JAPAN - JAPANESE
Stories, Folktales, Folklore, Fairy Tales, Legends,
Myths, History, Nursery Rhymes, Fantasy & Facts

STORY LOVERS WORLD

SOS: SEARCHING OUT STORIES

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To add to the lists below, please e-mail jackie@storyloversworld.com



JAPANESE STORIES and FOLKLORE
(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)
(To retell any of these stories, please obtain permission from the copyright holder if the material is not in the public domain)


1) Peach Boy and Other Japanese Children's Favorite Stories and Little Fingerling: A Japanese Folk Tale or Little One-Inch and Other Japanese Children's Favorite Stories are two distinct Japanese stories, rather than variations of the same story. Certainly they have motifs in common, but MacDonald's Storytellers Sourcebook: A Subject, Title, and Motif Index to Folklore Collections for Children (derived from standard folklore classification schemes) classifies The Adventure of Momotaro, the Peach Boy (Kodansha Bilingual Children's Classics) as T543.3.2 - Birth from a Peach, relating it to other stories of unusual birth (birth from a melon, gourd, snow, etc.) and conception stories (conception from eating a fruit, an apple, a pine needle, etc.), while Issunboshi is listed as F535.1.1 - Adventures of Thumbling, which makes it a variant of Tom Thumb and all the other stories of miniature people born in a human-sized world. Momotaro was born from a peach, but I believe he grew to be a standard-sized human.

I strongly encourage you (and all tellers) to use MacDonald's Storytellers Sourcebook: A Subject, Title, and Motif Index to Folklore Collections for Children and its updated companion volume by MacDonald and Sturm if you want to compare tale variants. These should be readily available at larger public libraries and most academic libraries.

That said, both stories are strong iconic tales in Japanese culture and can be usefully compared in many ways. However, I would not call one a variant of the other.

When searching English language sources, including the web, you can search either Momotaro or Momo Taro and either Issunboshi or Issun Boshi, since they are not spelled consistently.
Vicky D. 11/13/05


2) "The Tengu and the Magic Nose Fan" (Japan) in Twice upon a Time: Stories to Tell, Retell, Act Out, and Write About by Judy Sierra and Robert Kaminski. 1989.


3) PZ 8.1.J643 Bad 1990
The Badger and the Magic Fan, a Japanese folktale / adapted by Tony Johnston ; illustrated by Tomie dePaola. c1990.
Subject: Folklore--Japan. A badger must face the consequences after playing tricks on others with a stolen magic fan.
Editorial Reviews
From Publishers Weekly
Johnston contributes a lively text and dePaola performs his customary artistry in this retelling of a cheerful Japanese folktale. A badger comes across three tengu (goblin) children playing with a magic fan that can make noses lengthen and then shrink. Disguising himself, the animal steals the fan and tests its powers on the daughter of a rich man. Sure enough, her nose grows to an embarrassing length, and her "vastly vexed" father summons doctors, a witch and wise thinkers to try to solve the problem. Finally, the distraught man offers his daughter's hand and half his fortune to anyone who can reduce the nose to its original size. Enter the crafty badger, who waves his fan and makes the girl beautiful again. He gets his reward--as well as a big surprise--when the tengu children appear to reclaim the fan. One of two books inaugurating a line of folktales from around the world, this is filled with magic and mischief--a winning combination sure to delight readers. Ages 4-8.
From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 2 --In their latest collaboration, Johnston and dePaola present a new version of a classic Japanese folktale. A wickedly mischievous badger uses trickery to steal the tengu children's magic fan, which has the power to make noses grow and shrink. Of course, the badger uses the fan for his own nasty version of play. He stretches the nose of a wealthy, beautiful girl to a hideous length. Her powerful father turns to doctors, witches, and great thinkers for help, but only the badger can restore the girl's beauty. His reward--the girl's hand in marriage--is also his undoing. When he falls asleep after a filling wedding feast, the tengu children recapture the fan. Their revenge is to make badger's nose grow so long that the celestial workers believe it is a pole and pull the badger into the heavens. This conclusion isn't as satisfying as the traditional version in which the half-asleep badger does himself in by unwittingly fanning to keep cool, causing his nose to grow. The characters of witch and thinker are also new. Johnston's telling, while spry and animated, is somewhat overembellished. Frequent aside comments and sound effects are more distracting than emphatic. The story is illustrated in pastels decorated with Japanese elements. Each picture is framed, giving a sense of a stage-setting. dePaola's lighthearted treatment fits the retelling, but the stereotypical portrayals of orientals may offend contemporary readers. An entertaining story, if not a completely successful folktale adaption. --Heide Piehler,
Shorewood Public Library, WI

