Hanasaka Jiisan

Once upon a time in a remote mountain village in Japan there lived an honest old man and his wife. The old man was out plowing his field one day when a little white puppy came fleeing toward him, crying. The puppy had been mistreated by the greedy old man who lived in the next field over. "Oh, you poor thing." exclaimed the old man, and taking him in, gave the puppy the name "Shiro." ("Shiro" in Japanese means white)

The old man and his wife loved Shiro very much. Shiro, in turn, became devoted to the old couple, and helped the old man with his work in the field every day. Shiro ate and ate, and quickly grew into a big dog.
One day, Shiro led the old man up a nearby mountain. When they reached the top, Shiro barked, "Arf Arf - Dig here! Arf Arf - Dig here!" As the old man began to dig, to his amazement, sparkling gold coins started pouring up from the ground.
"Let me borrow Shiro!" The greedy old man heard about this and, grabbing Shiro, forced him to take he and his wife to the mountain. "Where's the gold?" the old man demanded. Frightened, Shiro began to whimper. "Ah, so it's here," said the old man, and he began to dig. But instead of gold coins, garbage began pouring up from the ground. "How dare you!" exclaimed the old man. Furious, they killed Shiro.

When the honest old couple found out about this, they were overcome with grief. They decided to dig a grave for Shiro. Upon burying Shiro, a sapling sprouted from the ground above his grave. By the next day, it had grown into a towering tree.

"Shiro liked steamed rice cakes," recalled the old man. "Let's make some to take to his grave." He chopped down the tree that had sprung from Shiro's grave and made a mortar. Then he and his wife began to prepare the rice cakes. As the old man pounded the rice into the mortar, it began to turn into gold coins.

Upon seeing this, the greedy old couple rushed over. "Give us that mortar." Stealing the mortar, they returned to their house and began to make rice cakes. When they pounded rice, however, it turned into black mud right before their eyes. "What on earth?" cried the old man. Furious, he took an axe and chopped the mortar to pieces. Then he tossed the pieces of wood into the stove and burned them. The honest old man was disheartened. He gathered up the ashes from the mortar, put them in a box, and carried the box carefully back to his house.
"Let's sprinkle these ashes over the field and grow the radish that Shiro loved so much." When the old man sprinkled the ashes, a wind swirled up and blew the ashes into a dead tree. Amazingly, the dead tree began to bloom beautiful cherry blossoms. He then went and happily sprinkled ashes onto one dead tree after another, each which thereafter bloomed brilliant cherry flowers. News of the old man's miracle reached the town and before long, even the ears of the king, who promptly sent for the old man.

The old man was brought to the king, carrying his box of ashes. "Now I'll make the flowers bloom." He sprinkled the ashes onto the nearby trees, and immediately, beautiful white cherry flowers appeared.

"Splendid!" exclaimed the king, who was very pleased. "Well done. You are the greatest flower bloomer in all of Japan. You will be rewarded."

At that moment, the greedy old man came running, carrying the leftover ashes which he had gathered from the stove. "Wait! I'm the greatest flower bloomer in Japan." With that, he began to sprinkle his ashes. Instead of landing on the flowers, however, the ash flew into the eyes and nose of the king, choking him. "You impudent!" the king stormed, and promptly threw the greedy old man into prison.




A long time ago in a small village in Japan there lived a poor old man and his wife. One day, as New Year's drew near, the wife looked in her rice chest and found that there was hardly any rice left. And with the snow so deep that they could not gather the leaves needed for weaving kasa (sedge hats) to sell, there was nothing else she could do but prepare hot water for cooking what was left of the rice.

Just then, a baby mouse appeared from a hole in the wall, crying, "Oh, I'm so hungry." The mother and father mice scolded their son, "This house is so poor that there are seldom any food scraps left to eat, so you'll just have to bear with it."

"Poor baby mouse," said the old man. "We are so bad off that even the mice are hungry." Feeling sorry for them, he gave the mice a small portion of the last of their rice, which they used to make rice cakes, and together they dined.

The next morning, after eating a sparse breakfast of pickles and tea, the mice tramped out into the snow and gathered a generous pile of sedge, which they then brought back to the house. "This is in return for last night's rice." The old couple thanked the mice. If they could weave and then sell lots of hats in the town, they would be able to buy plenty of food for New Year's. So the old couple and the mice promptly got to work weaving hats. When they were finished, the old man shouldered his ware and went out in the snow toward the town.

