Long long ago, there lived a poor boy in a town.
When he was still a baby, his father died, and his mother also died when he was thirteen.
And so he became an orphan.
As he was left alone, he was completely at a loss.
One of his neighbors, who ran a general store, saw him and felt pity.
He brought the boy back to his store to take care of him.
The boy was old enough to help the storekeeper’s work.
Every day he swept the store, and made deliveries to the customers.
Soon he had won his master’s confidence.
Several years had passed.
The boy grew up to be a fine young man.
He worked harder than ever.
One evening, the storekeeper smelled something different from the young man when he came back from a delivery.
“His breath reeks of sake.” he thought.
The next day the storekeeper also noticed that the young man came back with pink cheeks, singing loudly.
He was sure that his employee drank somewhere either on his way to some customers’ or way back from his work.
He called the young man to reprove him for his drinking.
“You are getting drunk, aren’t you?
I didn’t think you had any money to buy sake in the first place.
Where did you get the money?
Did you pilfer small change from the takings?
Or have you been involved with any other crimes?”
“I’m sorry to have sung loudly.
I feel guilty about it.
But believe me, I didn’t drink any sake.
I’ve never forgotten that you took care of me for years.
As you see I’ve been working for you very hard to repay your kindness.
The money I spent?
You don’t need to worry about it.
The sake, if you say so, is a gift from Heaven,”
said the young man.
“A gift from Heaven?
What the hell are you talking about?”
He twisted his mouth into a bitter smile, and looked disgustedly at the young man.
“I know you can’t believe it, but I found a spring by the mountain stream yesterday.
I felt thirsty after I walked for hours, so when I found the spring, I scooped the water with my hands and sipped it.
I can’t tell you how good it was!
The taste was so unforgettable I dropped by the spring again.”
The young man tried to convince his master why he’d been tipsy.
“Take me there, if you aren’t telling me a lie.
Chances are we could find it, but if not, I’ll never forgive you.”
The young man took his master to the spring where he’d drunk that tasty water.
“I’m sure one sip of water here will make you feel happy,”
he said, as he cupped his hands to offer the water to his master.
The storekeeper sipped it from the young man’s hands.
To his surprise, it was really sake (Japanese alcohol).
He had never drunk such good sake before.
The storekeeper happily said to the young man,
“How tasty it is!
I’ve never had such tasty sake before.
Maybe I could have a sake shop to sell the best sake in Japan.”
Soon he had a store built and prepared some big earthenware pots to store sake, and some tools for running the sake shop.
The first thing he did was to fill the pots with sake.
When he finished filling the first pot, he happily tried to drink some.
“How strange!” he cried, “It’s not that sake but pure and simple water.”
He took one more sip, but—he was very disappointed.
He hurried back to the spring and scooped the water.
It was no longer sake at all.
He called the young man and complained about it.
The young man scooped some from the spring and drank it.
He looked at his face.
His cheeks were gradually turning pink.
It apparently proved that the one he was drinking was sake!
The storekeeper realized something important, and said to the young man,
“I thought the spring was a gift from Heaven for me, but actually it was a gift for you.
I’ll give you this sake shop and all these things, so you can run it by yourself.”
As the spring hadn’t dried up, the young man’s business was going very well.
Since then not only the sake shop but the general store had also been doing good business.
Both storekeepers became rich.
Later people called the young man ‘Sake Spring Millionaire.’