I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO YOU AND TO THE SWEET CHILD-FRIENDSHIP THAT YOU GAVE ME IN THE DAYS SPENT WITH YOU BY THE SOUTHERN SEA, WHEN YOU USED TO LISTEN WITH UNFEIGNED PLEASURE TO THESE FAIRY STORIES FROM FAR JAPAN. MAY THEY NOW REMIND YOU OF MY CHANGELESS LOVE AND REMEMBRANCE.
Y. T. O.
This collection of Japanese fairy tales is the outcome of a suggestion made to me indirectly through a friend by Mr. Andrew Lang. They have been translated from the modern version written by Sadanami Sanjin. 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.
Grateful acknowledgment is due to Mr. Y. Yasuoka, Miss Fusa Okamoto, my brother Nobumori Ozaki, Dr. Yoshihiro Takaki, and Miss Kameko Yamao, who have helped me with translations.
The story which I have named “The Story of the Man who did not Wish to Die” is taken from a little book written a hundred years ago by one Shinsui Tamenaga. It is named Chosei Furo, or “Longevity.” “The Bamboo-cutter and the Moon-child” is taken from the classic “Taketari Monogatari,” and is NOT classed by the Japanese among their fairy tales, though it really belongs to this class of literature.
The pictures were drawn by Mr. Kakuzo Fujiyama, a Tokio artist.
In telling these stories in English I have followed my fancy in adding such touches of local color or description as they seemed to need or as pleased me, and in one or two instances I have gathered in an incident from another version. At all times, among my friends, both young and old, English or American, I have always found eager listeners to the beautiful legends and fairy tales of Japan, and in telling them I have also found that they were still unknown to the vast majority, and this has encouraged me to write them for the children of the West.
Y. T. O.
Long, long ago there lived, in Japan a brave warrior known to all as Tawara Toda, or “My Lord Bag of Rice.” His true name was Fujiwara Hidesato, and there is a very interesting story of how he came to change his name.
One day he sallied forth in search of adventures, for he had the nature of a warrior and could not bear to be idle. So he buckled on his two swords, took his huge bow, much taller than himself, in his hand, and slinging his quiver on his back started out. He had not gone far when he came to the bridge of Seta-no-Karashi spanning one end of the beautiful Lake Biwa. No sooner had he set foot on the bridge than he saw lying right across his path a huge serpent-dragon. Its body was so big that it looked like the trunk of a large pine tree and it took up the whole width of the bridge. One of its huge claws rested on the parapet of one side of the bridge, while its tail lay right against the other. The monster seemed to be asleep, and as it breathed, fire and smoke came out of its nostrils.
At first Hidesato could not help feeling alarmed at the sight of this horrible reptile lying in his path, for he must either turn back or walk right over its body. He was a brave man, however, and putting aside all fear went forward dauntlessly. Crunch, crunch! he stepped now on the dragon’s body, now between its coils, and without even one glance backward he went on his way.
He had only gone a few steps when he heard some one calling him from behind. On turning back he was much surprised to see that the monster dragon had entirely disappeared and in its place was a strange-looking man, who was bowing most ceremoniously to the ground. His red hair streamed over his shoulders and was surmounted by a crown in the shape of a dragon’s head, and his sea-green dress was patterned with shells. Hidesato knew at once that this was no ordinary mortal and he wondered much at the strange occurrence. Where had the dragon gone in such a short space of time? Or had it transformed itself into this man, and what did the whole thing mean? While these thoughts passed through his mind he had come up to the man on the bridge and now addressed him:
“Was it you that called me just now?”