My Lord Bag of Rice

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Utagawa Kuniyoshi 1845, Tokaidō gojūsantsui: Kusatsu

"My Lord Bag of Rice" (or "Tawara Tōda" (「俵藤太」)) is a Japanese fairy tale about the titular hero a.k.a. Fujiwara no Hidesato who killed a giant centipede (mukade) at the request of a dragon-serpent from the underwater Ryūgū-jō (龍宮城) "Dragon Palace". The hero was entertained at the palace and received rewards, which included an inexhaustible bag of rice.[a]

The story has precedence in the otogi-zōshi version Tawara Tōda monogatari dating to the Edo Period or earlier, and is also given an account in the Taiheiki (14th century).


The story is set in Ōmi Province (Shiga Prefecture), and begins with a large serpent lying on Seta Bridge [ja] on the brink of Lake Biwa. The serpent, which later assumes human form, conveys Hidesato to the Dragon Palace, which can be reached through the depths of this Lake.[1][2]

There is a Shinto shrine near the Seta Bridge at Lake Biwa where people worship Tawara Tōda.[3]


Tawara Tōda 俵藤太 "Rice-bag Tōda", a pun between tawara "straw rice-bag; straw barrel" and the Japanese name or place name 田原 (Tawara), was the nickname given to the historical Fujiwara no Hidesato who flourished in the first half of the 10th century and participated in the suppression of the rebel usurper Taira no Masakado.[4]

The nickname is sometimes styled "Tawara [no] Tōta".[5]

Centipede-slaying legend[edit]

The hero's centipede-slaying legend as contained in the Tawara Tōda monogatari ("The Tale of Tawara Tōda") was widely circulated and read during the early Edo Period (17th century), when the text was being copied in picture scrolls (emaki) and appearing in Otogizōshi type woodblock-printed (and hand-copied) books.[b][7][1] A summary of the monogatari version is as follows:

Fujiwara no Hidesato confronted the large serpent which lay on Seta Bridge [ja] in Ōmi Province disrupting travelers. Undaunted by this twelve horned snake mearuring 200 feet,[c] the hero stepped on its back and crossed over, continuing onward. That night he was visited by a young woman who proclaimed to be the transformation of the serpent. Near Lake Biwa where she lived, a huge centipede took up residence on Mount Mikami, and was devouring beasts and fish and even her own kindred.
Hidesato accepted her plea to eradicate this creature, and went to Seta. When the centipede came slinking down, it appeared as if two or three thousand torches were descending the mountain. Hidesato shot two arrows which failed to lodge, but when he laid spittle on the third arrow and prayed to his patron Hachiman deity it struck a grievous blow. Hidesato approached the creature[d] and hacked it to pieces.[e]
The dragon woman was elated and gave him magical gifts: undiminishing bolts of silk, inexhaustible rice bag, and a crimson copper pan of plenty (or "pot of alloyed gold and copper"[8]). It was on account of the rice bag (tawara [ja]) that Hidesato received the nickname Tawara Tōda. The dragon woman took him to the Dragon-Palace (Ryūgū), where he was entertained and lavished with additional gifts from the Dragon King.[f] Hidesato was given armor and sword, and a crimson copper bell. Hidesato subsequently donated this bell to Mii-dera temple at the foot of Mount Hiei.[9][1][6]

The monogatari version probably derives from earlier accounts of Hidesato's centipede slaying described in the 14th-century Taiheiki, expanded with layers of legendary and religious (Buddhist) motifs.[10] The above summary is not the entirety of Tawara Tōda monogatari, which contains a second part where the hero triumphs over Taira no Masakado, despite the latter having an iron body which was invulnerable except at the temples on his head, and having six ghostly doubles of himself.[10]


The 14th-century Taiheiki records a much earlier version of this legend about Hidesato,[11][12] but instead of the dragon turning into a beautiful woman, it transforms into a "strange small man"[12] – the Dragon King himself.[g][13][14] And here, Hidesato is invited to the Dragon Palace first and thereafter combats the centipede that attacks the aquatic realm.[12][15] Here the inexhaustible silk and rice bag are received from the Dragon King,[h] but not the copper alloy pan/pot, only the copper temple-bell.[15]

Other attestations[edit]

A version (similar to the monogatari) appears in Honchō kaidan koji (本朝怪談故事) (1711) as pointed out by Dutch Japanologist Marinus Willem de Visser [de].[2]

The centipede coiled seven and a half turns around Mount Mikami, in popular tradition.[5] An early written mention of this occurs in the area guidebook Ōmi yochi shiryaku (1723).[16]

