Stories about Taro (Japanese folk stories)
In this issue of ACCESS, I would like to introduce you to a few of the most famous folk stories in Japan. Many of the major folk stories in Japan contain a character named –taro. Taro means boy and many Japanese boys used to be named –taro.
Our first Taro is Momotaro； momo means peach so Peach-boy! Momotaro’s story starts off by an old woman washing their clothes in a river. Down the river comes a big peach which the old woman takes home to show her husband. They cut it open and out pops a boy! He grows up and goes on a journey with several animals he befriends (dog, monkey, pheasant) by feeding them millet dumplings. He fights a band of oni and wins at the end.
The second Taro is Urashimataro. This folk tale is about a fisherman called Urashimataro who is living an ordinary life until he saves a turtle that is being picked on by children. The turtle takes him to a kingdom in the sea to show his appreciation where Urashimataro meets a princess called Otohime. He decides to go back to his village after a few days, and when he left, Otohime gives him a tamatebako, or a treasure box that should never be opened. Urashimataro comes home but his village has completely changed, and it seems that he had been away for hundreds of years. He opens the tamatebako that Otohime told him not to open, and finds himself in smoke and turns into an old man.
The third and last Taro story is about a boy named Kintaro. Kintaro wore a red bib with the kanji for gold on it (he was born through lightning) and was a very strong boy who carried an ax and played sumo with bears. There are various tales of Kintaro, but the only concrete details about him are as written above.
These are only three of many Japanese folktales, which you can discover online or at a library!