When he reached the outskirts of the town, he noticed that the stone statues of Jizo-sama, the Buddha that protects the common people, had their heads covered with snow. "Jizo-sama," he said, "your heads look cold." The old man took the towel he wore around his own head and gently wiped the snow off each statue.

The town on New Year's Eve was bustling with people making their last minute New Year's preparations. The old man joined the throng, singing out, "Sedge hats, sedge hats. Who needs a sedge hat?" But nobody bought a hat from him. Before long, the streets grew empty and the night watch bell began to toll. The old man, having sold not even one hat, shouldered his load and trudged toward home. "I have nothing I can even offer to Jizo-sama," he thought dejectedly.
The old man made his way through the snow-filled streets and finally reached the outskirts of the town. There he noticed that snow had once again piled up on top of the heads of the Jizo-sama statues. So again he took his towel and carefully wiped the snow from each one. Then he said to the statues, "I couldn't sell even one hat for money to buy dumplings, so I have no food to offer you. I'll give you my hats instead." With that, he placed a hat upon each statue's head. But there were six statues and only five hats. The old man thought for a moment and then took the towel and placed it gently on the sixth statue's head. Now completely empty-handed, he returned home.
When he arrived home, the mice looked at his empty back and excitedly thought that he must have sold all of the hats. "Forgive me. I couldn't sell even one hat," said the old man, and then preceded to relay the day's events to his wife and the mice. The old woman, listening, solaced her husband, "That was a kind thing you did. Let's have some pickles and warm water and welcome the New Year."

Just then, in the middle of the night, they heard loud voices cry, "New Year's Delivery! New Year's Delivery! Where is the house of the old hat seller?" Amazingly, the voices came from none other than the Jizo-sama statues, who came forth pulling a sleigh loaded to the hilt with rice, miso (bean paste), and many other delicacies. "Hat seller, thank you for your hats. We leave these gifts for you in return. Have a Happy New Year." With that, the Jizo-sama statues returned to the outskirts of the town.

Since there was more food than the old couple could eat, they had the mice invite their animal friends over, and everybody prepared the food together. Then the old man stacked the boxes of special New Year's food and rice cakes that they had made and took them to the Jizo-sama statues. "Jizo-sama. Now I can make you an offering. Thank you."

The old man returned home and, together with his wife, the mice, and their friends, welcomed in a festive and happy New Year.



Tsuru no Ongaeshi

Long, long ago in a far off land there lived a young man. One day, while working on his farm, a brilliant white crane came swooping down and crashed to the ground at his feet. The man noticed an arrow pierced through one of its wings. Taking pity on the crane, he pulled out the arrow and cleaned the wound. Thanks to his care the bird was soon able to fly again. The young man sent the crane back to the sky, saying, "Be careful to avoid hunters." The crane circled three times over his head, let out a cry as if in thanks, and then flew away.
As the day grew dark the young man made his way home. When he arrived, he was surprised by the sight of a beautiful woman whom he had never seen before standing at the doorway. "Welcome home. I am your wife," said the woman. The young man was surprised and said, "I am very poor, and cannot support you." The woman answered, pointing to a small sack, "Don't worry, I have plenty of rice," and began preparing dinner. The young man was puzzled, but the two began a happy life together. And the rice sack, mysteriously, remained full always.
One day the wife asked the young man to build her a weaving room. When it was completed, she said, "You must promise never to peek inside." With that, she shut herself up in the room. The young man waited patiently for her to come out. Finally, after seven days, the sound of the loom stopped and his wife, who had become very thin, stepped out of the room holding the most beautiful cloth he had ever seen. "Take this cloth to the marketplace and it will sell for a high price," said the wife. The next day the young man brought it to town and, just as she said, it sold for many coins. Happy, he returned home.
The wife then returned to the room and resumed weaving. Curiosity began to overtake the man, who wondered, "How can she weave such beautiful cloth with no thread?" Soon he could stand it no longer and, desperate to know his wife's secret, peeked into the room. To his great shock, his wife was gone. Instead, a crane sat intently at the loom weaving a cloth, plucking out its own feathers for thread.
The bird then noticed the young man peeking in and said, "I am the crane that you saved. I wanted to repay you so I became your wife, but now that you have seen my true form I can stay here no longer." Then, handing the man the finished cloth, it said, "I leave you this to remember me by." The crane then abruptly flew off into the sky and disappeared forever.