INFORMATION ABOUT JAPAN FROM WEBSITES:

from Multicultural Literature for Children: - An Annotated Guide
http://wwwlibrary.csustan.edu/lboyer/multicultural/child_lit/r1.php?category_code=j

from Folklore - Books and Materials About Japan
http://www.asij.ac.jp/elementary/library/folk.html

from Resources for Teaching about Japan -- Elementary Level
http://www.spfusa.org/Library/teach.htm

from Edmonton Public Library - Japan for Grade 2
http://www.epl.ca/EPLPathfinder.cfm?id=JAPANFORG1

from "Myths and Legends of Japan."
http://www.dragonstrike.com/mrk/myths.htm

4) "The White Butterfly." Source: F. Hadland Davis, Myths and Legends of Japan (London: G. G. Harrap and Company, 1913), pp. 218-219.

5) Concerning Japanese Fan Storytelling, in a forbidding tome called Folklore Genres, ed. by Dan Ben-Amos (1976, University of Texas Press) is an article by V. Hrdlickova Japanese Professional Storytellers.

6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rakugo
There is information on Rakugo on the Internet:

7) http://www.badgers.org/teapot.html
"The Teapot Badger."

8) Japanese animation (anime):
MCAD Anime Weekend Classes
http://www.geocities.com/mncba/MCADanime082601.htm

How To Draw Anime - Drawing & Sketching - 09/17/00
http://drawsketch.about.com/library/weekly/aa091700.htm
http://www.bakaneko.com/

9) Ripples in Time [ Takara-Bune (Treasure ship) ]
In Japan, a Takara-bune is recognized as a good luck charm to bring prosperity to a trading business. As such, it was printed in some articles as an advertisement used for passenger ships of NYK, and appeared on happi coats, the covers of passenger lists to name a few examples. Also, replicas of Takara-bune were made of sugar and displayed as decorations.This beautiful fan, kept in a box of paulownia (wood) and presented to passengers as a souvenir in the days prior to World War II, also has the Takara-bune design. According to the description attached to it, the cargoes carried by a Takara-bune are as follows:
Japanese fan
1) Hat of invisibility (Kakure-gasa); if one puts on this hat he can protect himself without being detected by a demon or evil
spirit.
2) Lucky raincoat (Kakure-mino); to wear this raincoat serves as a safeguard from attack by an evil spirit.
3) Sacred Key; to open the treasure house of popular lore.
4) A never empty money purse.
5) Box filled with gold and silver (Senryo-bako)
6) Precious Jewel (Nyoi-hozyu); which fulfills every wish you make.
7) Scrolls (Makimono); an "open sesame" book.
8) Lucky Hammer (Uchide-no-kozuchi); which can produce every kind of valuable goods that one may wish for.
9) A gold weight (Hundo)
10) "Sippo"; represents precious things, such as coins.
11) Bales of Rice; symbolizes the bounty of foodstuffs. Even today, people who respect ancient customs, put a miniature or a picture of Takara-bune under their pillow on the second night of the New Year, believing that it ensures they have pleasant dreams.
Takara-bune.
The boat Shichifukujin is always embarking on. Literally takara-bune means a treasure boat. The boat always has a mast and a white sail painted the chinese character "Takara" (=Treasure). It brings you happiness whole the year to set a picture of Shichifukujin embarking on takara-bune under your pillow at the New Year Eve.

10) Tales of Old Japan: Folklore, Fairy Tales, Ghost Stories and Legends of the Samurai, edited by A. B. Mitford, Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1966. In addition to folktales, the book also contains explanatory information and historical and cultural information about certain customs.
Accomplished and Lucky Tea-Kettle
Adventures of Little Peachling
Badger's Money
Battle of the Ape and the CRab
Crackling Mountain
Elves and the Envious Neighbour
Eta Maiden and the Hatamoto
Forty-Seven Ronins
Foxes' Wedding
Ghost of Sakura
Grateful Foxes
History of Sakata Kintoki
How a Man Was Bewitched and Had His Head Shaved by the Foxes
How Tajima Shume was Tormented by a Devil of His Own Creation
Kazuma's Revenge
Loves of Gompachi and Komurasaki
Old Man Who Made Withered Trees to Blossom
Prince and the Badger
Story of the Faithful Cat
Story of the Otokodate of Yedo
Tongue-Cut Sparrow
Vampire Cat of Nabeshima
Wonderful Adventures of Funakoshi Jiuyemon


11) http://www.japaneselifestyle.com.au/culture/culture.html
Background information about Japanese culture.