The name Chikushi (遅来矢) has been ascribed to the sword given by the Dragon King in the Wakan sansai zue encyclopedia (1712) and the Tōkaidō meisho zue  [ja] almanac (1797).[i][17][18][19]

However, it was Hidesato's armor from the Dragon Palace which bore the similarly calligraphed name Hiraishi (避来矢) according to the Ujisatoki (before 1713[20]).[j][21][22][23] Hiraishi (平石), an armor with the same-sounding but differently written name, is listed as a gift of Dragon Palace in Arai Hakuseki's Honchō gunkikō (1709); this work mentions a second armor Muromaru (室丸) being obtained as well.[24][25]

Although not an attestation of the entire story, a sword named Mukadegiri [ja] (蚣切) "Centepede-cutter" and allegedly owned by Hidesato according to the inscription on its tang was bequeathed to the Ise Shrine.[26] The Ise Shrine (Chōkokan Museum [ja]) also houses a kenuki gata [ja] or "tweezer type" that allegedly belonged to Hidesato.[27][k]

Fairy tale translations[edit]

An English version of the tale entitled "My Lord Bag-O'-Rice" (1887) was translated by Basil Hall Chamberlain, and published as Japanese Fairy Tale Series No.15 by Hasegawa Takejirō.[29][30]

An otogibanashi (Japanese fairy tale) version entitled ”Tawara Tōda" (「俵藤太」), retold by Iwaya Sazanami [ja] appeared in the 1890's.[31] Subsequently "My Lord Bag of Rice" was included in Japanese Fairy Tales (1903) anthologized by Yei Theodora Ozaki[32][33] Ozaki's is a retelling based on the rendition by "Sadanami sanjin",[34] the misspelled alias of Iwaya Sazanami.[35] Ozaki's book was illustrated by Kakuzō Fujiyama.[34]

"My Lord Bag of Rice" is also found in A Book of Dragons (1965) by Ruth Manning-Sanders, illustrated by Robin Jacques.[36] (Cf. Fujiwara no Hidesato#Legendary arms).

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Or rice sack (tawara [ja]).
  2. ^ The Tawara Tōda story is not one of the 23 pieces listed in the more stringent definition of otogizōshi. But it has been printed under the otogizōshi anthology.[6] Araki (1981) also discusses it as an otogizōshi narrative, in the broader sense.
  3. ^ 20 ().
  4. ^ Which had a head like an ox-demon (gyūki)
  5. ^ Presumably with his heirloom sword which he had brought.
  6. ^ The monogatari version elaborates that this was Sāgara Dragon King who (in Buddhism) was one of the Eight Great Dragon Kings [ja] (among the Eight Legions).
  7. ^ In the Taiheiki it is not explcit that the "small man" and the "Dragon God" (not "Dragon King" in original text) are the same personage, so this must be inferred. The small man changes into wearing a kanmuri () "crown" but this headdress is worn by various officials, not just the monarch.
  8. ^ Rather than the Dragon Woman, as in the monogatari version
  9. ^ This sword was passed down the Akahori clan [ja], these sources add.
  10. ^ This armor was passed down Sano clan [ja] of Shimotsuke Province, the Ujisatoki adds.
  11. ^ The Chōkokan Museum editors surmised that this particular kenuki gata sword (Ise) [ja] was the very sword that was heirloom to the Akahori clan [ja], to which was attached the legend of it being the gift of the Dragon Palace.[28]


