Long, long ago, there lived an old man and his old wife in a village in Japan. The old man went to the mountain to gather wood for the fire. And the old woman went to the river to wash clothes, just as a big peach came floating down the river.
"What a big peach this is! I'll take it home to eat" said the woman, and she went home with it on her back.
When the old man got home she began to cut the peach but to their surprise, the peach cut apart by itself and a big baby boy jumped out of it.
"Oh, my God!" They were very surprised but very happy to receive him because they had no children of their own.
"What shall we call him?" asked the woman.
"He was born from the peach. How about calling him Momo-Taro,'Peach Boy'." said the old man.
"That's a good name."
Momo-Taro grew and grew quickly to be a sturdy and kind-hearted boy.
At this time, Japan was having terrible problems. There were some horrible, monstrous demons living in a place called Demon Island, off the coast of Japan, and do you know the kind of things they did? If a boat came near their island, they would snatch it out of the sea and crush it, killing everyone on board, just for fun.
Well, Momo-taro-san decided that he was going to go and put a stop to the demons, but when he told his parents they were very worried, as you can imagine, because they knew it would be dangerous. They tried to persuade him to stay but he was determined to go and stop the demons.
The day came when he was to leave, and his parents cooked him some very special food for the journey. This food is called kibidango, and it's a sticky rice ball and is very sweet and delicious. So he tied the kibidango on to his belt and set off down the road, and his parents waved until they couldn't see him any more.
Now Momo-taro-san hadn't gone down the road very far when a pheasant came running out across his path. And this pheasant got half-way and then stopped, sniffed the air and said, "Ooh, I can smell kibidango. It's my favorite food in the whole world." And she sang the song:
Okoshi ni tsuketa kibidango,
Hitotsu watashi in kudasai na!
Now the words of this song mean, 'Mom-taro-san, please give me one of the kibidango on your waist.'
“Well!” said Momo-taro-san, “I will give you one if you will help me fight the demons on Demon Island.”
"Oh Yes, that's alright,” she said, “I'll do anything for kibidango.”
And she followed Momo-taro-san down the road.
They got a bit further when a dog came out from a ditch to cross the road. He got half-way across the road, stopped, sniffed the air, and began to whine and yelp. And what do you think he smelled? That's right, the kibadango, and so he sand the song to:
Okoshi ni tsuketa kibidango,
Hitotsu watashi in kudasai na!
And Momo-taro-san said, “you can have some kibidango if you come help me fight the demons on Demon Island.”
Now the dog wasn't so very brave, but he thought that maybe he could just fight the small demons and leave the big ones for someone else. So he followed the pheasant, who followed Momo-taro-san and they went down the road.
Further along, there was a monkey in a tree, and he swung across the road to another branch, then suddenly raced down another branch, then suddenly raced down the trunk and came up to Momo-taro-san.
"I can smell kibidango and it makes me so hungry!" said the monkey. And the monkey also sang this song:
Okoshi ni tsuketa kibidango,
Hitotsu watashi in kudasai na!
And what do you think Momo-taro-san said? He said, "you can have some if you help me fight the demons on Demon Island."
Well, the monkey wasn't at all brave, but he thought if the fighting got too tough, he could hide in a tree until it was all over. So the monkey followed the dog, who followed the pheasant, who followed Momo-taro-san, and they went on down the road. They walked and they walked and at last they came to the sea where they found a fisherman, sitting sadly by his boat.
”What's wrong? Can we help?” asked Momo-taro-san.
"Ah, I wish you could,' said the fisherman. “It is the demons, you see. I don’t dare take my boat out anymore, so I can't catch any fish, and my wife and children are very hungry. The whole village is suffering because we all rely on fish to eat, and we can't catch any because of the demons.”
“Well, we've come to get rid of the demons once and for all,” said Momo-taro-san.
And the fisherman was so happy to hear this that he lent them his boat, and Momo-taro-san, the pheasant, the dog, and the monkey started to row out across the sea. Soon they could see Demon Island in the distance. As they got nearer, they could see a huge wall rising up as high as the tallest building you've ever seen. They tied up the boat and started to walk around the island, but the wall went all the way around. There was only one way in, a huge gate, but it was guarded by two of the most frightening, enormous, and fiercest demons that you've ever imagined in your worst nightmares; and each of them had two horns on his forehead.
“What are we going to do now?” wailed the monkey. “We can't get through that gate with those two demons there.”
And they all shrank back behind a tree so that they wouldn't be seen by the two demons. All except the pheasant, who started picking up stones from the ground in her beak. The others wondered what she was doing. Then she flew to the top of this high wall, and after a minute she took one of the stones in her beak, and do you know what she did? She spat it at one of those demon guards. It hit him right on the forehead. He looked all around but couldn't see anybody except the other guard. The demon glared at him and said, “Why are you throwing stones at me?”
“I'm not throwing stones. Don't be stupid,” said the other guard.
”Don't call me stupid,” said the first guard and he started muttering to himself.
A moment later, the pheasant took up another stone in her beak and spat it at the other guard.
"I didn't throw a stone at you,” he said. “So why are you throwing one at me now?”
“I didn't. What's the matter with you?”
“There is nothing the matter with me!”
And the second guard started pacing the ground and muttering to himself.
Just then, the pheasent picked up two more stones in her beak and she spat one at each guard.
”You threw another stone at me!”
“No, you threw a stone at me!”
“You throw stones and don't know your doing it. There's something wrong with you!”
And the two demons started to fight each other. But they were both exactly the same size and strength, and so neither of them could win. They just carried on punching and kicking each other, and the ground shook with their fighting, until they had knocked each other out and they both fell unconscious to the ground.