12) http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/ANCJAPAN/WOMEN.HTM
Women and Women's Communities in Ancient Japan

13) http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/japan.html
Japanese Folktales.

14) http://acacia.pair.com/Journey.of.the.Heart/Chapter_1.html
"Journey of the Heart."

15) http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/japan.html
"The Mirror of Matsuyama" (full text—this story is in the public domain).

16) Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World
(book source, including synopsis of "The Mirror of Matsuyama").

17) QUERY:

I am hoping that one of you will have the answer to this question right at your fingertips: we have a teacher here who is planning a lesson to do with Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. In that book there is reference made to "the old Japanese legend that says that anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes will have a wish granted." She wants to know specifically what that legend is, or if there really is one. We have done a lot of research and have come up with lots of info on cranes, their meanings, origami, etc., but what she is after is the "legend."

RESPONSES:

a) From this website:
http://www.japaneseweddingfavors.com/cranes.htm
"Cranes Customs & Legends"
Cranes or "tsuru" in Japanese, are possibly one of the oldest birds on earth and has a long history in Japanese traditions and legends. The Japanese crane is among the most majestic of all cranes. Pure white with a magnificent red-crest, it stands nearly 5 feet tall with a 5 foot wing span., Legend hold that the crane lives for a thousand years. In Japanese, Chinese and Korean tradition, cranes stand for peace and long life. Folded white paper origami cranes are often placed at memorial parks to symbolize peace. Folded paper cranes are also given to ill people to wish them a quick recovery. It is said that 1000 folded paper origami cranes makes a wish come true.

b) I told this story a few times years ago (a great Peace Day tale) and wondered about it, too. I never pursued the answer, but I believe that the author is using the word "legend" pretty liberally. It might be more accurate to call it a "saying" or a "proverb." More like the "saying" that you can wish on the first star you see at night, or if you spill salt, you should throw some over your shoulder. Maybe it's more like the "legend" on a map, telling you what certain symbols on the map mean and how to make sense of them.

c) Is it also possible that the nurse used the significance of the crane as a means of giving the girl hope, & a purpose, rather than there being an actual "legend."

18) QUERY:

This stirs up the old curiosity about the significance of badgers in Japansese folklore/culture. Does anyone know?

RESPONSES:

a) The badger is a powerful shapeshifter, and often plays the part of a jester - or trickster? There are a number Tof Japanese tales of badgers. I don't know any more about where this figure comes from or fits in.
Response: The Japanese Badger is really not a badger at all, it is a Tanuki (Nyctereutes Procyonoides.) It is a member of the dog family and, contrary to popular belief, is not related to the badger. They are also called (in English) raccoon dogs. He is often a shape-shifter and a bit of a trickster. They are not found outside of Asia. The story of the tanuki that turns into a teapot is one of the best known "badger" stories. It is said that the tanuki gather in the forest at night and drum complex rhythms on their bellies, although no one has ever seen this. They are also purported to have a very large scrotum that makes a noise as it sways in the breeze. Put "tanuki" in your search engine and you will find out all kinds of interesting things about them.

b) The Badger and the Magic Fan seems to be a version of the Tengu's "Magic Nose Fan" which does not have a badger but a young "good-for nothing, do-nothing" man. This version comes directly from Japan so I wonder is the Badger and the Magic Fan a different Japanese version or was it changed for copy right? Now my book on Animal Wisdom doesn't specifically describe what a badger symbolizes in Japan but in general its traits are: courage, strength and perseverance and is associated to: aggression and keeper of stories.

19) I posted something about the Japanese Art form of telling stories with a fan and blue towel back in the fall of 1997. eldrbarry

"Concerning Japanese Fan Storytelling" in a forbidding tome called Folklore Genres, ed. by Dan Ben-Amos (1976, University of Texas Press) is an article by V. Hrdlickova Japanese Professional Storytellers.

