If such a thing happens, it will be terrible.


However, in the meantime, Hundreds of thousands of sinners are crawling up in swarms from the bottom of the pitch-dark blood pond, and diligently climbing up the thin, gleaming spider’s thread lining up in a row. 


If he doesn’t do anything now, the thread must be snap in two from the center and fall off.


So Kandata shouted in a loud voice, “Hey, you sinners. This spider’s thread is mine. Who the hell allow you to climb it? Get off. Get off.”

そこで 犍陀多かんだたおおきなこえして、「こら、罪人(ざいにん)ども。この蜘蛛くもいとおれのものだぞ。おまえたちは一体いったいだれいて、のぼってた。りろ。りろ。」とわめきました。

It is at that instant.


The spider’s thread, which had been nothing wrong until then, suddenly breaks off with the sound of snapping just from the point where Kandata was hanging on.

いままで なんともなかった蜘蛛くもいとが、きゅう犍陀多かんだたのぶらさがっているところから、ぷつりとおとを立ててれました。

Therefore, Kandata is unbearable. 

ですから 犍陀多かんだたたまりません。

Before he could say anything, he falls with the head foremost, slicing through the air, spinning like a top, down to the bottom of the darkness in a second.

あっというもなく かぜって、独楽こまのようにくるくるまわりながら、るうちにやみそこへ、まっさかさまにちてしまいました。

After that, the spider’s thread of Paradise just gleaming shiny and thinly, and it just hangs shortly in the middle of the sky without the moon or stars.



Shakyamuni stood at the edge of the lotus pond of Paradise and was watching everything quietly, but soon after Kandata sank in the bottom of the blood pond like a pebble, he started strolling again with a sad countenance.


From the perspective of Shakyamuni, he would think it was despicable that the ruthless heart of Kandata received a reasonable punishment, and has fallen back to the original Hell.


However, the lotus of the lotus pond in Paradise does not care about such a thing at all.

しかし 極楽ごくらく蓮池はすいけはすは、すこしもそんなことには頓着とんじゃくいたしません。

The pearl-like white flower moves the shank swaying around the foot of Shakyamuni, and the indescribable scent is incessantly overflowing from the golden pistils of its center.


It seems Paradise is almost noon already.

極楽ごくらくも もうひるちかくなったのでございましょう。

(Translation: Narai, Hajime)

(翻訳:楢井 肇)


“The Spider’s Thread” (1918)


Author: Akutagawa, Ryūnosuke (1892-1927)

著者:芥川 龍之介(明治25年~昭和2年)

First publication: a children’s monthly magazine “Akai tori (Red Bird)” No.Jul.1918

初出:児童月刊誌『赤い鳥』大正7年7月 創刊号

Sourcebook: “Gendai Nihon Bungaku-kan20 Akutagawa, Ryūnosuke”

底本:『現代日本文学館20 芥川龍之介』

1997年 文藝春秋


Familiarity degree🗾🗾🗾🗾4.0 became movies and animes
Shintoism color0.0N/A
Buddhism color📿📿📿📿4.0釈迦しゃかさま極楽ごくらく地獄じごく三途さんずかわ
Archaic expressions🖌🖌2.0かわず頓着とんちゃくする
Honorific expressions🙇‍♂️🙇‍♂️🙇‍♂️🙇‍♂️🙇‍♂️5.0らんになりました、おまりました


Old Kana Usage: We have changed to Modern Kana Usage (phonetic notation).


Old font: We have changed to the common kanji (2010 Cabinet Notification No. 2).


かわ(三途の)河 → (三途の)川
御 → お
眼 → 目
おおう蔽う → 覆う
とおして(透き)徹して → (透き)通して
とまり(お目に)止まり → (お目に)留まり
むやみ無暗 → 無闇
みちばた路ばた → 道端
ようす容子 → 様子
どろぼう泥坊 → 泥棒
くらやみくら暗 → 暗闇
やみ暗 → 闇
うち中 → うち
ばか莫迦 → 馬鹿
あげ(頭を)挙げ → (頭を)上げ
うって(手を)拍って → (手を)打って
きれ断れ → 切れ
かんじん肝腎 → 肝心
あさましい浅間しい → 浅ましい
うてな萼 → 台
ひる午 → 昼

We have changed some okurigana.


We have changed some hiragana to katakana and kanji, katakana to hiragana and kanji, and kanji to hiragana and katakana.