japanese fairy tales

Japanese folk tales #9: Ikkyu-san and the Tiger

(find my tales tagged here or visit my blog for both english and french versions)

Many thanks to @missmyloko for beta reading this text :)


Once upon a time was a little monk named Ikkyu-san. Despite his tender age, he was renown for his quick wit all around Japan.

Yet one Lord remained sceptical of Ikkyu-san’s talent:

This is just a mere boy. Is he really as clever as they all say?

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Fairy Tale Meme:

9 Heroines - [Princess Kaguya from Taketori Monogatari]

Suddenly the green grove of bamboos was flooded with a bright soft light, as if the full moon had risen over the spot. Looking round in astonishment, he saw that the brilliance was streaming from one bamboo. The old man, full of wonder, dropped his ax and went towards the light. On nearer approach he saw that this soft splendor came from a hollow in the green bamboo stem, and still more wonderful to behold, in the midst of the brilliance stood a tiny human being, only three inches in height, and exquisitely beautiful in appearance.

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Japanese Fairy Tales (The Haunted Flute) Warwick Goble by Kathie McMillan

<br /><i>Via Flickr:</i>
<br />Found at <a href="http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/jshoaf/Jdolls/jdollwestern/illustrations/books3ft.html" rel="nofollow">www.clas.ufl.edu/users/jshoaf/Jdolls/jdollwestern/illustr...</a>

Japanese folk tales #7: Ichiro and the Tanuki

(find my tales tagged here or visit my blog for both english and french versions)

Many thanks to @missmyloko for beta reading this text :)


Once upon a time, far in the countryside, a very clever child named Ichiro lived with his widowed mother. Both of them had to work hard in the field to survive.

Behind their house was hill and on this hill spread a forest. Its thick trees and bushes hid the territory of a Tanuki. It was a mischievous beast who only lived to trick people passing by.

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Fairy Tale Meme:

8 Heroes - [Urashima Taro]

“Have you ever seen Rin Gin, the Palace of the Dragon King of the Sea, Urashima?”

The fisherman shook his head and replied; “No; year after year the sea has been my home, but though I have often heard of the Dragon King’s realm under the sea I have never yet set eyes on that wonderful place. It must be very far away, if it exists at all!”

“Is that really so? You have never seen the Sea King’s Palace? Then you have missed seeing one of the most wonderful sights in the whole universe. It is far away at the bottom of the sea, but if I take you there we shall soon reach the place. If you would like to see the Sea King’s land I will be your guide.”

Japanese Fairy Tales Dissected and Explained

As a child, I always found Japanese fairy tales to be very peculiar. I could never decide if they just lost something in translation or if people in Japan have a very different view of what constitutes a fairy tale. 

There once was an old, childless couple who lived in the country. (As a child, I was convinced that infertility was an epidemic in Japan because there were so many fairy tales that started off with “an old, childless couple.”)

One day the old man is out walking when he sees a bird, a beautiful white crane to be specific, trapped in a snare. Being a nice guy, he sets the bird free. (This is another trait of Japanese fairy tales. It’s always a beautiful creature that’s being rescued. If you’re an ugly creature in Japan you were either screwed or you were smart enough not to get caught in traps. I’m not really sure which one. I just know ugly creatures are never rescued in Japanese fairy tales.) 

A few days later, the old man is at home with his old wife when there’s a knock at the door. It’s a beautiful young girl who announces that she has no parents. So, of course, the old childless couple say, “Come on in and be our daughter.” (This is another recurrent them in Japanese fairy tales. There are tons of childless, elderly couples and a plethora of young, parentless children roaming around the countryside and somehow they always manage to meet up. These elderly couples never think to call the police to say, “Hey. We found this young kid who claims to be parentless could you stop by and investigate?” Apparently Amber Alerts aren’t a thing in Japan.) 

So, now, this little girl that they’ve just recently met says, “Yo. If you peeps will leave me alone - don’t even peek in on me - I’ll weave you some cloth on the loom in the weaving room.” (Because, of course, this is a totes normal request by someone you just met and who doesn’t leave their young child around a loom unsupervised. The first time my grandmother told me this story I thought, “That chick is going in there to smoke crack.”)

The cloth she weaves is the most beautiful cloth in the world. People come from all around to see it. Now, look, we all love our kids but, seriously, when they’re little their arts and crafts leave a bit to be desired. So, the old lady of the house is like, “Dafaq is up with this?” and wisely decides to peek in on the little girl one day. 

Lo and behold the old woman finds that the little girl has morphed into a crane and is using its own soft, beautiful feathers to weave cloth. At this point, if you were the old woman, wouldn’t you be screaming or something? I mean this little girl you’ve been raising as your daughter is actually a f*cking bird. Wouldn’t that strike you as freaky? Wouldn’t you call for your husband or something? But, this is a Japanese fairy tale so, of course, the old woman is like, “Ok,” and goes back to her chores. 

When the old man gets home from work, the little girl says, “I’m the crane you saved. And I’ve been making this cloth for you as a way to repay you for your kindness but now that your wife knows my secret I must leave.” 

The old woman was sorry for peeking and both the old man and the old woman cried but realized that since their daughter was really a f*cking bird she needed to go back home to the sky. 

I could never really find a point to this story. As best as I could surmise, the moral of the story was, “Curiosity will turn your daughter into a bird or something so let your kids sneak off into another room of the house all alone. If they weave cloth, you win. If they smoke crack, you lose.” 

The girl with the peony lantern held it up so that the light fell upon him.

“Hagiwara Sama,” she cried, “by all that is most wonderful! Why, lord, we were told that you were dead. We have daily recited the Nembutsu for your soul these many moons!”

“Come in, come in, O’Yoné,” he said; “and is it indeed your mistress that you hold by the hand? Can it be my lady?… Oh, my love!”

O’Yoné answered, “Who else should it be?” and the two came in at the garden gate.

But the Lady of the Morning Dew held up her sleeve to hide her face.

“How was it I lost you?” said the samurai; “how was it I lost you, O’Yoné?”

“Lord,” she said, “we have moved to a little house, a very little house, in the quarter of the city which is called the Green Hill. We were suffered to take nothing with us there, and we are grown very poor. With grief and want my mistress is become pale.”

From “The Peony Lantern”

Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales, Grace James, 1910. Illustrations by Warwick Goble

Japanese folk tales #8: The Wolf and the rabbits

(find my tales tagged here or visit my blog for both english and french versions)

Many thanks to @missmyloko for beta reading this text :)


Once upon a time, in a forgotten field stood a rabbit hole. In that hole was a pretty little house where a rabbit family lived. They were comprised of the father, mother, and their three children.

One day, a hungry wolf came lurking by.

Stepping closer and closer, he finally knocked to their door:

I know you’re home! If you don’t open that door, I’ll kick it down!

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