Narration of long serious tales is called "Kodan" and of short humorous tales "Rakugo." (Among these Professionals there are apprentices and masters!!) The teller wears a kimono and carries two props up his sleeve - a fan and a blue and white silk scarf. The telling is done kneeling behind a small table. The fan and scarf are used to represent various things, but never used as a fan or scarf in the telling to fan oneself or wipe away sweat. The fan folded may represent a sword or spear (the fan is the handle, an extended finger on the other hand the point), a lute, a pipe, a stick for carrying a load, a pen, a bottle of wine (partially opened), etc. all depending on how the fan is held and moved. The scarf likewise may be a book, a piece of paper, a wallet or tobacco pouch, etc. The posture of the teller and the way it is held identifies the characters in the story as perhaps a peasant, a samuri, ronin, fuedal lord, woman, etc. (Apprentices learn to handle the fan as if it were the real item.)

The article in the book is quite detailed (20 pages) and includes 24 pictures. I have thought it would be interesting to try and do a adventure tale using a fan and scarf as props in this manner, I have a fan from Pier One & hunted around the thrift stores for a blue and white scarf (alas I didn't find one). Perhaps you would like to explore this "angle" of telling."

Fran commented on this posting: "Barry Kent McWilliams' article is absolutely correct in describing the style used by some of the traditional categories of acknowledged capitol-P Professional tellers in Japan. The fan & scarf (actually it is often a cotton towel, similar to a tea towel but used for myriad purposes in Japan) are wonderfully used. The teller remains kneeling on his cushion, but may turn his shoulders to represent different characters in conversation with one another. Although the eyes remain downcast, I wouldn't say that the face is dead pan!!! At least not the Pros I've seen on Japanese television.This is only one category. There are reciters of memorized ancient sagas who use shamisen (stringed instrument) for sound effects and mood music; stand-up duos who do modern skits or things based on folklore; special categories for male or female blind tellers; etc."

20) The info you sent about the "tanuki", or Japanese badger, was the kind of information I was looking for. I had a feeling that badgers were not really the badger we commonly know. It was just a feeling.

21) Having identified the Badger as the Tanuki - all it took was quick trip to Google and here is some fascinating stuff...... Now this explains that Teakettle Stuff!
http://www.odanuki.com/Gallery/article.htm

22) I did a term last year as a storyteller-in-residence and as my year 7 group was studying Japan, I checked out some Japanese folktales. Here are some sites that may be of interest.
http://www.harapan.co.jp/english/JPImage_e/tanuki.htm
http://homepage2.nifty.com/p-sona/english/indexE.html
with music
Scroll down to "index" Click on "@chiba" on the sixth line for a version of the tanuki teakettle story. You will find many Japanese folktales here.

23) Here's the full text of "The Wonderful Teakettle" from the book Japanese Fairy Tales, retold by Teresa Peirce Williston, illustrated by Sanchi O Gawa, published by Rand McNally & Co., New York, 1904 (and therefore public domain). (The illustrations are fabulous!)