Bunbuku Chagama

One day, Jinbei the junkman was on his way home from town as usual with a cart full of junk he had bought that day. Suddenly, he heard loud, jeering voices, and he turned around to see several boys chasing around and bullying a girl. "Hey, boys! Stop being mean to her!" shouted Jinbei. The boys then ran off. When he turned to speak to the girl, though, she was nowhere to be found. "How odd. Where could she have gone?"

Jinbei walked on, and soon he came across the chief priest of the Buddhist temple that stands on top of a nearby hill. "Hello Jinbei," said the priest. "I've recently been looking for a teakettle. If you find a nice one, make sure to tell me. I'll buy it for a good price." The priest then walked off.

Back home, Jinbei started putting all the junk in order. He had a habit of buying even things that would never sell, and because of this, he always had a houseful of junk and was very poor. After a while, Jinbei discovered a very fine teakettle he had never seen before sitting in a corner of the room. "Hmm, when did I get this?" marveled Jinbei. Then he remembered what the priest had told him, and so he set off for the temple carrying the teakettle on his back.

"Phew! This is pretty heavy," Jinbei muttered as he toiled up the hill. Just then he heard a voice from behind saying, "You're getting closer. Keep it up, keep it up." Looking back in surprise, Jinbei realized that what he was carrying was really a raccoon taking the shape of a teakettle. "I'm the girl you saved today. Let me help you in return," the raccoon said. The girl he had seen that day was also the raccoon in disguise.

Jinbei arrived at the temple and showed the teakettle to the priest. "This is beautiful!" exclaimed the priest. "I'll be happy to buy it." So the priest purchased the teakettle, not knowing its true form.

As he headed home Jinbei thought, "I've done a terrible thing to the priest, and I wonder if the raccoon will be OK." Meanwhile the priest, who was excited to have a new teakettle, decided to brew some tea and placed the teakettle over the fire. The raccoon tried with all her might to stay still, but soon she could bear the heat no longer. "Yikes!" she jumped up and yelped, then scurried out of the temple. The priest was so shocked at seeing the teakettle come to life that he fell over and hurt his back. "I've been cheated!" he steamed.
Jinbei was sitting at home worrying about the raccoon, when the raccoon came rushing into the house. "Ouch, ouch, what a terrible experience!" The raccoon clung onto Jinbei tearfully, and Jinbei saw that the raccoon had been badly burnt. "There, there, you poor thing. It's all my fault," he said.

Just as Jinbei was rubbing ointment on the raccoon's burns, the priest came stomping in with a red face and yelled, "Hey you! How dare you cheat me! You'd better give me back my money. And since I've been hurt too, all because of that raccoon, you'll also have to pay for my treatment." So Jinbei had to give the priest even more money than he had received for the teakettle.

The raccoon apologized to Jinbei as she lay in bed. "I'm so sorry, Jinbei. I meant to return your favor, but I've only caused you trouble. It's all gone wrong." But Jinbei replied, "No, no, that's all right. You just rest and get well soon. Don't worry about the money, because I've got a good idea." Jinbei apparently had something in mind.

Thanks to Jinbei's care, the raccoon's burns healed in no time. The raccoon, wanting to help Jinbei out somehow, asked, "The other day you said you had a good idea. What was it?" "Oh, that?" Jinbei answered. "You see, I was thinking that maybe you and I could perform on the street. I'll play the flute and drums, while you dance and walk the tightrope as you turn into different things. I'm sure we can draw a good crowd. What do you think?" The raccoon thought this was a great idea and said, "Yes, let's do it! But before that, we'll have to practice." And so the two began training hard.

After some time Jinbei and the raccoon started showing their tricks here and there. They became popular very quickly, and a big crowd would form wherever they went. In this way, not only was the raccoon able to return Jinbei's favor but the two of them also became very rich and lived together happily ever after.


Sanmai no Ofuda (The Three Charms and Mountain Witch)

Once upon a time, there was a young apprentice who lived in a temple in the mountains. He was a mischievous boy and enjoyed playing pranks. He didn't train very hard and would often take naps or cause trouble for the head priest by chasing rabbits around.

