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Tama River Folktales

IMG_1138I took my cousin to the library the other day when she came to visit (because I know a good time) and stumbled on this book: Tama River Folktales by Sakuhira Ishii, Arimine Shoten Publishing, 1976.

I couldn’t find the copyright notice in the book, but to err on the side of caution, let us assume it is copyrighted. Ergo, I could only summarize the stories I couldn’t find other sources for. If you are an author etc… who would like to use the works, please contact Arimine Shoten Publishing (有峰書店新社) who incidentally, just published a book entirely composed of photos of hamster butts. So we know they’re serious about literature.

Anyways, back to the book, it’s about 200 pages of local tales from Meiji Era (maybe 1 or 2 are older).  For the most part I’ve summarized the stories in little blips below for future reference. But I also wrote some longer plot summaries in separate posts for a few of the stories.
I have also included Ishii’s map first below, but he reversed north-south (Tokyo bay is in the upper left).

Tama Kawa Ishii Map

(1) Kusuke the Kappa

(2) The Tale of the Tama River Owls

An elderly man was irritated by the hoots of the owls at night. So he caught them and put paper with bird lime (glue traps) on their mouths. Although this indeed silenced the birds, they also could not eat anything. Benten-sama (Benzaiten) took  pity on the owls and removed the bird lime. She caused the man to have a nightmare in which he has bird lime on his mouth which spread to cover his face and eventually his entire body. A monster with 30 eyes watched him and laughed when he begged for help. Suddenly, he could hear the flutes and drums of festival music. The man’s body began to dance involuntarily, but he kept falling down due to the bird lime. Benten-sama appeared and told the man that the music he could hear was the owls’ true beautiful voices that he could not understand before.  The old man awoke from the dream and was relieved that it was not true. However, the villagers say the old man continues to dance alone in the forest in the middle of the night.

(3) The Tale of the Tama River Pacific Redfin (マルタ)

A man named Marukin used to run an eatery but he liked to go fishing as a hobby. Every day he lowered a huge net suspended between two bamboo poles into the river and after a while, he pulled it up filled with fish. But one day Marukin could not get any fish in his net. A small carp swam up to his boat and asked him what he does with the fish he catches every day. He explained that he sells them for money. Just then, a monstrously large Pacific Redfin appeared and told Marukin that the fish of Tama River had decided not to be caught in his ridiculously large net anymore. Marukin became angry and tried to catch the Pacific Redfin. The fish taunted him and Marukin chased him further and further downstream. Before he knew it, Marukin was so far down river he was nearing Haneda. A storm rose up and Marukin’s net was destroyed. His boat began to fill with water. Marukin became exhausted trying to bail out the water and passed out. When he awoke, his boat had landed on the shore near Anamori Inari Shrine. Marukin vowed to never over fish the river again, and devoted himself to protecting the fish of Tama River.

(4) The Tale of the Tama River GiantsDaidarabocchi_1

This story is less a narrative, and more a story about the creation of the areas in the Kanto region of Japan (East Japan). Evidently, there are many local stories about a giant/race of giants named Dedarabo (でえだらぼう) or Daidarabocchi (だいだらぼっち).  At night, one of them used Mt. Fuji as a pillow, he rested his body on the forest of Mt. Tanizawa and his feet in the Kanto Plain (so this giant is roughly 200 km laying down). Due to the thrashing of his feet, Mt. Akagi and Mt. Tsukuba were knocked to opposite sides of the region.

In some stories there are many many such giants, but in others there are only 4 (one for each direction). They did sumo wrestling which created the Gobi Desert. It seems there are many such stories, and the name Daita Mura in Setagaya supposedly comes from Daidarabocchi. There’s a particularly long story in the book about a giant that dies and his corpse lands in two villages. They have a fight about who has to clean it up and it starts rotting. They eventually dismember it and send it down the Tama River to Tokyo Bay 😀

(5) The Tama River Foxes

(6) The Tama River Eel

A young boy caught an eel to feed to his sick mother. The eel suddenly spoke and told him that his mother was sick because she had been overworked by a cruel man. The boy took the eel to the cruel man’s house. The man tried to kill the eel but it escaped. The man reflected on the eel’s words and decided it may be a messenger from the kami. So he told the boy his mother’s sickness may be his fault and that he would help take care of her until she got well again.

(7) The Tama River Dragon

Many fishermen used to live at the Tama River mouth where it flows into Tokyo Bay (Anamori Inari in Haneda). This was a peaceful village but one day a strange child was born into it. One winter’s day the child began crying and said all the fishermen leaving that day would never return. No one believed the child, but the fishermen’s boat capsized and they all drowned. The child made several such predictions, and eventually the fishermen came to view the child as a kind of seer. They checked the child’s mood each day to predict the weather on the following day. One day, the child became sick and the fishermen worried that something horrible would happen such as a tsunami or a tornado. As the child’s condition did not improve, they began to become violent with each other and the town became a nest of evil. A monk heard about the evil and came to the town to exorcise the child. On the dawn of the second day of the exorcism ceremony, the sky turned bright red and a fire-breathing dragon was seen flying up into the sky. The child recovered and the town was peaceful again.

(8) The Wit of Kichibe of Tama River

This is a silly story about a man named Kichibe who is witty and gets hired by the local lord as a kind of jester to tell funny stories. One day the local lord becomes ill. All the local people come to visit the lord and wish him health. But due to the constant visits he can’t sleep. So Kichibe suggests they change clothes and change places. They do so and it goes well, but eventually Kichibe gets bored. So he tricks everyone into bringing him his favorite bean cakes (manju). Word eventually gets to the local lord that “he” is demanding bean cakes from everyone. So he goes to his home to find Kichibe stuffing his face. When he asks what he thinks he is doing, Kichibe replies that he has found what causes his lord’s sickness. It is the demons in these evil bean cakes. And he is destroying each one. The lord laughs so loudly that his illness is cured. めだたしめだたし^^

(9) Sentimental Tales from Tama River

(10) Tales from an Elderly Woman from Ome

(11) The Three Tragedies of Tama River


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