Food and Folklore
Food and folklore go hand in hand throughout the ages. In Japan especially, the synchronicity between form and substance achieves its own unique balance in the way the look and the taste of the food is intermingled.

This tradition goes way back into Japanese culture. 
Of even greater interest is the way food, flowers, and gardens flit and play within the traditional tales that we all know as classic folklore. We give below a sample of these tales from Japan, as well as, in later editions, from elsewhere in Asia and beyond. 


The Peach Boy

This is a story about a Japanese fisherman who always wanted to have a son. This fisherman would go out to the ocean to fish every morning, and he would always pray that he would like to have a son. His wife treated the fisherman very badly because she could not give him a son, and he would always talk about how he wished to have a son.

Then one morning while the fisherman was fishing there was a big black cloud that covered the sky, and the sea. The fisherman begin to get very scared because he could not see the land, and he was lost in this big black cloud which covered both him, and his boat. The fisherman thought he was going to die.

The next few hours passed, and the fisherman started to think of his wife, and how she will get angry at him if he did not go back home. He also thought of how he would miss eating her good cooking, and how he would miss her grumbling.

The fisherman then thought to himself that if he died he will miss the opportunity of having a son. So the fisherman prayed very hard that he did not want to die, because if he died he would never have a son.

Then all of a sudden he heard this big sound, it was a scary sound and he had never heard this sound before, and he started to cry to the Gods saying "Please, please, please don't let me die, because I want to live so I could have my son!". Then he saw a great big, big, big, wave that was so big that the fisherman fainted.

Now this wave pushed the fisherman boat right onto the land where the forest was, and there the fisherman began to awaken. The fisherman first opened his eyes and he then slowly tried to move his arms, and legs. The fisherman later tried to see if he knew where he was, and tried to find something that might look familiar, but as far as he could see there was nothing that looked like anything he knew.

Just as the fisherman felt so lonely, and sad because he was lost, and did not know which way he should go to find his home his eyes saw a big tree, and on this tree he saw the biggest peach he had ever imagined. He was so amazed to see that this tree bore such a big fruit that he did not notice that it was the only peach on that tree. His next thought was of his wife, and how sad she would be without him. Then the fisherman thought that if by chance he did find his way home. How angry his wife would be with him because he was such a foolish man who had got lost.

As the fisherman thought all about how he could find his way home, and what would his wife say to him, a flash thought came to his mind that if he cut the big peach down, and brought it to his wife she would be so happy, and she will say "Oh, such a good man that I have married".

So the fisherman thought long and hard on how to get that big peach down. He got a long rope, and finally he threw the rope over the branch of the tree, and he climbed to where the peach was. He later tied the rope around the peach, and begin to cut the stem of the peach. The fisherman soon heard a cracking sound, and he could not believe what happened next. Right before his eyes the peach fell, and it broke in half when it hit the ground.

As he climbed down from the branch he heard something. He could not figure out what that sound was, and he followed the sound to the center of the peach. He put his ear next to the peach pip, and heard a little voice crying please don't eat me. The fisherman ran to his boat, and got the ax, and he started to chop a little piece of the pip off. Then he chopped some more until there was a large hole. The fisherman looked in and saw a little boy. The fisherman was so surprised that he cried, and fell right to his knees. The fisherman begin to thank the Gods for giving him a son.

The fisherman soon grabbed the little boy, and ran following the sun. The fisherman found his way back home after several days. The fisherman went to the front of his house, and heard his wife crying. The fisherman wife was crying because she thought the fisherman had died, and she loved him. Soon after the fisherman knocked at the door, and surprised his wife. His wife was so happy, but then she got very mad. The fisherman wife said "Oh what a foolish man to make me worry that something had happened to you. You are such a foolish man, and I don't love you anymore".

Then at that moment the fisherman went outside, his wife had gotten so angry, and followed him. The fisherman then said to his wife "I have something for you, I have a gift for you." Then the fisherman picked up a bundle that was his old rag that he had always took with him on his fishing trip. The fisherman wife had gotten so mad that she was ready to hit him when all of a sudden a little voice cried "Mama". The fisherman wife took the bundle from the old man, and with great astonishment she saw the little boy all wrapped up in the old rag.

The next morning the fisherman, his wife, and the little boy had breakfast together. The fisherman told his wife how he found the little boy, and so the Fisherman, and his wife decided to call the little boy Peach Boy. The little boy made the fisherman, and his wife so very happy.

The End

The passing of Rikiu

Rikiu was one of the greatest of tea masters, and for long he remained the friend of Taiko-Hideyishi, but the age in which he lived was full of treachery. There were many who were jealous of Rikiu, and who sought his death. When a coldness sprang up between Hideyoshi and Rikiu, the enemies of the great tea master made use of this breach of friendship by spreading the report that Rikiu intended to add poison to a cup of tea and present it to his distinquished patron. Hideyoshi soon heard of this rumour, and without troubling to examine the matter, he condemned Rikiu to die by his own hand.

On the last day of the famous tea-master's life he invited many of his disciples to his house to join him in his final tea ceremony. As they walked up the garden path it seemed that ghosts whispered in the rustling leaves. When the disciples entered the tea-room they saw a kakemono hanging in the tokonoma, and when they raised their sorrowful eyes they saw that the writing described the passing of all earthly things.

 There was poetry in the singing of the tea-kettle, but it was a sad song, like the plaintive cry of an insect. Rikiu came into the tea-room calm and dignified, and, according, to custom, he allowed the chief guest to admire the various articles associated with the tea ceremony. When all the guests had gazed upon them, noting their beauty with a heavy heart, Rikiu presented each disciple with a souvenir. 

He took his own cup in his hand, and said: ' Never again shall this cup, polluted by the lips of misfortune, be used by man'. Having spoken these words, he broke the cup as a sign that the tea ceremony was over, and the guests bade a sad farewell and departed.

 Only one remained to witness, not the drinking of another cup of tea, but the passing of Rikiu. The great master took off his outer garment, and revealed he wore the pure white robe of Death. Still calm and dignified, he looked upon his dagger, and then recited the following verse with unfaltering voice:

"Welcome to thee, 
O sword of eternity!
Through Buddha
and through Daruma alike
Thou hast cleft the way."

The Miraculous Tea-Kettle

One day a priest of the Mironji temple put his old tea-kettle on the fire in order that he might make himself a cup of tea. No sooner had the kettle touched the fire than it suddenly changed into the head, tail and legs of a badger.

 The novices of the temple were called in to see the extraordinary sight. While they gazed in utter astonishment, the badger, with the body of the kettle, rushed nimbly about the room, and finally flew into the air. Round and round the room went the merry badger, and the priests, after many efforts, successfully succeeded in capturing the animal and thrusting in into a box.

Shortly after this event, a tinker called at the temple, and the priest thought it would be a good idea if he could induce the good man to buy his extraordinary kettle. Taking the kettle out of the box, for it resumed its ordinary form, he commenced to bargain, with the result the unsuspecting tinker purchased the kettle, and took it away with him, assured that he had done a good days work in buying such a useful article at so reasonable a price.

That night the tinker woke to a curious sound close to his pillow. He looked out from behind his quilts and saw the kettle he had purchased wasn't a kettle at all, but a very lively and clever badger.

When the tinker told his friends about his remarkable companion, they said: "You are a fortunate fellow, and we advise you to take this badger on show, for it is clever enough to dance and walk on the tight-rope. With song and music you certainly have in this very strange creature a series of novel entertainments which will attract considerable notice, and bring you far more money than you would earn by all the tinkering in the world'.

The tinker accordingly acted upon this excellent advice, and the fame of his performing badger spread far and wide. Princes and princesses came to see the show, and from royal patronage and the delight of the common people he amassed a great fortune. When the tinker had made his money he restored the kettle to the Marinji temple where it was worshiped as a precious treasure.

The Jellyfish And The Monkey

Rin-Jin, the King of the Sea, took to wife a young and beautiful Dragon Princess. They had not been married long when the fair Queen fell ill, and all the advice and attention of the great physicians availed nothing.

"Oh," sobbed the Queen, ' there is only one thing that will cure me of my illness!"
"What is that?" inquired Rin-Jin.
" If I eat the liver of a live monkey I shall immediately recover. Pray get me a monkey's liver, for I know that nothing else will save my life."

So Rin-Jin called a jelly-fish to his side, and said: " I want you to swim to the land and return with a live monkey on your back, for I need to use his liver so that our Queen may be restored to health again. You are the only creature who can perform this task, for you alone have legs and are able to walk about on shore. In order to induce the monkey to come, you must tell him of the wonders of the deep and of the rare beauties of my great coral palace, with its floor of pearl and its walls of coral."

The jelly-fish, delighted to think that the health and happiness of his mistress depended upon the success of his enterprise, lost no time in swimming to an island. He had no sooner stepped ashore than he observed a fine looking monkey playing about in the branches of a pine tree.

"Hello!" said the jelly-fish, " I don't think much of this island. What a dull and miserable life you must lead here! I come from the Kingdom of the Sea, where Rin-Jin reigns in a palace of great size and beauty. It may be that you would like to see a new country where there is plenty of fruit and where the weather is always fine. If so, get on my back, and I shall have much pleasure in taking you to the Kingdom of the Sea."

"I shall be delighted to accept your invitation," said the monkey, as he got down from the tree and comfortably seated himself on the thick shell of the jelly-fish. 

"By the way," said the jelly-fish, when he accomplished about half of the return journey."I suppose you have brought your liver with you, haven;t you?"
"What a personal question!" replied the monkey. "Why do you ask?"
"Our Queen of the Sea is dangerously ill," said the foolish jelly-fish," and only the liver of a live monkey will save her life. When we reach the palace a doctor will make use of your liver and my mistress will be restored to health again."
"Dear me!" exclaimed the monkey, " I wish you had mentioned this matter to me before we left the island."
"If I had done so, " replied the jelly-fish, " you would most certainly have refused my invitation."
"Believe me, you are quite mistaken, my dear jelly-fish. I have several livers hanging up on a pine tree, and I would gladly have spared one in order to save the life of your Queen. If you will bring me back to the island again I will get it. It was most unfortunate that I should have forgotten to bring a liver with me."

So the credulous jelly-fish turned round and swam back to the island. Directly the jelly-fish reached the shore the monkey sprang from his back and danced about the branches of a tree.

"Liver," said the monkey chuckling,"did you say liver? You silly jelly-fish, you'll certainly never get mine!"

The jelly fish at length reached the palace, and told Rin-Jin his dismal tale. The Sea King fell into a great passion. "Beat him to a jelly! " he cried to those about him. "Beat this stupid fellow 'till he hasn't a bone left in his body!"

So the jelly-fish lost his shell from that unfortunate hour, and all the jelly-fishes that were born in the sea after his death were also without shells, and have remained nothing but jelly to this day.



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