One autumn day, when the leaves were changing color, the young apprentice saw that the chestnut trees in the mountains were beginning to bear fruit. The chestnuts looked very delicious.

"Master, I want to eat the chestnuts on that mountain over there. Can I go and pick some?"

"No, people say there's a mountain witch living there. You'll be eaten."

"Oh, that can't really be true. I'm sure someone just made that up. Pease let me go."

The priest shook his head at the boy who wouldn't do as he was told and said, "OK, it might do a mischievous young lad like you some good to be scared for once. You can go, but if you meet the witch, use these." The priest handed the boy three lucky paper charms. The apprentice took them and immediately scurried off toward the mountain.
When he reached the mountain the boy found many ripe chestnuts, just as he had thought. He became so absorbed in gathering them that he completely forgot about the time. He didn't notice the sun going down, and before he knew it, it had become pitch dark. "It feels a bit spooky when it's this dark. What will I do if the mountain witch really came out?" Just as he was thinking this, he suddenly heard a voice behind him.

"Well, well. Hello there, young boy."

Still thinking about the witch, the apprentice jumped with fright, but when he turned round he saw a gentle-looking old woman. "Have you come to pick chestnuts? Why don't you come to my house? I'll cook them for you to eat."

The boy was very hungry and happily followed the old woman home. He ate chestnuts until he was so full that he grew sleepy and dozed off. He woke up in the middle of the night, not knowing how long he'd been asleep, and found that the old woman was not there. He heard a strange noise coming from the next room. Puzzled, he peeped into the room and saw the frightful-looking mountain witch sharpening a knife.

"Aaaaah!" he screamed, horrified. The witch looked up and glared at him.
"You saw me, didn't you, boy? That's right, I'm a mountain witch. And now I'm going to eat you." As she said this, the witch tried to grab the youth.

Panicking, he said, "Uh . . . OK. But first let me go to the toilet. I'm going to wet myself if I don't go."

"Well, all right, I suppose. But I'm going to tie you up with rope and go with you so you can't escape."

The boy entered the toilet tied up with rope. The witch stood guard outside the door.

"Aren't you finished yet?"

"Just a little more. Wait a minute!" answered the boy, but he knew he couldn't keep this up forever. "What shall I do? Ah! Of course! I can use the paper charm the priest gave me to escape!" he thought. The boy attached one of the charms to the wall of the toilet and asked it to help him: "Oh lucky charm, please pretend to be me and answer the witch."

He snuck out of the toilet window and fled as fast as he could toward the temple.

"Boy! Haven't you finished? You're very slow!" the witch continued to shout, thinking the boy was still inside. "Just a little more. Wait a minute!" answered the charm in the boy's voice. The witch began to get suspicious since every time she asked the boy to hurry up, the same answer would come back. Finally, she couldn't wait any longer and peered inside. The boy was gone. "That rascal! He cheated me! He'll regret this!" fumed the angry witch and began to chase after the boy.

"Woah, that was close," said the boy to himself as he ran, calming down a little. Then he looked back.

"Stop where you are, boy! I'm going to eat you now!" The witch looked even more scary now that she was angry and was chasing him very fast.

"Oh no! If she catches me I'm dead! Lucky charm, please make a river appear behind me." As he made this wish to the second charm, suddenly a big river appeared, and the witch was swallowed up in its current.

"The witch will surely drown in that," sighed the boy in relief. But as soon as he thought this, the witch used her magic powers to swallow all the water in the river and started chasing him again.

"Oh no! This time make me a sea of fire," asked the boy to his last paper charm. Suddenly, a sea of fire appeared behind him and enveloped the witch. But the witch blew out all the water she had just swallowed, putting out the fire, and once again ran after him.
"I'm finished! She's going to catch me now," thought the boy as he ran for his life. But he scampered quickly enough to reach the temple just before the witch. "Master, please help me! The mountain witch is chasing me. She's right outside!"

"Ah, so you met her, did you? Have you learned your lesson?"

The boy thought about what had happened and asked the priest to forgive him. "I'm sorry, Master. From now on I'll be better behaved." Then he hurriedly hid inside a large jar.

No sooner had the boy hidden himself than the witch kicked down the temple door and barged inside.