  1. ^ a b c Kimbrough (2018).
  2. ^ a b Visser (1913), pp. 191–192.
  3. ^ Visser (1913), p. 191.
  4. ^ Visser (1913), p. 191, 192 and note 3
  5. ^ a b Foster, Michael Dylan (2015). The Book of Yōkai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore. University of California Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-520-95912-5.
  6. ^ a b Yamazaki, Fumoto, ed. (1932). "The Tale of Tawara Toda". Kōchū Nihon Bungaku Taikei 19: Otogizōshi 〔校注〕日本文学大系 19:お伽草子 他5. Kokumin Tosho. pp. 86–116. Invalid |script-title=: missing prefix (help) e-text (in Japanese)
  7. ^ Araki (1981), pp. 1–2.
  8. ^ Dykstra & Kurata (2000), p. 76.
  9. ^ Araki (1981), p. 2.
  10. ^ a b Araki (1981), pp. 3–4.
  11. ^ Taiheiki, Book 15 太平記 巻第十五, Chapter 118 "About the Battle of Miidera Temple, etc. 三井寺合戦並当寺撞鐘事付俵藤太事".
  12. ^ a b c Dykstra & Kurata (2000), p. 61.
  13. ^ Visser (1913), p. 192.
  14. ^ Shigehara, Hiroshi (1981), Nicchū setsuwa no hikaku kenkyū 日中説話の比較研究 (in Japanese), Kyūko Shoin, p. 52, 小男にも化ければ湖中の竜宮では竜王となる [will transform into a small-statured man, or become Dragon King in the Dragon Palace in the lake. ] Invalid |script-title=: missing prefix (help)
  15. ^ a b Friday (2008), pp. 157-158.
  16. ^ Sangawa, Tokikiyo 寒川辰清 (1915), "Book39: Hidesato (no) yashiro" 巻之卅九 秀郷社, Ōmi yochi shiryaku 近江輿地志略 : 校定頭註 (in Japanese), Seinō Insatsu, pp. 466–468 Invalid |script-title=: missing prefix (help)
  17. ^ Terajima, Ryōan 寺島良安 (1910), "Hidesato [no] yashiro" 秀郷社, Wakan sansai zue 26 Jinja bukkaku meisho 和漢三才図会. 巻之26 神社仏閣名所, Naitō shoya Invalid |script-title=: missing prefix (help), Gōshū (Ōmi Province) vol. 71, pp. 5–6 (in Japanese)
  18. ^ Akisato, Ritō 秋里籬島 (1910), "Hidesato no yashiro" 秀郷祠, Tōkaidō meisho zue (1) 東海道名所図会. 上冊, Yoshikawa Kobunkan Invalid |script-title=: missing prefix (help), Book 2, p. 25. (in Japanese)
  19. ^ Noted by Shida (1941), p. 5
  20. ^ Owada, Tetsuo (1997), Ishida Mitsunari: chi no sanbō no jitsuzō 石田三成: 「知の参謀」の実像, PHP Kenkyūjo, p. 12 Invalid |script-title=: missing prefix (help)
  21. ^ Shida (1941), p. 7: "the characters are extremely similar 文字が甚だよく似てゐる"
  22. ^ Kondō, Heijō 近藤 瓶城, ed. (1902), "Bekki dai 182 Ujisatoki kan-jō" 別記第182 氏郷記巻上, Kaiteishiseki shūran: bekkirui 改定史籍集覧: 別記類, Kondō Kappansho, p. 623-624 Invalid |script-title=: missing prefix (help)
  23. ^ Noted by Minakata Kumagusu (1916) Jūnishikō: Tawara Tōda ryūgū-iri no hanashi 十二支考 田原藤太竜宮入りの話; Nakamura (1971), p. 214
  24. ^ Hakuseki, Arai (1964). Robinson, H. Russell (ed.). The armour book in Honchō-gunkikō. Translated by Mrs. Y. Ōtsuka. C. E. Tuttle. pp. 17, 18.
  25. ^ Noted by Shida (1941), p. 7; Nakamura (1971), p. 214.
  26. ^ Yawata, Hyakuri 八幡百里 (1812), "Ise naigū hōnō tawara no tōda hidesato mukadegiri tachi no zu" 伊勢内宮奉納俵藤太秀郷蚣切太刀図, Japanese & Chinese Classics [Database] (in Japanese), Waseda University Invalid |script-title=: missing prefix (help)
  27. ^ Satō, Kanzan (1995). The Japanese Sword: a comprehensive guide. Translated by Joe Earle. The Overlook Press. p. 132. ISBN 9780870115622.
  28. ^ Jungu Chōko Museum Agriculture Pavillion (1941). Jingū Chōkokan chinretsuhin zuroku 神宮徴古館陳列品図録 (in Japanese). pp. 23–24. Invalid |script-title=: missing prefix (help)
  29. ^ My lord Bag-o'-Rice (Basil Hall Chamberlain translation) in libraries (WorldCat catalog) (1887)
  30. ^ Reprint: Chamberlain, Basil Hall ([between 1892 and 1896?]), My lord Bag-o'-Rice, London and Sydney: ondon : Griffith, Farran & Co. ; Sidney Check date values in: |date= (help) (1887)
  31. ^ Iwaya (1896); Iwaya (1927), pp. 147-158
  32. ^ Ozaki, Yei Theodora (1903). "My Lord Bag of Rice". Japanese Fairy Tales. Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co. pp. 1–11.
  33. ^ Dunne, Aidan (2018-07-21). Art in Focus: The Tale of Tawara Toda – Japanese story painters: History meets fantasy in 17th-century scrolls at the Chester Beatty Library, in Dublin. The Irish Times.
  34. ^ a b Ozaki (1903), p. v.
  35. ^ Herring (1988), p. 100: "..»Sadanami«. This name is a misprint of the nom de plume of Sazanami Iwaya".
  36. ^ Manning-Sanders, Ruth (1965). "My Lord Bag of Rice". A Book of Dragons. Dutton. pp. 38–42.

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