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Momotarō (桃太郎 Momotarou?, "Peach Boy") is a popular hero of Japanese folklore originating from Okayama Prefecture. His name translates as Peach Tarō, a common Japanese boy's name, and is often translated as Peach Boy. Momotarō is the title of various books, films and other works that portray the tale of this hero.
According to the present form of the tale (dating to the Edo period), Momotarō came to Earth inside a giant peach, which was found floating down a river by an old, childless woman who was washing clothes there. The woman and her husband discovered the child when they tried to open the peach to eat it. The child explained that he had been sent by Heaven to be their son. The couple named him Momotarō, from momo (peach) and tarō (eldest son in the family).
Years later, Momotarō left his parents to fight a band of marauding oni (demons or ogres) on a distant island. En route, Momotarō met and befriended a talking dog, monkey and pheasant, who agreed to help him in his quest. At the island, Momotarō and his animal friends penetrated the demons' fort and beat the band of demons into surrendering. Momotarō and his new friends returned home with the demons' plundered treasure and the demon chief as a captive. Momotarō and his family lived comfortably from then on.
Momotarō is strongly associated with Okayama, and his tale may have its origins there. The demon island (Onigashima (鬼ヶ島?)) of the story is sometimes associated with Megijima Island, an island in the Seto Inland Sea near Takamatsu, due to the vast manmade caves found on that island.
The story has some regional variations. Some say Momotarō floated by in a box, a white peach or a red peach. Stories from the Shikoku and Chūgoku regions muddy the distinction with characters from another folk story, the Monkey-Crab Battle, that Momotarō took with him allies to Oni Island, namely a bee (蜂 hachi?), a crab (蟹 kani?), a millstone (臼 usu?), a chestnut (栗 kuri?), and cow dung (牛の糞 ushi no fun?).
There are variances about the Momotarō's process of growth; one is that he grew up to meet the expectation of the old couple to be a fine boy. Another is that he grew up to be a strong but lazy person who just sleeps all day and does not do anything. It is possible that the Momotarō being a fine boy version is more famous to give lessons to children. Nowadays, Momotarō is one of the most famous characters in Japan, as an ideal model for young kids for his kind-heartedness, bravery, power, and care for his parents.
Grown up, Momotarō goes on his journey to defeat the demons when he hears about the demons of the Onigashima (demon island). In some versions of the story, Momotarō volunteered to go help the people by repelling the demons, but in some stories he was forced by the townspeople or others to go on journey. However, all the stories describe Momotarō defeating the Oni and live happily ever after with the old couple.
The story has been translated into English many times. Rev. David Thomson translated it as the first volume of Hasegawa Takejirō's Japanese Fairy Tale series in 1885. Susan Ballard included it in Fairy Tales from Far Japan (1899). Yei Theodora Ozaki included it in her Japanese Fairy Tales (1911). Teresa Peirce Williston included it in Japanese Fairy Tales, Second Series, in 1911. And there are many other translations.
The popular children's song about Momotarō titled Momotarō-san no Uta (Momotarō's Song) was first published in 1911; the text's author is unattributed, while the melody was written by Teiichi Okano. The first two stanzas, with romanization and translation, are given below.
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"Momotarō-san no uta" 桃太郎さんの歌 "Momotarō's Song" Momotarō-san, Momotarō-san 桃太郎さん、桃太郎さん Momotarō, Momotarō Okoshi ni tsuketa kibidango お腰につけたきびだんご Those millet dumplings on your waist Hitotsu watashi ni kudasai na? 一つ私に下さいな！ Won't you give me one? Yarimashō, yarimashō やりま せう、やりま せう I'll give you one, I'll give you one Kore kara oni no seibatsu ni これから鬼の征伐に From now, on a quest to conquer the oni Tsuite kuru nara agemashō ついてくるならあげましょう If you come with me, I'll give you one
World War II
Momotarō was an immensely popular figure in Japan during World War II, appearing in many wartime films and cartoons. Momotarō represented the Japanese government, citizens were animals and the United States was the oni, the demonic figure. Even though it is not directly mentioned, it is implied that Onigashima was Pearl Harbor. It was used to convey the idea that Japan would fight against the wicked, yet powerful United States and victory could only be achieved if the citizens supported the government. Also, the food and treasure that Momotarō and the animals earned after conquering the oni was supposed to reflect the glory that the powerful Japanese Empire would have had after defeating the United States. One such movie was Momotarō's Divine Sea Warriors.
In other media
- A clockwork sex doll in the 2015 "Anomalisa" sings Momotarō's song to the despondent hero at the film's end.
- In 1982, the Japanese magical-girl anime series Magical Princess Minky Momo is name and companions was reference to Momotarō.
- In 1987, the Japanese role-playing video game series Momotaro Densetsu featured a main character named Momotarō.
