Theory:

The plot revolves around an old, childless couple who lived during the daimios era in Japan. The author refers to this time as the 'good old days' since it was Japan's critical period. The first and second Industrial Revolutions occurred, resulting in increased production and profit during this period. The good old couple's only pet was a little dog named Muko. Since the couple didn't have children, they treated their beloved dog like a child. The elderly woman prepared an excellent blue crape-based cushion for her beloved dog to sit comfortably like a cat, especially during winter. They fed it fish from their chopsticks and gave rice that they had prepared.
 
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Chopsticks
 
Muko loved its master's family as they treated it like their kid with love and kindness.
 
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The good old couple

The old man was a hardworking rice farmer. From morning till sunset, he continued on his field, working with his spade and hoe. 'O Tento Sama' refers to 'sun'. 'Sama' is also a title of respect.
 
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Hoe
 
Muko always accompanied the old man to the field every day. Also, the dog was as kind and thoughtful as its master, for it never harmed the white heron that walked in man's footsteps to pick up the worms.
 
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White Heron
 
Since the farmer was kind and patient to all the living creatures, he purposely turned up the surface of the ground for the birds to eat their food. He always helped the animals which were in need.
 
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Kind good old man
 
One day, Muko went running to its master, motioning to some spot on the ground. Initially, the farmer thought the dog was playing and so did not pay attention to Muko seriously. Finally, however, Muko did not leave him or withdrew its effort; it made crying sounds, and ran to and fro for some minutes, signalling him something.

The old man then understood that Muko was trying to convey some message to him. Then the old man followed the dog and reached a place where it began to scratch. The old man thought that the dog was scratching there, possibly because of a buried bone or bit of fish. So, he started to dig the place the dog showed him, expecting to find a buried bone or a bit of fish. Instead, to his surprise, he found a pile of gold buried inside the earth, which shone before him brightly.
 
The old couple became rich suddenly in an hour. God blessed them with treasure as a gift for their kindness, hard work and love for other living beings. Their beloved dog made them rich. After then, the old couple bought a piece of land for themselves. They shared their wealth with their poor neighbours, which shows their generous nature, and arranged for a big feast for their friends.
 
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Feast for friends
 
Also, after this incident, the love of the old couple towards their dog was increased. They showered more care and concern for it than before. They felt grateful for their pet dog and showed more love towards it. The good old couple were kind and merciful toward the animals, and they reaped the fruits of their kind nature.
 
An evil couple known for their bad behaviour and greediness lived in the same village where the good old couple lived. They were quite the opposite of the good old couple. The bad old couple always kicked and scolded dogs and treated them horribly. They couldn't bear having a dog cross their house since they disliked them. They'd heard of the good old couple's good fortune. As a result, they brought the good old couple's dog to their garden as they were greedy for riches and wanted to be rich using Muko. They provided Muko with fish pieces and other expensive, delicious meals in the hopes of discovering a hidden treasure.
 
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Bad old couple's offer to Muko

When Muko refused to eat the food offered by the cruel pair, they dragged Muko out of their garden angrily to find the treasure as they wanted to acquire wealth like the good old couple. Muko had no choice but to walk near a pine tree and scratch the ground, as it had done before for the good old farmer to locate gold, for the wicked couple had compelled it to do so.
 
The wicked couple were happy. They planned to dig the spot Muko scratched to get the treasure for themselves. The wicked man quickly instructed his wife to pass him the spade and hoe. He became happy that he was going to find a treasure like the good old couple.
 
The wicked old man began to dig the earth with his spade, and his greedy wife began to dig the spot with her hoe to find treasure. They couldn't find the treasure there. Instead, they found a dead cat with a horrible odour, so they put down the spade and hoe, and covered their nose with their hands.
 
The bad couple became furious towards the dog. As a result, the old man beat Muko to death. His wife, on the other hand, nearly chopped away the dog's head. Later, they buried the body of Muko under the pine tree.
 
When the kind-hearted old man came to know about the incident, he mourned for his lovable pet dog. Also, he went under the pine tree where Muko was buried and wept for the loss of his child-like pet dog.
 