"Hey, priest! Where's the boy who ran in here? Bring him out at once!"

The priest pretended not to know anything: "What? What are you talking about? I've been sitting here eating rice cakes. I haven't seen any boy." This just made the witch even angrier.

"You can pretend you don't know. That makes no difference to me, since I'll eat you instead if you won't give me the boy," said the witch, now very agitated.

"All right, but first let's see which one of us is better at turning ourselves into different shapes," challenged the priest. "If you win, you can do as you like. Now, can you change into whatever I say?"

"Don't make me laugh," replied the witch with great confidence. "I can change myself into any form. Go ahead and say anything you like."

The priest saw how arrogant the witch was and said, "Can you make yourself as tall as the ceiling?" No sooner had he said this than the witch grew to the height of the ceiling with no trouble at all. "Mmm. But I bet you can't make yourself as tall as that mountain over there," continued the priest.

"Piece of cake," replied the witch and made herself as big as the mountain.

The priest appeared to be impressed. "That's really something. You can make yourself bigger, but you can't make yourself as small as a bean, can you?" he said.

The witch became piqued. "That's easy. Just watch." Now she shrank to a size no bigger than the end of the priest's finger.

"Very impressive! So now it's my turn," said the priest. He then suddenly picked up the bean-sized witch and stuffed her in the rice cake he had been toasting and gulped it down in one mouthful.

From then on, the witch was never seen again in the mountains, and the mischievous young apprentice became a very good boy, listening attentively to everything the priest said.


Tengu no Kakuremino

Once upon a time, there lived a mischievous young man named Hikoichi. Hikoichi had heard rumors about a cape owned by a tengu - a long-nosed goblin - living in the mountains near his village. this was a magic "cape of hiding" that made the wearer invisible. Hikoichi wanted very much to have it, so he thought up a plan to steal it.

One day, Hikoichi went up the mountain. Peeping into a plain bamboo rod, he shouted at the top of his voice, "Aah, how amazing! I can see all the faraway towns. What a great sight!" Soon the tengu appeared, staring curiously at the piece of bamboo, and said, "Hey, Hikoichi. What's so great about that? Let me look at it." But Hikoichi replied, "Goodness, no. When you look through this, you can see far-off sights up close. There's nothing else in the world like it." This made the tengu even more curious, so he pleaded, "Oh please, Hikoichi. I'll let you use this cape of hiding in return."

At this Hikoichi felt like grinning, but instead he said, "That's such a dirty cape; can it really make me disappear? Oh well, if you insist." So he handed the bamboo rod to the tengu and received the hiding cape in return. The tengu looked eagerly through one end of the bamboo, but saw nothing. "I can't see a thing. How do you get it to work?" Then he realized he had been deceived and exclaimed, "You've tricked me, haven't you?" But by this time, Hikoichi had gone down the mountain wearing the magic cape.
Back in the village, Hikoichi went straight to a sake shop and walked into the storehouse. A few people were working there, but no one noticed Hikoichi. "Great! So I've really become invisible," he thought merrily, and began drinking sake straight from a barrel. The sake was delicious, and so he kept on drinking more and more until he was quite drunk. Then he tottered home, threw off what he had been wearing, and immediately fell asleep. 
Waking up the next morning, Hikoichi remembered what had happened yesterday and thought, "That hiding cape is amazing. Now, what shall I do today?" When he looked around, however, the cape was nowhere to be seen. Thinking this strange, Hikoichi asked his mother, "Have you seen the cape I left here last night?" "So that dirty cape was yours? It was so dirty and shabby that I burned it just a moment ago," replied his mother. "What have you done?!" Hikoichi yelled and ran to the fire. But alas, the cape had already turned to ashes.

"Oh my, what shall I do?" thought Hikoichi, but it was not long before he hit upon a good idea. "Wait a minute. These are, after all, the ashes of the hiding cape. Maybe the magic will still work." Hikoichi quickly took off his clothes and spread the ashes all over his body. Just as he had thought, this made him invisible. "Perfect! Now I can do whatever I want again."

Happy once more, Hikoichi went off on another adventure. Soon he came across a big house where a banquet was being held and sneaked in. Knowing that the people there could not see him, he began feasting on the food and sake.

