|photo by barto
The Tale of Momotaro
Once upon a time an old couple lived in the hill country of Okayama in Japan. The old man went everyday into the mountains to cut wood, while his wife went to the river to wash their laundry. One day the old woman was washing clothes by the riverside when a great, golden peach came floating down the river! It looked so delicious that she decided to roll it home to surprise her husband.
When the old man came home, the old woman cut the peach open. To their great surprise, a small boy leaped from inside the peach! Instantly, they loved the little boy because they had never had any children of their own. They decided to call him Momotaro, which means, “peach boy”.
The old couple raised Momotaro well. He grew big and strong. One day he told his parents that he would leave to make his fortune. He wanted to rid the land of the horrible Oni (demons or ogres) that inhabited Onigashima 鬼ヶ島 (Island of Oni).
Though the old woman was sad to see her son leave, she fixed him some delicious kibi-dango, dumplings made from millet, for his journey.
As Momotaro hiked to Onigashima, he made friends with a monkey, a dog, and a pheasant, giving each of them a dumpling for their companionship. He was glad for their company when he arrived at Onigashima. Momotaro and his companions found that the gate to the Oni's fort was locked, but the pheasant flew inside and found the key. Once the pheasant opened the gate, Momotaro and his friends fought fiercely with the evil Oni. The pheasant pecked their eyes, the dog bit their legs, and the monkey clawed their backs. Finally, the Oni surrendered their horde of treasure, and Momotaro returned to his village a hero. Momotaro and his parents lived happily ever after.
There are many versions of this tale with each version the story takes on different details to suit the region and the times, but only from Hatsumi Sensei have I seen these details:
Momotaro's monkey excelled at wisdom, vicious wisdom. The pheasant had an ability to predict earthquakes. The dog looks faithful, but it can become like a ninja and smell the differences at work, using various means and tricks.Sensei goes on to say that to live well in troubled times we should practice these three elements and embody each animal with our body and soul.
Here is a fun animated version of this story: