A great folk tale from Japan and a staple of kamishibai (Japanese paper theatre) of which we are firm adherents. Also, a great end of term play (see video at the end of the story).
Once there was an old man who lived with his wife in the Japanese countryside. Although they didn’t have children they called each
other ‘Jiichan’ and ‘Baachan’. Jiichan means Grandfather and Baachan is Grandmother. They worked hard in the fields cutting grass. There life was simple and they were content. However, the
old man often wished they had a son to help them with their work.
One day, Jiichan left home to work in the fields as usual and Baachan went down to the river to wash their clothes. She hummed a tune to herself and was lost in her work when suddenly, to her surprise, bobbing down the river came the biggest peach she had ever seen. With some difficulty she dragged the giant peach out of the water and rolled it home to show her husband.
Jiichan came home from the fields and was shocked and astounded to see such a big peach.
‘Just what I need!’ he exclaimed, ‘ I’m so very hungry!’ but just at that moment the peach split open and out popped a little boy. When the couple had got over their initial shock they were very excited.
‘Here is the son we’ve always wanted,’ said Baachan.
The couple named the boy Momotaro, which means peach boy, and he grew up to be a fine young man. He loved his parents and worked hard in the fields.
One day, he said to his parents, ‘Near here there is an island and on that island there are demons that are terrorising the local villages on the mainland. They steal and set fire to the houses. I must go and
defeat them. When I have done this I will return. I promise you this.’
There was nothing that Jiichan and Baachan could do to make him change his mind, so Baachan made him some rice dumplings and the couple waved to Momotaro as he set off on his journey.
After some time on the road Momotaro sat down to eat the dumplings Baachan had made. Suddenly in front of him appeared a big dog.
‘What’s yourname?’ demanded the dog.
‘I’m Momotaro andI am on my way to fight the demons. Come with me. Your bark and your bite canhelp me greatly.’
‘Give me one of those delicious dumplings,’ said the dog ‘and I will gladly follow you.’
Momotaro shared his rice dumplings with the dog and when they had finished eating they set off on their way.
After some time on the road Momotaro and the dog sat down to eat the dumplings Baachan had made. Suddenly in front of them appeared a monkey.
‘What’s your name?’ demanded the monkey.
‘I’m Momotaro and I’m on my way to fight the demons. Come with me. Your climbing can help me greatly.’
‘Give me one of those delicious dumplings,’ said the monkey, ‘and I will gladly follow you.’
Momotaro sharedhis rice dumplings with the monkey and when they had finished eating they set off on their way.
After some time on the road Momotaro, the dog and the monkey sat down to eat the dumplings that Baachan had made. Suddenly in front of them appeared a beautiful bird.
‘What’s your name?’ demanded the bird.
‘I’m Momotaro and I’m on my way to fight the demons. Come with me. Your flying can help me greatly.’
‘Give me one of those delicious dumplings,’ said the beautiful bird, ‘and I willl gladly follow you.’
Momotaro shared his rice dumplings with the beautiful bird and when they had finished eating they set off on their way.
After some time they came to the sea and from the shore they could see the island of the demons. There was a small boat on the shore and Momotora, the big dog, the monkey and the beautiful bird climbed into the boat and started rowing towards the island. As they got closer Momotaro could see that there was a great castle perched on the rocky cliffs.
At once Momotaro said to the bird, ‘Now it is time for you to fly. Fly over the castle and see what the demons are doing.’
So, the beautiful bird flew over the castle and saw that the demons were sitting down to a big feast. It seemed to be some kind of celebration. She immediatey flew back to Momotaro and told him what was happening in the castle.
‘Now is just the time to take them by surprise,’ Momotaro said, and he beached the boat on the shore and proceeded up to the main gate of the castle with the big dog, the monkey and the beautiful bird. Try as he might Momotaro couldn’t open the gate.
Momotaro turned to the monkey, ‘Now we can use your climbing. Climb over and open the gate from the inside.’
Quickly the monkey climbed over the gate and opened the door from the inside. Then the four friends charged into the castle taking the demons completely by surprise.
‘Now it’s your turn,’ Momotaro said to the dog, ‘It’s time to bite and bark these evil demons.’ The big dog didn’t need telling twice and there was great confusion as he ran this way and that biting the demons who didn’t know what was happening. The beautiful bird attacked the demons from above and the monkey swang down and scratched the demons as he passed. Momotaro, who was incredibly strong, joined the fray and before long the demons were throwing
themselves off the clifftop into the sea.
The chief of the demons soon shouted for Monmotaro to call his friends off, which Monmotaro did, but not before making the demon promise to stop terrorising the villages on the mainland. After promising, the chief and the other demons filled Monmotaro’s
boat with the treasure that they had stolen; they bowed as the dog, the monkey, the beautiful bird and Monmataro climbed into the boat and rowed back to the mainland.
As they passed the villages on the mainland people came out of their houses to cheer the heros who had saved them from the evil demons. Momotaro returned to Jiichan and Baachan and they were overjoyed to see him. They had missed him greatly and Monmotaro presented them with the treasure he had taken from the demons. Jiichan and Baachan invited the dog, the monkey, and the beautiful bird into
their home and they all settled down for a celebratory feast together with the hero, Momotaro.
Click on the link below to see highlights of a great theatre performance of Peach Boy.