The Unbeloved — Hiruko and Awashima

Hiruko 蛭子 In the Kojiki, Hiruko is the first kami born to Izanami and Izanagi. The first character in her name means "leech" and most scholars speculate that she was not fully formed. In the Nihon Shoki, Hiruko is born second and the passage reads, "First was Awaji Island, next Hiruko was born. But Hiruko… Continue reading The Unbeloved — Hiruko and Awashima


Izanami & Izanagi — The Birth of Japan

Text translated from 古事記 現代語訳 武田祐吉 Kojiki Modern Translation by Yukichi Takeda (circa 1940, public domain). Creation of the Islands The kami of the heavens charged Izanagi and Izanami with the task of hardening the floating masses and settling them into place by using a splendid hoko (a kind of spear -- the image to the left… Continue reading Izanami & Izanagi — The Birth of Japan


Horafuki Challenge (ほらくらべ)

The story below was translated from this website and features the Tsugaru region. But a similar horafuki story featuring the Tohoku region was collected by the Japanese folklorist Toshio Ozawa. If you search "ほらくらべ" you can find a few more versions. The differences are largely regional, but also differ in character gender and the number… Continue reading Horafuki Challenge (ほらくらべ)


Poison mizuame candy (水飴の毒)

This is a popular story in Japan and can easily be found online in a variety of forms by searching the title (水飴の毒) or 一休ばなし (Ikkyū banashi). The smart apprentice in these kinds of stories is generally named Ikkyū, and you can find several master vs. apprentice type verbal gags by searching 一休ばなし. Once upon… Continue reading Poison mizuame candy (水飴の毒)


Sweet red beans (和尚さんのお代わり)

The English version below is based on the popular Japanese tale 和尚さんのお代わり, similar versions about amazake (a sweet, rice wine) or other foods are also told. Long ago there lived a young apprentice and a stingy master in a Buddhist temple. One day the master asked the apprentice to make some boiled sweet red beans… Continue reading Sweet red beans (和尚さんのお代わり)

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Tama River Folktales

I 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… Continue reading Tama River Folktales


The Three Tragedies of Tama River

These three stories are all from the Warring States Period in Japanese history, 1467 - 1573 CE. A name that pops up in all 3 of the stories is Hojo. The Hojo clan were the most powerful clan in the Kanto region until they were unseated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. And...I have totally been wondering about… Continue reading The Three Tragedies of Tama River