- In 1989, a three episode OVA series entitled Amada Anime Series: Super Mario Bros. was created and used characters from the Mario series in retellings of fairy tales. The first episode retold this fairyale.
- In 1994, Kiki KaiKai Tsukiyozoushi shows three animals, monkey, dog, and pheasant, talking in animal language. The miko, Sayo-chan, can't understand the animals, as they are trying to say, "Please save Momotaro!". After Sayo defeats Impy, an oni, Momotaro appears.
- In 2001, the story of Momotarō is portrayed in an episode of Hello Kitty's Animation Theater, produced by Group TAC and Sanrio, starring Hello Kitty in the lead role.
- In the 2003 video game Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, one of the magnus cards you can acquire is of a giant peach, with a description that reads "Its fuzz is soft to the touch. This peacy is juicy and sweet. It's larger than any peach you've ever seen! A baby could practically fit inside.". Given some time, this card will transform into "Peach Boy", which includes the following: "A.K.A. MOMO-Taro, the Peach Boy was born of a giant peach. He's the legendary hero that fought ogres with his companions--a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant."
- In the Samurai Jack episode "Jack and the Baby", Jack retells the story of Momotaro to a lost infant whom he is protecting.
- In the Renkin 3-kyū Magical? Pokān episode "The Spell of Skewed Legend is Momotaro," the episode parodied the Momotaro folk story by depicting Aiko as a rejected android of the Kasuga Institute named MOMO9000 who reads the Momotaro story given to her by the old couple that found her pear-shaped capsule. It also depicts Liru as the dog, Uma as the monkey, and Pachira as the pheasant in MOMO9000's quest to get to Onigashima.
- In "Drunk Momotaro" the cast of Gaki No Tsukai performed the story of Momotaro as a test of their professionalism; as in the notion of how a professional performer has to be able to perform even when they are incapacitated. So to test this, the cast had to take a big amount of alcoholic drinks prior to going on stage. The roles were Director Tsu-tsun as Momotaro, Hitoshi Matsumoto as the grandmother (but he and Hosei Yamasaki later switched roles), Masatoshi Hamada as the monkey, Hosei Yamasaki as the dog and the red demon, Naoki Tanaka as the pheasant and Shozo Endo as the grandfather and the blue demon. The performance was unsurprisingly a complete disaster with some of the cast not being able to stay upright and messing up their lines.
- In 2006, Marvel Comics released a comic in the X-Men Fairy Tales series which re-imagined Momotarō. In this version, the peach boy was Cyclops, named Hitome in this version. Hitome was seen as a Yōkai by the other villagers, but was recruited by a servant of the Emperor to save his daughter from kidnappers.
- Boukenger (2006) includes references to Momotaro in its episode 36.
- The anime Okami-san and Her Seven Companions (2010), an anime based on many Japanese and European fairytales, portrays Momotaro through the busty female character Momoko Kibitsu, a warrior-like girl who is followed around by three boys who resemble a monkey, a chicken, and a dog. They are extremely loyal to her because they are obsessed with her extremely large breasts-which they call her 'dumplings'. In episode 5, she goes to an antagonistic enemy school called 'Onigashima High' and helps the main character beat up the delinquents that attend Onigashima because they have been threatening the student body at the school Momoko and the other characters attend, Otogi Academy.
- Momotarō the peach boy is one of five stories about giants and ogres in Saviour Pirotta's 2012 book, The Giant Book of Giants.
- Also in 2014, Momotarō was the main protagonist in shoot-em-up game, named Zombie Panic in Wonderland His animal friends also show up in zombified formats.
- During the same year, the anime Momo Kyun Sword is loosely based on the folktale of Momotarō, re-imagining it as a busty girl named Momoko.
- Featured in the "Momotaro the Peach Boy" episode of Super Why!, an American children's television show.
- The Anime/Manga "One Piece" has a trio of antagonist admirals named Red Dog, Blue Pheasant and Yellow Monkey, based on Momotaro's three animal friends.
- In 2015, the Japanese manga Assassination Classroom retells the Tale of Momotaro as a modern divorce case in chapter 127.
- Momotaros, one of the imagin from Kamen Rider Den-O is inspired by Momotaro. His Rider form has a peach motif.
- Ozaki, Yei Theodora (1903). "Momotaro, or the story of the Son of a Peach". The Japanese Fairy Book. Archibald Constable & Co.
- "Oni-ga-shima(or Megijima)". Archived from the original on 2008-01-10. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
- "Megi-jima/Ogi-jima". Takamatsu City Web Site. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
- "桃太郎". Archived from the original on 2008-02-08. Retrieved 2010-09-01. (Japanese)
- John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War p. 253 ISBN 0-394-50030-X
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