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Pine trees
 
He had set up some bamboo tubes in the ground and put flowers on the grave. He felt sad about having lost Muko. He also kept water and food in the place where Muko was buried. He then burnt some costly incense sticks on the dog's grave, praying for its soul to rest in peace. The old man's heart couldn't accept the fact that his pet was dead. He wept and mourned at the dog's grave for a long time and kept calling it by dear names as if it was alive.
 
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Good old man's mourn for his dog
 
After some time had passed, the dog owner returned from the grave, heartbroken at the loss of his beloved pet. He sobbed for a long time and then fell asleep. After he slept, he saw a fantastic dream in which his pet dog Muko's spirit appeared. The old man's good and kind heart, and his love for Muko got him connected with the spirit of his pet dog. It asked its master to cut down the pine tree under which it was buried, and make a mortar for his rice pastry and a grinding mill for his bean sauce using the wood.

Though it was a dream, the old man gave importance to it and chopped the pine tree from Muko's grave and sliced a two-foot-long segment out of the middle part of the trunk. He scraped out a hollow spot the size of a small bowl with considerable effort, partly by fire, partly by the chisel. He then made a long-handled rice-pounding hammer out of wood to hit the rice in it. Also, he designed a hand mill as instructed by the dog in its master's dream. Finally, using pinewood from Muko's tomb, the couple constructed a mortar and hand mill.

It was during the New year time, and the good old man wished to make rice pastry. So, they took out the mortar they created and started working with it. When the rice was done boiling, the old woman placed it in the mortar, and the old man used his hammer to smash the mass into a dough.
 
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The magical mortar
 
The blows were hard and quick, and the pastry dough was ready in no time. Then, suddenly, an incredible thing happened. The dough mass was converted into a heap of gold coins. The old couple then examined the hand mill also. When the good old woman dropped the beans inside their handmade mill and began to grind them, gold started to fall like rain out of it.
 
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The magical mill
 
While the good old couple were working on their handmade mill and grinding their boiled beans, the wicked couple watched them secretly from the window. They were amazed to notice the magical mortar and mill. "Goody me!" exclaimed the bad old woman as she watched each drop of sauce turn to yellow gold. The tub under the mill was filled with a gleaming mass of gold in a matter of minutes.

Again, for the second time, the good old couple became rich. The wicked couple became very jealous, and so plotted a plan to be wealthy like their neighbours. They borrowed the mortar and magical mill from the good old couple, thinking to get gold out of those. They put boiled rice in the mortar and beans in the hand mill. The bad old man then began working on the mortar, and the woman started grinding on the mill.
 
However, the pastry and sauce turned into a foul mass of worms when the first blow and turn occurred. They were angry again.
 
For the first time, when the wicked wanted to be wealthy like the good old couple, Muko showed them the place of a dead kitten instead of treasure. For the second time, the mortar and hand mill gave out worms instead of gold. Still, they didn't realise their arrogance, stinginess and cruelty. They didn't understand the fact that being mean and wicked will only result in unhappiness. They were angry about being cheated again and smashed the mill into pieces to use as firewood. They did not even think about their goodhearted neighbours who lent their mortar and mill to them and destroyed the things they had lent.
 
The good old couple had no knowledge of the mill being destroyed and burned down by their neighbours. The good old man had another dream in which his pet Muko appeared again. The spirit of Muko spoke to him in his dream and informed him about the incident, informing him how the evil people had set fire to the mill he had made out of the pine tree. Muko also advised its owner to collect the ashes of the mill from his wicked neighbours and sprinkle them on the withered trees. It assured that the withered trees would bloom again.
 
The good old man awoke from his sleep and decided to do as per the instructions given by Muko's spirit. He immediately went to his evil neighbour's home, where he noticed the wicked old couple smoking and spinning in the middle of the floor, near the fireplace.
 
They warmed their hands and feet with the flame from some mill parts from time to time, while a pile of broken pieces from the mill remained behind them. The wicked pair did not bother to hand over the borrowed mill to their kind neighbours.
 
The bad couple was still unaware that their previous sins and selfishness had resulted in their activities becoming a failure.
 
Though the neighbours were wicked and impolite, the good old man remained humble to them and asked for the ashes of the hand mill. They treated him like a thief and scolded him. Though the bad old couple were corrupt-minded, they did not deny his request but gave him the ashes. The good old man was happy to get the mill ashes collected and returned home.