"THE WONDERFUL TEAKETTLE"
The old priest was very happy. He had found a new treasure. As he climbed the hill to the temple where he lived, he often stopped to pat his beautiful brass teakettle. When he reached the temple he called the three boys who were his pupils.
"See here!" he cried to them. "Just see the beautiful kettle I found in a litle shop I passed. I got it very cheap, too."
The boys admired it, but smiled a little to themselves, for they could not see what he wanted of an old brass kettle.
"Now you go on with your studies," said the priest. "I will hear you recite after a while." So the boys went into the next room, and the old priest sat down to admire his prize. He sat and looked at it so long that he grew sleepy, and nod, bob, went his head until in a moment he was fast asleep.
The boys in the next room studied very hard for a few minutes, but they were boys and no one was there to see to them, so you can imagine what they were doing by the time the priest was well asleep. Suddenly they heard a noise in the next room.
"There, the priest is awake," whispered one.
"Oh, dear! Now we'll have to behave," said the second.
The third one was more daring. He crept up and peeped through the screen, to see if it really was the priest. He was just in time to see the new teakettle give a spring into the air, turn a somersault, and come down a furry little badger with a sharp nose, bushy tail, and four little feet. How that badger did caper and dance! It danced on the floor. It danced on the table. It danced up the side of a screen.
"Oh, my! oh, my!" cried the boy, tumbling back. "It will dance on me next! Oh, my!"
"What are you talking about?" said the other two. "What will dance on you?"
"That goblin will dance on me. I know it will! It danced on the floor and it danced on the table and it danced on the screen, and now I know it is coming to dance on me!" said the boy.
"What do you mean?" said the others. "There is no goblin here." Then they, too, looked through the screen. There sat the kettle just as it had been before.
"You little silly!" cried one of the other boys. "Do you call that a goblin? That looks very much like a teakettle to my eyes."
"Hush!" said the third boy. "The priest is waking up. We had better get to work again."
The priest waked up and heard the busy lips of his pupils. "What good boys I have!" he thought. "Now while they are working I will just brew myself a cup of tea."
He lighted his little charcoal fire, filled his kettle with fresh water, and put it over the fire to heat. Suddenly the kettle gave a leap up into the air, spilling the hot water all over the floor. "Hot, hot! I am burning." it cried, and like a flash it was no longer a kettle, but a luttle furry badger with a sharp nose, bushy tail, and four little feet.
"Oh, help! Oh, help! Here is a goblin!" shrieked the priest. In rushed the three boys to see what was the matter. They saw no kettle at all, but in its place was a very angry badger prancing and sputtering about the room. They all took sticks and began to beat the badger, but it was again only a brass kettle that answered "Clang, clang!" to every blow. When the priest saw that he could gain nothing by beating the kettle he began to plan how he might get rid of it. Just then the tinker came by.
"That is my chance," thought the priest, so he called, "Tinker, tinker, come and see what I have for you. Here is an old kettle I found. It is no use to me, but you could mend it up and sell it." The tinker saw that it was a good kettle, so he bought it and took it home. He pressed it carefully into shape again, and mended all the broken placed. Once more it was a fine-looking kettle. That night the tinker awoke and found a badger looking at him with his small bright eyes.
"Now see here, Mr. Tinker," said the badger; "I think that you are a kind man, so I have something to tell you. I am really a wonderful teakettle, and can turn into a badger whenever I wish, as you see. I can do other things, too, more wonderful than that."
The kind-hearted tinker said: "Well, if you are a badger you must want something to eat. What can I get for you?"
"Oh, I like a little sugar now and then," replied the badger, "and I don't like to be set on the fire or beaten with sticks. But I am sure that you will never treat me that way. If you wish to take me around to the different villages, I can sing and dance on the tightrope for you." The tinker did this, and crowds came to see the wonderful kettle. Those who had seen it once came again, and those who had not seen it came to see why the people liked it so wall. At last the tinker became rich. Then he put his beloved teakettle in a little temple on the top of a hill, where it might always rest and have all the suger-plums it wanted.
•••••
Other stories in this book:
The Wood-Cutter's Sake
The Mirror of Matsuyama
The Eight-Headed Serpent
The Stolen Charm
Urashima
The Tongue-Cut Sparrow
Shippeitaro

Jackie B.
•••••

24) What I wanted to say was this. I know at least two Japanese stories about badgers who change into teapots or kettles and back again. In one the teapot comes to life as a badger and chases awy some naughty children. In the other an old kettle is sold to an man and it transforms into a badger when he puts it over the fire. The man and the badger go on to make a loving by showing off the badgers transformation.

25) Kokeshi dolls
http://www.woody-toys.com/

26) Here's a link to a newspaper article on an old Japanese style, FY all of your I's:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20051019f2.htm
Cris R. 10/22/05
•••••

27) Ojizo-san: A Japanese Fairy Tale
http://www.japanippon.com/fairytales/jizo.htm
Karen C. 12/4/06

RESPONSES:

a)
We tell this one, too. The hats are "kaza" and the rice cake is "mochi" we have some approaching sound effects that are a bit apprehensive and build the tension. The sixth jizo gets the old man's scarf so it is recognizable as they see the statues leaving.

The story was given to us by a Japanese woman who is a tour guide at the UN. She came with her boyfriend to a storytelling workshop we led at Pendle Hill two new years ago. She mimed placing the hats on the jizo using audience members. She worked it out so that the sixth was her boyfriend and he received a real scarf from her neck. It was really a sweet moment.
Tom and Sandy F. 12/5/06


b) The version I tell is from New Year's Hats for the Statues, found in The Sea Of Gold by Yoshiko Uchida (1965).
The old man takes his 5 reed hats and goes to the village to buy fish and rice for the New Year's Day celebration. but everyone in the village is too busy buying goodies for their own celebrations to buy any hats. The snow begins to fall, and back he goes up the hill to his home with his unsold hats. He comes across the six stone statues of Jizo, the guardian god of children. He brushes the snow off their heads and then decides to tie on the hats, using his own for the sixth Jizo.
His wife approves of what he did when she hears his story. They have hot tea and so to bed. They are awakened by men voices singing. The couple looks out their window and see the six Jizo, still behatted, each dragging a sack which is left by the door. The door opens, sacks tumble in full of rice and wheat, fish and beans, wine and bean paste cakes, etc.
"Ojisama, thank you!" they shout as the six move slowly back down the road into the whiteness, leaving only their footprints to show they had been there at all.
Audrey K. 12/6/06


