Japanese folktales are heavily influenced by Chinese culture and collective norms of the isolated Japanese islands. The Short stories and folk tales always try to teach the importance of patience, honesty and hard work. The stories usually include
1- Old grandpa and grandma who don’t have any children
2- A strong little boy
3- A beautiful little girl who grows up to be a princess
4- Devil (Oni)
5- Samurai. Samurais usually cooperate with the hero of the story.
7- An animal that turns out to be a human or a creature with supernatural powers.
Here are the most famous short Japanese folk tales and stories:
Momotarou ももたろう: Momotaro means peach boy. It’s the story of a little boy who emerged from a little peach found by an old lady in the river.The story goes like this
The old woman went to the river side to wash clothes. She then found a delicious peach. She also wanted to take one home for her husband. She yelled “sweet peach come by, bitter peach go away.” Suddenly a peach just appeared next to the woman and the woman took it to her house. When she tried to cut the peach in half, one boy just came out and they called the boy Momotaro (the peach boy). Momotaro grew so fast and became huge. He helped the old couple with house chores. But there were devils bothering the villagers and Momotaro decided to fight against the devils on the devils’ island. He told the old woman, “if you make special dumplings for me, i can beat the devils.” The woman made special dumplings that can give a human being the power of 100 people. Momoator also took some dumplings with him and on the way another fighter, a dog and a monkey joined him because Momotaro gave him dumplings. When they arrived in the island, they cooperated to beat a huge devil. The dog bit the devils leg, the monkey scratched the devils head. Together they beat all the devils. The devils promised that they were not going to any bad things again. Momotaro (the peach boy) and his friends loaded the treasure and got beck to the village. Momotaro distributed the treasure equally among the villagers. Momotaro was Japan’s best…
One day an old bamboo cutter found a beautiful baby girl in a bamboo plant. He took her home and took vary good care of her. When she grew up to be a gorgeous young woman, the emperor of Japan saw her and fell in love with her. Kaguya Hime eventually tells the bamboo cutter that she actually came from the moon and that she doesn’t belong to this world. Kaguya Hime returns to the moon with the help from moon people.
Other Japanese stories
Shitakiri suzume したきりすずめ Tongue-cut Sparrow (also known as Sparrow’s Inn)
This is a story about an old couple: one modest and humble man and a greedy woman.
The story goes like this
One day an old wood cutter found a little sparrow crying for help in the woods. he took it home and started feeding it with left overs. His wife, who disliked animals and birds, was angry at him as he was spending time taking care of the bird which she thought was a waste of time. She also one day saw that the sparrow ate all the starch they had. She was so angry and just went ahead and cut the tongue of the bird. After his husband came back, he realized that the sparrow just flew away.
The old man went to the forest to search for the sparrow and finally found the sparrow in “the sparrow’s inn” with the help from other birds. The sparrows offered him a gift and asked to choose between one small basket and one big basket. By thinking about other people in need, he chose the small basket and when he got back home he noticed that the basked was filled with treasure. His greedy wife also went to the sparrow’s inn and asked for a gift. She definitely wanted the big basked and the sparrows accepted her wish but warned her that she should not open the basked before she gets home. As a greedy person she opened the basked right after she left the inn but it was too late. The basket was filled with snakes and poisonous bugs. She ended up falling off the cliffs while trying to run away from the snakes. The old man was awarded because of his modesty and the old woman was punished because of her ill behavior.
The short story of Issunboushi いっすんぼうし
Issunboushi いっすんぼうし the 1 inch boy (also known as the little one inch) is the story of a tiny sized boy fighting against a devil and becoming a full-sized prince.
The story goes like this
Once upon a time there was an old couple who really wanted to have a child. Since they were old this was a bit difficult for them but they kept praying for a baby. One day their wish came true and the old woman gave birth to a small boy. The boy was so small people had hard time seeing him, he was actually as small as the old man’s thumb, they called him issunboushi (Issunboushi いっすんぼうし).
Issuboushi wanted to be a samurai and one day left his home with a needle (his sword), a bowl (his sandal) and 2 chopsticks (his paddles). He was soon discovered by the forces of the local governor and assigned as the guard of the princess. Shortly after, he and the princess were attacked by an Oni (鬼, devil) and the devil swallowed Issunboushi. He managed the jabbed the needle into the devils body from the inside and this was when the devil puked him out . The devil then ran away by leaving the magical hammer behind. The princess used the magical hammer (Uchidenokozuchi打ち出の小槌) to make him a normal size prince.Issunboshi and the princess got married and lived happily after…
The short story of Kintarou きんたろう。 Kintarou means golden boy. It is the story of a little boy who wore nothing a small bib that said Gold (きん、金）on it. He was left in the Mount Ashigara by a witch named Yama-Uba. He was a very strong boy since early childhood.
After he grew up, he got the name Kintoki and was chosen as the personal guard of Yorimitsu Samurai in Kyoto. Kintoki mastered martial arts and became one of the most famous fighters in the region.
The short story of Urashima Tarou
Urashima taro is the story of a fisherman who saves the life a sea turtle. A few days later he is approached by a giant sea turtle in the sea who tells him that the turtle he saved was actually the daughter of the Sea King and the king wants to thank him in his palace under the deep sea called Ryugu-Jo.
He meets with the king and his beautiful daughter (who was the turtle he saved). Urashima is so much impressed with the palace but wants to go back to his village after 3 days as he is concerned about his mom. The princes (otohime) gives him a box as a gift but tells him not to open it ever. Once, Urashima Taro is back in his village he notices that 300 years past and everything has changed. Without knowing what to do he ends up opening the box but suddenly he feels so old, wrinkles appear on his face and his beard grows for meters. The princess appears and says, you shouldn’t have opened the box; your old age was in the box… Urashima taro story teaches children the importance of being patient.
The short story of Flower Planting Grandpa
Setsubun no oni
The story of “monkey and crab”
Click Click Hill
Returning the favor of the Crane
The rolling rice cakes
The flying farmer