Japanese Fairy Tales

by Yei Theodora Ozaki

Japanese Fairy Tales

This is a collection of Japanese fairy tales translated by Yei Theodora Ozaki based on a version written in Japanese by Sadanami Sanjin. According to Ozaki, "These stories are not literal translations, and though the Japanese story and all quaint Japanese expressions have been faithfully preserved, they have been told more with the view to interest young readers of the West than the technical student of folk-lore." Ozaki freely added to and changed the original stories for color and background. 

Source: Ozaki, Y.T. (1908). Japanese Fairy Tales. New York: A.L.Burt Company.

The Adventures of Kintaro, the Golden Boy
The heroic adventures of Kintaro.
The Bamboo-Cutter and the Moon-Child
A bamboo cutter finds a small, luminescent girl, and raises her as Princess Moonlight. She refuses all suitors, befriends the Emperor, and eventually returns to her rightful home, the Moon.
The Farmer and the Badger
A badger kills a farmer’s wife, and the farmer asks a rabbit to get revenge for him.
The Goblin of Adachigahara
A priest looks for lodging in the night and is given shelter by an old woman. She goes to gather more wood, and she tells him not to look in the back room. Curiosity gets the better of him, and he looks in the room and sees horrible things. He realizes she is the Goblin of Adachigahara, and flees. She chases him through the night, but he prays to Buddha and keeps running. Morning dawns, making the goblin disappear, and the priest is safe.
The Happy Hunter and the Skillful Fisher
The brothers The Happy Hunter and The Skillful Fisherman change occupational places one day. The Hunter does not know how to fish, and loses his brother’s hook. The Skillful Fisherman is very angry and demands his hook back. The Hunter searches and searches to no avail, until an old man appears and tells him to travel to the Sea King’s realm to find the hook. He does so, and finds the hook and makes many new friends. He stays in the Sea King’s realm for three years, and then he returns to land. He gives the hook to his brother, and the brother is angry that he no longer has an excuse to steal his brother’s wealth and title. The Skillful Fisherman then plots to kill his brother, but the Happy Hunter thwarts his plan by using talismans given to him by the Sea King. The Skillful Fisherman is thus impressed by his brother’s power and vows to be obedient to him from then on.
The Jelly Fish and the Monkey
The jelly fish, who originally had a shell and four legs, fails in a mission for the Dragon King of the Sea. As punishment his bones are removed, and he is beaten into a pulp. Thus the modern jelly fish was created.
The Mirror of Matsuyama
A husband gives his wife a mirror, and when she is on her deathbed, she gives it to her daughter. The daughter thinks she sees her mother’s soul in it and spends much time staring into it after her father remarries. The stepmother begins resenting the daughter’s relationship with her father and starts to hate her; she thinks the daughter is doing black magic to curse her, and she tells the father of it. The father confronts the daughter, and he finally realizes that the daughter is innocent and is simply still brokenhearted over her mother’s death. The stepmother is moved by the daughter’s story to renounce her hate, and the father, stepmother, and daughter finally become a happy family.
Momotaro, or the Story of the Son of a Peach
An old woman finds a large peach in a river, and when she and her husband cut it open to eat it, they find a child inside. They are overjoyed to now have a son to ease their lonely days. When the boy is fifteen, he goes off to rid the land of devils who live on an island, and takes a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant with him. He is victorious over the devils and returns home to live happily with his parents.
My Lord Bag of Rice
A Japanese warrior defends the Dragon King by killing his enemy, the monster centipede. In gratitude the Dragon King gives the warrior several presents, including a bag of rice that never runs out, and he comes to be known as My Lord Bag of Rice.
The Ogre of Rashomon
A brave warrior fights an ogre, cutting off his arm. The ogre runs away, and the warrior keeps the arm as a prize. Later, the warrior’s old nurse appears at his door and pleads to see the arm. He lets her, and she grabs it, turning into the ogre. The ogre thus gets away with his arm, and is scared enough of the warrior that he never troubles the city again.
The Quarrel of the Monkey and the Crab
The monkey and the crab were playing along the river. The monkey finds a persimmon seed and the crab a rice dumpling; the monkey convinces the crab to exchange the items. The crab grows a tree from the seed, and asks the monkey to help him pick the fruit. The monkey is greedy, and eats all the fruit and then throws hard seeds at the crab, killing him. The crab’s son plans revenge on the monkey, eventually killing him.
The Sagacious Monkey and the Boar
An old monkey is to be sent to the butcher by his master, since his age has caused him to stop performing as well as he used to. The monkey overhears this plan and goes to a boar for advice. The boar comes up with a plan: The boar will steal the couple’s child, and the monkey will run after him and rescue the child, thus earning the family’s love and respect for the rest of his days. The plan works.
The Shinansha, or the South Pointing Carriage
How the Emperor Kotei invented many useful things, defeated his enemy, and went to Heaven on the back of a Dragon.
The Stones of Five Colors and the Empress Jokwa
A Chinese Empress quells an uprising and then has to mend the heavens and the pillars that hold up the sky.
The Story of Prince Yamato Take
A story of how Prince Take got his name and many of his daring deeds.
The Story of Princess Hase
How Princess Hase was conceived and lived her good life.
The Story of the Man Who Did Not Wish to Die
How Sentaro was taught not to covet unending life.
The Story of the Old Man Who Made Withered Trees to Flower
A childless couple love their dog very dearly, and the dog finds gold coins buried under their tree. The old man is grateful and loves his dog even more. The man has a very jealous and hateful neighbor, who tries to copy his neighbor’s luck by borrowing the dog and making him dig. The hateful man finds only garbage, and kills the dog in rage. The good man asks for the tree in remembrance of his dog, and the tree’s wood is made into a mortar that produces unending food. The jealous neighbor asks to borrow it and destroys it when it won’t also give him food. More events continue until the good man is eventually given riches by a lord for his kindness to him, and when the hateful man tries to copy the kindness, he is arrested as an imposter and jailed forever, thus finally being punished for his crimes.
The Story of Urashima Taro, the Fisher Lad
How disobedience ruined the life of Urashima Taro.
The Tongue-Cut Sparrow
A fairy sparrow teaches a cross old woman a lesson.
The White Hare and the Crocodiles
A hare deceives many crocodiles, then mocks them, and the crocodiles pull out all of his fur in retaliation. The hare is suffering, and a fairy man comes along and tells him to bathe in the sea and lie in the sun to recover his fur, but the man was spiteful and his advice only increases the hare’s pain. A kind fairy man comes by and listens to the hare’s sad story, telling him his pain is the consequence of his behavior to the crocodiles. The hare agrees and repents, and the kind man tells him how to heal his wounds and regrow his fur. The hare correctly predicts that the princess the other men were off seeking would deny them and instead choose the kind man for her husband.
  • Year Published: 1908
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 7.4
  • Word Count: 66,255
  • Genre: Fairy Tale/Folk Tale
  • Keywords: adventure, hero, warrior
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