28) Folktales from the Japanese Countryside (World Folklore Series) by Hiroko Fujita and Fran Stallings. (2007)
This volume, really a collaboration of four experts, contains an excellent collection of authentic tales, color photos, interesting drawings, and background information. Along with its companions, this volume is an excellent source for "tellable" tales when authentic cultural perspectives are needed....Bottom line: Highly recommended for both elementary and secondary library collections.

So often when I pick up a book of folktales from a specific geographic location I discover I already have many of the tales in other collections. Looking through the tales in this book I found only one tale I already had, and that one was a distinct variation. Given I possess twelve folktale collections from Japan in my library this was a delightful change.

A lovely, hardbound edition that contains more than the stories: it has a brief history of Japan and a discussion of storytelling in Japan, and it also includes recipes (including ones for Mochi and Botamochi), games, and crafts, and notes on each story in the book. This book is a wonderful resource that will enrich the repertoire of any storyteller as well as providing information for scholars of Japanese folk traditions. Parents and grandparents will find wonderful short stories to learn and tell to their children. This book is a bargain at $40. The binding and paper is very high quality, and the contents are priceless! Storytell

Book Description
As in many countries, storytelling is a revered art in Japan, and traditional tales have been carefully preserved for centuries. Yet only a small portion of Japan's tales has been shared with English-speaking audiences. From one of Japan's most popular and respected storytellers, this collection introduces readers to more than 40 wondrous tales from rural Japan--stories that have not previously been seen or heard--from animal tales and tales of supernatural beings to stories about village characters and priests and their apprentices. These are tales from the Japanese countryside, representative of the country's rich folklore, and preserved and retold by a "ohanashi obaasan" (storytelling granny). You'll find such stories as "Sky Watcher," "Mouse Teeth," "Owl's Paintshop," "Radish Bath," and "Snow Woman's Baby." Tales are organized into broad thematic categories-animal tales, stories of village people, priests and their apprentices, strange happenings, yamanbas, and supernatural tales. It's a fascinating assortment that will delight young listeners, intrigue older readers, and offer scholars new insights. Background on the country and Japanese culture, notes on the tales, a glossary, recipes, games and crafts, and color photos and illustrations enhance the collection. All levels.

Stories To Play With by Hiroko Fujita. (1999)
For storytellers who are just starting out, it seems appropriate to begin telling to young children. Yet young children present the most difficult audience a storyteller can face. So where does one begin? Simple. With some old newspaper and the story Rain Hat or Mountain Climbing, children will be enthralled at the action of the young hero as you fold and tear and create mountains, hats, fans, and boats right before their very eyes. Or, take a milk carton and make a frog puppet to tell the story ....

29) One of my favorite stories is one I call "The Boy Who Had Nothing," a Japanese story that I learned from my brother who learned it from his ex-wife, Motoko, an accomplished storyteller and mime who lives in western Massachusetts.

It is a story of a poor boy (or man) who dreams that the goddess Kannon says to him "the first thing your hands touch." The first things he touches on awakening are a piece of straw and an insect. He gives (or trades) them progressively for some tangerines, a bolt of silk, and a horse, ultimately leading to a dramatic change in his fortune.

There is a version of it in The Dancing Kettle by Yoshiko Uchida, called something like "A Piece of Straw" or "A Blade of Grass."
Vicky D. 7/15/09

30)
Japanese Children's Favorite Stories Book One by Florence Sakade, Yoshisuke Kurosaki
Delightful collection of Japanese tales including – "Momotaro the Peach Boy," "Long-Nosed Goblins," "The Magic Teakettle," "Mr. Lucky Straw," "Toothpick Warriors," "Little One-Inch" and "The Green Devil." Twenty enchanting stories with colorful illustrations, in a charming folk art style. (Chapter book).
Gail F. 7/17/09