Then the pheasant flew down to the inside of the gate and turned the key in the lock with her beak. In walked Momo-taro-san, the dog, and the monkey, and they saw a whole horde of demons. Well, what do you think the demons inside the wall were doing? They were all watching to see what was going to happen, because they'd felt the ground shake, and heard all the noise, and wanted to know what was going on.
Momo-taro-san stepped forward and proclaimed, “I and my army have come to defeat you!”
When the demons saw that the army consisted of a young boy, a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant, they all began to laugh, but it wasn't a pleasant sort of laughter, not at all the kind you'd enjoy hearing. Then, as Momo-taro-san and the animals stood and watched, all these hideous and frightening demons, with horns growing from their foreheads, stood up and began to walk towards them. They got nearer and nearer, but suddenly stopped, because over Momo-taro-san's shoulder do you know what they saw? Yes, they saw the bodies of the two guards lying on the ground, looking as if they were dead.
“This boy must have some sort of magic powers if he can kill our bravest and fiercest guards!” the demon at the front said to the others. “Look at them, they're just lying there!”
And they all began to quiver and quake with fear, and the demons at the back pushed forward to see what it was that had stopped the ones in the front. And when they saw the guards' bodies, they began to quake and quiver too. These demons, you see, like most bullies, weren't actually very brave. They just used their size to frighten people. They all started to get very worried and scared.
And at that moment, the pheasant started flying into their faces and pecking at their noses, and the dog snapped at their ankles, and the monkey began to throw fruit down on to their heads from a tree above.
”Oh no, it's the boy's magic powers at work! Something terrible is happening! We're being attacked from every side!” the demons screamed.
And they ran and ran to the edge of the island, where they got into their ships and sailed away, never to be seen again.
After all this, Momo-taro-san and the animals were very tired, so as it was getting dark the decided to look for somewhere to sleep, and go back home the next day. It was almost dark when they found a cave, which looked inviting, and so they lay down to sleep. Within a few minutes all the animals were fast asleep, but not Momo-taro-san, he just couldn't get comfortable. The ground seemed so hard. He tried this position, he tried that position, but it was no use. He couldn't sleep at all. It was as though there were little pebbles digging into him all night. So as soon as it got light, the first thing he did was to look and see what was on the floor in the cave that was so uncomfortable.
And when he did, he couldn't believe his eyes! Can you guess what he found there? I'll give you a clue; it was something you might be pleased to find. It was - GOLD! The floor of the cave was covered with pieces of gold. The demons had stolen it from a pirate ship, you see, and put it in the cave as they didn't really know what to do with it.
When Momo-taro-san saw all this gold everywhere, he woke up the animals and shouted, “Look! Look! Here's gold!”
The animals each opened a sleepy eye, “Why are you waking us up so early?”
”Look,” he said. “We're rich!”
The animals looked down and saw these yellow stones that didn't look very exciting to them, and they turned over and were about to go back to sleep.
Momo-taro-san cried, “No, come on. Get up. This is gold!”
The dog sniffed it. “It doesn't smell very nice.” Then he licked it, “It doesn't taste very nice either. Ow! It nearly broke my tooth when I tried to eat it.”
”You can't eat gold,” said Momo-taro-san. “We'll all be rich.”
The monkey piped up, “I think this is a trick. We came here because you promised to share out your kibidango, and now you're trying to make us take this yellow stuff instead. If we can't eat it, it's no use to us.”
And then the pheasant had a very good idea. “Well,” she said, “if you're so excited by this gold, why don't you have it all, and we'll have your share of the kibadango.”
So it was agreed. Momo-taro-san took all the gold he could carry in a bag over his shoulder, the animals ate their kibadango, and they all went home. When Momo-taro-san's parents found out that they wouldn't have to be poor anymore, they were very pleased, but even happier to see their son safe and well.
But, do you know, Momo-taro-san never forgot the animals. Every week he would take a big food parcel down to the forest where they lived, and so for the rest of their days they had as much kibidango as they could eat!
This version of Momo Taro used together from the following websites:
Coherent plot and general editing by me.
Momo Taro is, on the basic level, Japanese Folklore and the triumph of good over evil. Despite many internet searches, I cannot find a 'who' or a 'when' accredited to this story and I wouldn't be so bold as to make assumptions, but the story probably appealed to the samurai and warrior classes throughout history. The story is immensly popular throughout Asia, and is slowly gaining popularity amongst middle and elementry teachers in the United States.
During WWII, the Japanese used the tale of Momo Taro as propaganda against the United States. A quick evaluation of this use of the story shows, easily, that Japan is Momo Taro and the United States is the demons. Really? Wow! I'd never thought of deducing that! Ok ok. So that part is pretty obvious. So is the rest of the apparent symbolism. But I'll tell you anyway.
Momo Taro can be said to be the Japanese Government, and the Animals are the peasantry, and if they work together, they can defeat the Demons. THe peasantry isn't very brave, so they need food to entice them. A hungry person isn't a happy person, after all. They have to travel across the sea to get to Demon Island, where the Demons live. The demons are larger. stronger, and fiercer. Admiral Yamamoto, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, likened the United States to a sleeping giant. If we take the story/symbolism references literally, it can be argued that the Japanese believed that the U.S. was nothing but a bunch of over grown idiotic cowards (in reality, that's quite an understatement). Or, at least, that's what the Japanese government wanted it's people to think. The Japanese, or Momo Taro/animal alliance, defeated the US/demons in the story, and then they got as much gold and food as they could ever want; i.e. riches for the Japanese Empire. Considering all this, it is very understandable that Momo Taro was used as propaganda. But despite that part of its past, the story is a memorable one as far as fairy tales go. I'd tell it to my kids.