Then he called his wife and took her to the garden. They went near their favourite cherry tree, which looked bare without any leaves or fruits since it was winter.
 
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Winter season in Japan
 
Still, the good old man believed in his dream and had trust in the words of Muko's spirit. As a result, he sprinkled a handful of ashes on the withered cherry tree. Then, as the dog's spirit had stated in the dream, something miraculous occurred. The bare tree gave out cherry flowers which produced fragrance in the air. The news about the good old couple and the cherry tree had very soon reached the nook and corner of the village. Everyone gathered near the good old couple's garden to see the flowering tree during the winter.

When the wicked, greedy old couple heard about the fortune of the good old people for the third time, they decided to do the same thing. Since they gained nothing out of their first two greedy efforts, they become strongly desired and very soon collected the remaining ashes of the hand mill that's been burnt at their home. So they decided to make the withered trees blossom.
 
By the time the good old people were becoming famous with their magical ashes, there was an announcement that daimio was about to pass the high road near their village. Daimio refers to Japan's most powerful landowners from the tenth century until the nineteenth century.
 
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The daimio and his wife
 
Naturally, the good old man's kind heart wanted to greet his master on hearing the news and so started his journey with a basket of mill ashes in his hand. He climbed up onto an old withered cherry tree on the roadside as the train neared.
 
During the days of the daimios, it was common practice for all loyal people to close their high windows when their lord passed by their way as they were not supposed to look down on landlords. They even taped the windows with a piece of paper so they wouldn't look down on his lordship. Also, everyone on the road should get down on their knees and remain with their heads looking downward until the procession passed.
 
The procession went near the cherry tree the good old man was laying. A tall man marched ahead, instructing people to get down on their knees. As expected, everyone knelt except the good old man. He climbed up the withered tree before some time on having prepared to threw ashes on the tree, thereby to greet his landlord.

Unfortunately, an escort became angry when he saw the good old man laying on the tree. Still, he didn't show his anger and pretended not to see him, considering his age. When the palanquin reached the tree, the good old man sprinkled a pinch of ashes on the tree. As expected, the magic happened. The withered tree gave out blossoms in an instant.
 
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Flowering cherry tree in winter
When the daimio noticed the sudden wonder of a withered cherry tree giving out flowers, he ordered his workers to stop the procession. The daimio then got out from his palanquin to see the magic. He was happy to see a flowering cherry tree and was pleased with the old man's warm greetings for him. He called out the good old man and thanked him for his wonderful magic. The daimio appreciated the good old man's work and rewarded him with gifts like silk robes, sponge-cake, fans and many more. Also, the daimio had extended an invitation to the good old man to his palace.
 
The old man joyfully returned home to share his happiness with his loved old wife. However, the greedy next-door neighbour heard about the incident mentioned above.
 
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The greedy old man
 
He took some of the magical ashes along and hurried toward the highway. He planned to collect rewards like the good old man using the magical ashes.
 
Instead of kneeling like the others, he climbed a withered cherry tree like the good old man while waiting for a daimio's procession to come, ready to throw the ashes on the tree as soon as the daimio arrived. Even after failing in his first two tries, the evil old man had not stopped to carry out his efforts or realise his past mistakes but had only stayed greedy.
 
When the daimio was nearly under the tree where the bad old man occupied, the bad old man threw a handful of ashes over the tree, which had zero effect. Nothing had happened to the bare cherry tree. It remained in the same withered stage. Thus, the bad old man failed in his third attempt also.
 
Despite the fact that the evil old couple failed in their first two attempts to become as wealthy as their good old neighbours, it had no effect on them and instead served to hurt them. Unfortunately, for the third time, it had the worst effect on the bad old man. The ash particles were blown into the daimio's and his wife's nostrils and eyes by the wind; they started to sneeze and cough. Daimio and his wife were unable to breathe due to the ash particles. The event completely ruined the grandeur and formality of the march.

The daimio's guardians were furious with the evil old man and dragged him down from the tree, throwing him and his ash-basket into a roadside ditch. The bad old man was heavily beaten up for his deed and left dead just as he has beaten up Muko. The sin he sowed made him reap the same. As the bad old man died in the mud, Muko's beloved masters lived long, happily and peacefully with the wealth they possessed.