MORE BOOKS FOR CHILDREN ABOUT JAPAN AND JAPANESE CULTURE

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki with Dom Lee (illus). (1993 - Ages 4-8)
These collaborators' prepossessing debut book introduces readers to a significant and often-neglected--for children, at any rate--chapter in U.S. history: the internment of Japanese-Americans during WW II. The nameless narrator and his family inhabit a camp in the parched American desert, where life becomes a bit more bearable after the internees build a baseball field, and the boy gains self-worth by hitting a championship home run. Although Mochizuki's stylish prose evocatively details the harsh injustice of the camps, some may feel the book suffers from uneven pacing. An introduction and much of the text are spent on background, leaving little time devoted to the actual camp regimen. In addition, the ending, in which the hero returns to school after the war and is again saved from prejudice by baseball, seems tacked on. Lee's stirring illustrations were inspired by Ansel Adams's photographs of the Manzanar internment camp. In the muted browns, sepias and golds of the desert, the artist movingly conveys the bleakness of camp life, with its cramped quarters, swirling dust storms and armed guards. The baseball scenes' motion and excitement lend effective contrast; the final illustration stands in particularly moving counterpoint to the earlier rigors. Ages 4-up. - Publishers Weekly

Brave Story by Miyuki Myabe. (2007 - Young Adult)
Young Wataru Mitani’s life is a mess. His father has abandoned him and his mother has been hospitalized after a suicide attempt. Desperately he searches for some way to change his life—a way to alter his fate. To achieve his goal, he must navigate the magical world of Vision, a land filled with creatures both fierce and friendly. And to complicate matters, he must outwit a merciless rival from the real world. Wataru’s ultimate destination is the Tower of Destiny where a goddess of fate awaits. Only when he has finished his journey and collected five elusive gemstones will he possess the Demon’s Bane—the key that will unlock his future. Charity, bravery, faith, grace and the power of darkness and light: these are the provinces of each gemstone. Brought together, they have the immeasurable power to bring Wataru’s family back together again.

Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment by (1983 - Ages 9-12)
Jeanne Wakatsuki was seven years old in 1942 when her family was uprooted from their home and sent to live at Manzanar internment camp--with 10,000 other Japanese Americans. Along with searchlight towers and armed guards, Manzanar ludicrously featured cheerleaders, Boy Scouts, sock hops, baton twirling lessons and a dance band called the Jive Bombers who would play any popular song except the nation's #1 hit: "Don't Fence Me In."

Farewell to Manzanar is the true story of one spirited Japanese-American family's attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention . . . and of a native-born American child who discovered what it was like to grow up behind barbed wire in the United States.

Ghostly Tales of Japan by Rafe Martin. (1989)
This 1990 Parents' Choice Gold Award winner and American Library Association 1992 Best of the Best for Children contains favorites that Rafe has been telling for years. "The Boy Who Drew Cats" emphasizes the saving power of faith in one's own creativity; "Urashima Taro" is a well-known tale in Japan (in the Catskill mountains he would be Rip Van Winkle); "Ho-Ichi the Earless" shows we have the power within to triumph over whatever evil we may face; and "Kogi" is an original story based on an old tale of a Buddhist priest-painter who dreams he becomes a fish.

Grandfather's Journey (Caldecott Medal Book) by Allen Say. (1993 - Ages 4-8)
Home becomes elusive in this story about immigration and acculturation, pieced together through old pictures and salvaged family tales. Both the narrator and his grandfather long to return to Japan, but when they do, they feel anonymous and confused: "The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other." Allen Say's prose is succinct and controlled, to the effect of surprise when monumental events are scaled down to a few words: "The young woman fell in love, married, and sometime later I was born." The book also has large, formal paintings in delicate, faded colors that portray a cherished and well-preserved family album. The book, for audiences ages 4 to 8, won the 1994 Caldecott Medal.

Japanese Children's Favorite Stories by Florence Sakade and Yoshisuke Jurosake. (2005 - Ages 4-8)
Playful goblins with long noses, magic tea kettles, and a delightfully brave hero who just happens to be one inch tall-these are some of the wonderful characters you'll meet in this collection of the 20 best-loved Japanese children's stories. Drawn from folklore and passed down for generations, these classic tales speak of the virtues of hard work, humility, kindness, and good humor. "Once upon a time..." has never sounded so inviting.

