The Story of Momotarō

Okayama City in the Chūgoku region is renowned for its white peaches and the folklore hero Momotarō (桃太郎), the Peach Boy. Several films, books, animated shows, and other media have featured the legendary hero. Each year on the 5th of May, the Momotarō Festival is held in the Momotarō Shrine in Inuyama, Japan. He is a much loved character who exemplifies bravery and honesty.

The story goes . . .

There was once an old man and his wife who lived in a small village. One day, the wife saw a gigantic peach floating down the river. She took the peach and brought it home with her. As the husband and wife were about to cut into the peach to eat it, a small boy emerged from the fruit. The childless couple were overjoyed to see the boy, named him Momotarō, and decided to raise him as their own.

MomotarōIllustration from Momotaro, of Little Peachling, published in 1885. grew up as the village strong man. When he heard that some oni (demons) in Onigashima island were tormenting the villages, Momotarō decided to get rid of them. His parents worried because the oni was described as human-like, very strong, with thick red skin, sharp teeth and claws, horns, and a kanabo—a club with which it could inflict great harm.

Illustration from Momotaro, of Little Peachling, published in 1885.

Still, Momotarō asked his parents to let him fight the oni and free the helpless villagers from this monstrosity. His parents finally relented. Momotarō’s mother made him some Japanese dumplings from millet flour (kibidango).

On his way to fight the oni, Momotarō came across a dog who asked him what he was carrying. Momotarō told the dog he was on his way to Onigashima and he was carrying the most delicious kibidango in all of Japan. On hearing this, the dog went with Momotarō to help him fight the oni in exchange for some kibidango. Further along, Momotarō encountered a pheasant and a monkey who also agreed to help him fight the oni for some kibidango.

The determined foursome grew strong upon eating the superb kibidango and easily defeated the oni, who promised never to attack the villagers again. Momotarō gave all the oni’s stolen treasures back to the villagers. The people were so grateful to Momotarō and his companions that they named their main street after him. The people of Okayama also erected statues of Momotarō and his faithful companions to remind future generations of their great deed.

More classic Japanese folktales.