We have a lot of folk tales in Japan, but I think ‘’Momotaro’’ is the most famous. Every Japanese child can tell this story and sing this song.
Please let me give you some background information before you start to read the story.
‘’Momo’’ means peach and ‘’Taro’’ is a common name for Japanese boys. It’s the story of a young boy ‘’Momotaro’’, born from a peach (yes, I know it’s weird), who defeats ogres with his followers to save people. Each follower represents an important value: loyalty, wisdom, and courage (they actually are animals…can you guess what animals they are? Do they have the same image in your country?).
The monsters Momotaro fights are oni, which can be translated as ogre, troll, demon, or devil. They are typically red or blue with horns, and are often shown wearing a tiger skin and carrying an iron club. They’re often associated with hot springs. Every year on February 3, we celebrate a holiday called Setsubun, where the “oni” (someone wearing a mask) is driven away by having beans thrown at them. And when we play tag, the person who is “it” is called the “oni”.
Well then, please read the story while listening to this cheerful song! https://youtu.be/_O5yR8VC4Ns
(A dog, a monkey and a pheasant sing)
Oh you have delicious dumplings.
Please give me just one please!
Sure, here you are, here you are.
I’ll give it to you if you follow me
To Onigashima (Ogres’ Island) to help me fight the ogres!
Once upon a time, there lived an old man and his wife. They were kind-hearted, frugal and worked hard every day. However, they had no children.
One day, on a day like any other, the old man went to the mountain to gather wood and his old wife went to the river to wash clothes…. when all of a sudden, a huge peach came floating down the river!
‘’Wow, what a huge peach! I’ll bring this home and eat it with my husband. He’ll be so happy! ’’ she thought. After her husband came home, they tried to cut open the peach… and OH MY GOODNESS! A beautiful, cheerful baby boy came out of it. They were thrilled! They named him Momotaro (Peach boy) and brought him up with loving care.
Momotaro grew up to be strong and kind. One day he decided to leave for Ogres’ Island to defeat the ogres who always tormented people. The old man and his wife were very sad, but made delicious dumplings for him to take with him and prayed for his safety. On his journey, he met and made friends with a talking dog, a monkey, and a pheasant. Momotaro gave them his dumplings and they agreed to help him in his quest. (This is the scene the song is describing).
When they reached the island, the ogres rushed at them. The loyal dog bit ogres on the leg, the clever monkey scratched their faces, the brave pheasant pecked at their heads, and Momotaro fought them with his sword. Finally, the ogres surrendered, begging to be spared. Then they offered Momotaro many treasures. He brought the treasures home
to where the old couple were waiting,
and they lived together happily ever after!
The main lessons of this story are:
- Poor but honorable people (the old couple) eventually become happy.
- Take care of people around you, then you’ll be happy
- You can accomplish great things if you have loyalty, wisdom and courage.
By the way, my name, ‘’Momo-ko’’ means ‘’Peach blossom-child’’. My parents chose it because I was born in spring. It has nothing to do with Momotaro. But, of course, many of my friends called me Momotaro to make fun when we were in kindergarten…That’s why I actually didn’t like Momotaro very much for a while. Well, anyway, Momotaro has been very popular all over Japan for a long time. Even today, his name and image are used for a lot of things (cell phone commercials, TV games, trains, foods etc.).
Not all Japaese folk tales have such a direct plot, happy ending, and clear lesson, but there are a lot of interesting stories. You can read more Japanese stories if you want at http://www.geocities.co.jp/HeartLand-Gaien/7211/.