Journey To Topaz: A Story Of The Japanese-American Evacuation by Yoshiko Uchida with Donald Carrick (illus). (2004 - Ages 9-12)
After the Pearl Harbor attack an eleven-year-old Japanese-American girl and her family are forced to go to an aliens camp in Utah.

Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo. (2004 - Ages 9-12)
When Michael's father loses his job, he buys a boat and convinces Michael and his mother to sail around the world. It's an ideal trip - even Michael's sheepdog can come along. It starts out as the perfect family adventure - until Michael is swept overboard. He's washed up on an island, where he struggles to survive. Then he discovers that he's not alone. His fellow-castaway, Kensuke, is wary of him. But when Michael's life is threatened, Kensuke slowly lets the boy into his world. The two develop a close understanding in this remote place, but the question of rescue continues to divide them.

Manga Bible Story-japanese: Comic Book Style Bible by Noboru Yamaguchi with Masakazu Higuchi (illus). (2005)
The story of the Bible from Genesis to Pauls letters in exciting comic book style (manga) stories for children, youth and adults. Pronunciation marks. Japanesestyle manga B&W illustrations. Ideal for host families of Japanese foreign exchange students and homestay guests.

Myths and Legends of Japan by F. Hadland Davis. (1992)
This handsomely illustrated book includes myths of gods, heroes, warriors; legends of Buddha, Benten and Daikoku; tales of the sea and of Mount Fuji; accounts of superstitions; and much more. 32 full-page illustrations offer compelling images of Buddha and the Dragon, The Firefly Battle, and other subjects of these myths.

Pearl Harbor Is Burning!: A Story of World War II (Once Upon America) by Kathleen V. Kudlinski. (1993 - Ages 9-12)
In a brief historical episode, two fifth-graders (one of them a Japanese-American) witness the bombing of Pearl Harbor and its immediate aftermath. Though unhappy in his new Hawaiian home, Frank makes an instant friend in Kenji Imoto, the landlord's son; the two talk baseball, and, after watching the attack, Frank is invited to spend the night in the Imotos' traditional household. Plot and character take a backseat here to expressions of racial tension: Frank is hazed by schoolmates as a ``haoli'' (white); he encounters anti-Asian prejudice in his mother; he's disoriented by the Imotos' social customs and sees them arguing about whether to conceal their heritage. Frank also reflects very little on his experiences, with the spare narrative virtually free of background or analysis; the author does mention in an afterword that internment camps appeared on the mainland but not in Hawaii, where suspicion seldom reached as high a pitch. A good springboard for thought and discussion of perennial, increasingly visible issues. Himler provides several full-page soft pencil drawings. (Fiction. 10-13) - Kirkus

Under One Flag by Liz Parkhurst. (2005 - Ages 9-12 - August House)
The landscape of the Arkansas Delta changed dramatically early in the course of World War II, when more than 8,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry were forcibly detained in two hastily constructed prison camps. The chain of events surrounding this episode in U.S. history is revealed through the friendship between, Jeff, a local boy whose father is a camp administrator, and George, a Japanese American boy imprisoned in the camp.


"Momotaro the Peach Boy": A Japanese Fairy Tale.
Check these out:
http://www.pref.okayama.jp/kikaku/kokusai/momo/e/momotarou/momotarou.html (The Legend of Momotaro)
http://www.pantheon.org/articles/m/momotaro.html (encyclopedia)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momotaro (Wikipedia)
http://japanese.about.com/blhiraculture35.htm (lesson in Japanese writing)
http://fairytales4u.com/story/momotaro.htm (full text)
http://www.ndl.go.jp/en/publication/ndl_newsletter/109/0941.html (collection with fabulous illustrations)
http://www.darsie.net/talesofwonder/japan/Momotaro.html (Momotaro, or the Story of the Son of a Peach)
http://famous.adoption.com/famous/momotaro.html (synopsis)

Books:
Peach Boy and Other Japanese Children's Favorite Stories by Florence Sakade.
The Adventure of Momotaro, the Peach Boy (Kodansha Bilingual Children's Classics) by Ralph F. McCarthy, Ioe Saito.
PEACH BOY (Bank Street Level 3*) by William H. Hooks.
Momotaro the Peach Boy by Blackwell North America.
Momotaro, the Peach Boy by Ayako Obara, Fujio Umeda.
Momotaro the Peach Boy (Kodansha Nihongo Folktales, Vol 1) by Hiroko C. Quackenbush, Yasuji Mori, Kazue Ito.
Jackie B.

Created 2005; last update 7/22/09

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