 "Mm, this is all delicious." Hikoichi walked around the room and ate and drank to his heart's content. Now, the others of course could not see him, so in their eyes, bits of food would mysteriously disappear from their plates, or a cup would float up and, the next moment, the sake would vanish from the cup.

This scared the wits out of them, and at first they thought, "Could this be the doings of a ghost?" Soon, however, they saw what seemed to be a mouth gradually appear out of thin air. "How queer, that looks like someone's mouth," they marveled. And as they kept looking on suspiciously, the tip of a nose and the palm of a hand also appeared. Hikoichi was so busy eating and drinking that he did not notice the ashes coming off from parts of his body.
Meanwhile, those attending the banquet were sure by now that this was no ghost. "It must be Hikoichi up to his mischief again," they all thought, and came up with a scheme to catch him. Still not realizing that he was turning partly visible, Hikoichi kept on doing as he liked. The people slowly gathered around him, pretending not to see him. Then, all at once, they jumped on him and poured water over him.

Sure enough, there sat Hikoichi, looking quite like a fool. "Well, well, it was you after all. You should be ashamed of yourself, walking around naked like that. We'll let you go this time, so go off and get your clothes on!" Everyone roared with laughter and shooed Hikoichi out of the house. And so Hikoichi had to run home naked, still wondering, "Whatever happened? How did they know I was there?"


Shitakiri Suzume (Toung-Cut Sparrow)

Once upon a time, there lived an old man and an old woman. The old man was kind and gentle, but his wife was mean and greedy. One morning as usual, the old man left for work in the mountains where he cut wood, plowed the earth, and worked in the field.

This morning, he went deep into the mountains to cut firewood. While he was working, he heard the voice of a sparrow crying. When he looked down, he saw an injured young sparrow trapped under a dead branch. "Oh, you poor thing," the old man said as he gently picked up the sparrow. "Don't worry. I'll take care of you. You'll be fine in no time. Let's go to my house," he said.

When they arrived, the old man bandaged the sparrow and fed it some rice grains. The old woman didn't like this at all and got angry. "Why are you wasting our precious rice on that bird?" she exclaimed. But the old man paid her no mind and worked hard to nurse the young sparrow back to health.

One day, as the old man went back to work in the mountains, he asked the old woman, "Take care of the sparrow, please." "Yes, yes, I know," the old woman snapped, but she didn't care about the bird and had no intention of feeding it. She left the sparrow at home and went to the river to do the wash.

While it was left all alone, the little sparrow got hungry. It found a bowl of starch that the old woman had made. Because the sparrow was so hungry, it began to nibble at the starch without thinking and ate it all up. Then the old woman returned from the river, ready to starch the linens. She noticed that the starch was missing and asked the sparrow what had happened. "I'm so sorry," the sparrow said. "I was hungry and couldn't help eating it." The old woman flew into a rage. "You thief!" she thundered. "I'll fix you so you'll never be able to do anything like that again," she said, and she cut the little sparrow's tongue with a pair of scissors. The poor little sparrow flew back into the mountains, crying the whole way.

When the old man returned from the mountains, he noticed that the sparrow was gone. "What happened to the little sparrow?" he asked the old woman. "That bird ate my starch," she replied, "so I cut its tongue and chased it away." The old man was stunned. "Oh, forgive me little sparrow. It must have hurt so much," he said with tears streaming down his face. The old man then went back into the mountains to search for the sparrow.

The old man went here and there in the forest, calling out "Little sparrow, come back!" but the sparrow was nowhere to be found. "That's right," the old man thought to himself, "I've heard that the sparrows have an inn. If I go there, I can find him." As he was walking further into the mountains, three sparrows appeared before him. "Oh, sparrows. Where is your inn?" he asked them. "This way, this way, chirp, chirp," the sparrows said, and they led the man through a bamboo grove even further into the mountains. Suddenly, in front of him was a splendid mansion with many sparrows lined up in front of the gate.

"Welcome," one of them said, "We've been expecting you." "Have you seen my little sparrow?" the old man asked. "He's waiting for you inside," the sparrow answered and led the old man into a parlor in the back of the mansion. When he entered the room, the little sparrow came running up to greet him. "Oh, you poor dear. Are you okay? I was so worried," the man said, delighted to see the little sparrow again. The sparrows brought out trays of delicious food for the old man and began to sing and dance for him.

