This is a very old Japanese folk tale. This version is from F. Hadland Davis, Myths and Legends of Japan, London: G. G. Harrap and Company, 1913.


It was springtime, and along Mio's pine-clad shore there came a sound of birds. The blue sea danced and sparkled in the sunshine, and Hairukoo, a fisherman, sat down to enjoy the scene. As he did so he chanced to see, hanging on a pine tree, a beautiful robe of pure white feathers.

As Hairukoo was about to take down the robe he saw coming toward him from the sea an extremely lovely maiden, who requested that the fisherman would restore the robe to her.

Hairukoo gazed upon the lady with considerable admiration. Said he, "I found this robe, and I mean to keep it, for it is a marvel to be placed among the treasures of Japan. No, I cannot possibly give it to you."

"Oh," cried the maiden pitifully, "I cannot go soaring into the sky without my robe of feathers, for if you persist in keeping it I can never more return to my celestial home. Oh, good fisherman, I beg of you to restore my robe!"

The fisherman, who must have been a hard-hearted fellow, refused to relent.

"The more you plead," said he, "the more determined I am to keep what I have found."

Thus the maiden made answer:

"Speak not, dear fisherman! Speak not that word!
Ah! know'st thou not that, like the hapless bird
Whose wings are broke, I seek, but seek in vain,
Reft of my wings, to soar to heav'n's blue plain?"

After further argument on the subject the fisherman's heart softened a little.

"I will restore your robe of feathers," said he, "if you will at once dance before me."

Then the maiden replied, "I will dance it here -- the dance that makes the Palace of the Moon turn round, so that even poor transitory man may learn its mysteries. But I cannot dance without my feathers."

"No," said the fisherman suspiciously. "If I give you this robe, you will fly away without dancing before me."

This remark made the maiden extremely angry.

"The pledge of mortals may be broken," said she, "but there is no falsehood among the heavenly beings."

These words put the fisherman to shame, and, without more ado, he gave the maiden her robe of feathers.

When the maiden had put on her pure white garment she struck a musical instrument and began to dance, and while she danced and played she sang of many strange and beautiful things concerning her faraway home in the moon. She sang of the might Palace of the Moon, where thirty monarchs ruled, fifteen in robes of white when that shining orb was full, and fifteen robed in black when the moon was waning. As she sang and played and danced she blessed Japan, "that earth may still her proper increase yield!"

The fisherman did not long enjoy this kindly exhibition of the Moon Lady's skill, for very soon her dainty feet ceased to tap upon the sand. She rose into the air, the white feathers of her robe gleaming against the pine trees or against the blue sky itself. Up, up she went, still playing and singing, past the summits of the mountains, higher and higher, until her song was hushed, until she reached the glorious Palace of the Moon.

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