After the old man had quite enjoyed himself, he got up and said to the sparrows, "I wish I could stay, but I must be getting home. My wife will be worried." With this, the sparrows brought out two wicker baskets, a big one and a small one. "As a gift, take whichever one you like," one of the sparrows said. Although he had no desire for a gift, he accepted the small basket. "I'm sorry. I'm old, so I guess I'd better take the small one," he said, and he made his way home.

When the old man reached home, he called out to the old woman, "I'm home. I met the little sparrow. I even got a gift. I wonder what's inside." The two of them opened the basket, and to their surprise, the basket was filled with gold, silver, fine cloth, and other valuables. "So that's why it was so heavy," the old man said. "It's a good thing I took the small basket." "What? There was a big one?" the old woman shrieked. "The big one must have even more valuables! Okay, I'll go and get the big basket," and no sooner had she said those words, than she was out the door and running to the mountains, overtaken by greed.

 When the old woman reached the sparrows' inn, she called out to the little sparrow. "Little sparrow! Little sparrow! I'm here," she said with a forced smile, and the little sparrow came out to see her. "Little sparrow," the woman began, "I took care of you didn't I? I'm not hungry, so just hurry up and bring out the baskets." The sparrows were disappointed, but brought out two baskets anyway. "Choose whichever one you like," they said. The old woman did not hesitate, "I'll take the big one. I'm strong enough to carry it." As she was on her way out, one of the sparrows said to her, "Don't open the basket until you get home," but she paid it no mind and ran home as fast as she could. On the way back, however, the woman could no longer contain her greed. She desperately wanted to see her valuables, so she stopped and opened the basket. When she did, smoke came out along with one-eyed goblins, giant snakes, and other monsters. The old woman was so shocked that she threw the basket down and tried to run away. In her haste, she slipped and fell, rolling all the way down the mountain.



Long, long ago there lived a sweet old couple. Having no children but desiring one very much, they went to the shrine and prayed, "Please, please let us have a child, no matter how small." Eventually, a son was born to them. But small indeed was the child - no larger than a grown man's fingertip.

The couple raised the child tenderly, and though he became a bright and well-respected young man, he grew not at all. As a result, he became known as Issun-boshi (issun is a unit measuring about 3 centimeters).

One day, Issun-boshi told his parents that he wanted to seek his fortune in the city. His parents were worried about their son but, trusting him, they sent him off with a sword made of a sewing needle, a sheath made of straw, and a boat made from a rice bowl with a chopstick for an oar. Issun-boshi walked along until he came upon the river that flowed towards the town. There he set his rice bowl in the water and paddled with the chopstick for days on end, until at last he reached the town. 
Issun-boshi walked about town until he found himself in front of the stately mansion of the lord. At the gate he announced, "I have come to the city to work and train. I beg of you to make me a servant." But he was so tiny that the guard did not notice him. "I'm here, I'm here," Issun-boshi shouted. Finally the guard spotted him and lifted him up from the shadow of his geta (Japanese sandals). Issun-boshi was granted permission to see the lord and, in the palm of the lord's hand, he knelt, bowed, and pledged his loyalty. The lord took an instant liking to Issun-boshi and made him a retainer. Everyone in the mansion soon came to like the intelligent, charming Issun-boshi, but none more so than the lord's daughter. Before long, he became her personal attendant.

One afternoon the princess took Issun-boshi along and went to pay her respects at the Kiyomizu temple. Along the way, two ogres suddenly jumped out onto the road and blocked their path. Issun-boshi unsheathed his sword and instantly threw himself upon their attackers. But then suddenly one of the ogres swallowed him up in one gulp. In retort, he stabbed at the insides of its stomach. The ogre was so overcome with pain that it threw Issun-boshi up out of its stomach. Issun-boshi immediately jumped up on the other ogre's eyebrow and stabbed at its eye. Defeated, the ogres fled away crying, and in the process, one of them dropped its magic hammer.
 The princess picked up the hammer and said, "If you wave this, anything you ask for - money or rice - will be yours." Issun-boshi replied, "I want neither money nor rice. All I want is to become full-sized." The princess nodded, then waved the hammer, singing, "Growww, growww." 
In an instant, Issun-boshi became a full-grown, handsome warrior. He married the princess and, together with his parents, they lived happily ever after.