Momotarō (Peach Boy)

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Japanese
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Glendale, California
Date of Performance/Collection: Over Zoom call
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Japanese (as a child)

Context:

The informant–HO– is an third generation Japanese American 18 year old woman born in California who attended a weekly Japanese language school from age 7 to age 9. The tale was told to her by one of her teachers in English. 

Piece:

The one I know the most is about the little boy who hatches from the peach. It’s like an egg. I don’t know where it [referring to the the story] comes from. It’s just like a fairy tale. It’s an Asian fairy tale. It’s Japanese. OK here’s the story. I think it’s just called Peach Boy, I guess, in English. 

There’s like this old lady, and she’s going to do her laundry in like the nearby river ‘cause that’s like what they did then, I guess. I don’t know. And then she sees like this giant peach floating by and she’s like “Whoah…that’s a big peach. I’m gonna take it back to my husband, and we’re just gonna like eat this huge peach. Because that’s crazy how big it is. So like the husband sees it and is like, “Whoah! That’s a huge peach!” And she’s like, “I know right!” And he’s like, “Where’d you buy it?” And she’s like, “I literally just found it floating in the river.” Would you eat a peach that was floating in the river? So {the husband} gets a big knife and is like, “I’m gonna cut this sucker open.” And then when he is like about to do it, he hears a voice that’s like, “Stop!” And then he’s like, “Whoah!” And so he stops. And then, it just like (She then cups her hands and mimics the sound of a cracking noise while separating her cupped hands to represent the peach opening like an egg) And there’s a boy inside! And his age? I’m not sure. He’s just like little. Just young. I would say like baby to toddler range. Uhm…yeah.. Okay and then… What’s next? 

Then he’s like the talk of the town. And..uh..so they just adopt him as their own. Sort of like Hercules when, like, those two “normies”, like find him and raise him and he’s like [She laughs] He’s like… He’s kinda, like, better than all the other kids. He’s just like- in literally every other aspect, and the other kids are like, “Oh my god he’s the best!” And the parents are like, “Yeah we know.” But nobody knows why except for them, and they know it’s, like, ‘cause he hatched from inside of a giant peach. Is this what James and the Giant Peach is about? I’ve actually never seen it. It makes you think…

Okay, and then he’s fifteen. He’s like, “What up, fake Dad that’s like my adopted dad? Um, here’s a proposition: “What if I like go to this island full of demons,” which are just like those little red people. There’s, like, an island full of demons and they, like- They basically have taken over this, like, island that people used to live on, and they’re like going crazy. He’s like, “I wanna go there, and, like, free all the people.” And his dad is like, “Since you’re, like, crazy better than all the other children, why should I stop you? You can do anything.” 

So then he, like, goes and starts his little journey. And then he’s, like, walking along, and he comes across this wild dog. And the dog is like, [She mimics a dog growling] “What are you doing? Why are you walking here?” And the little kid is like, “Oh my god do you know who I am? Like, I’m Peach Boy!” And the dog’s like, “Oh my god. So sorry that I even questioned why you were walking here. Like, I’m super embarrassed. Could you let such a rude person on your journey? Like, I can’t believe how rude I just was.” Direct translation. [She said this sarcastically.] And he’s like, “Sure! Let’s go!” And, like, how is that dog gonna kill demons? I don’t know but, whatever. And they’re like walking along some more, and then they like- This monkey, like swoops down and is like, “Hey! Heard you guys are gonna go fight those demons. Can I be in on it?” And the dog’s like, “You’re a monkey. That’s dumb.” But the little boy is like, “Yeah!” So then, there’s like- [She hums a bouncy tune] Walking along some more. And then they, like- There’s a bird flying by, and the dog barks at the bird and is like… I don’t know. He just doesn’t like birds, but the boy is like, “Don’t be rude to the bird. That’s rude.” And then um… And then he’s like, “Hey, bird, we’re gonna go kill some demons. Do you wanna come?” And the bird’s like, “Yeah!” And then, they all go, but then the boy’s like, “But if you’re gonna join our little clan, all you crazy animals have to promise that you won’t be mean to each other because that’s rude.” They have a bad trek record, obviously. 

So then, they’re like- Okay, so then, they go to- They finally reach the shore. Like Japan’s an island. How long can it take you to reach the shore? Then, they find a little boat. How? I don’t know, but they get on a little boat, and they sail across the ocean to the demon island.. um.. And then they get off the boat. 

Oh wait, back up. When they’re sailing there, um, the peach boy is like, “Bird go ahead, and tell all the demons that we’re going to seriously kill all of them.” Which, like, wouldn’t you want it to be a surprise attack? But like, whatever… And the bird’s like, “Alright.” And so he flies over and is like, “Whats up? You’ll never believe who’s coming. It’s the peach boy. And then um..Okay, so then, the demons are like, “Okay. We’re super ready.” They’re not. 

So like, once the boat gets there the monkey, the dog, and the peach boy go absolutely bonkers on these demons. They kill all of them until there is one left, and it’s, like, the leader demon. And Peach Boy is like gonna kill him, and he’s like, “Oh my god! What if I just gave you all my gold and set everybody free, and, like, we were totally good.” And Peach Boy was like, “Yes. I’m into that.” And then, so he, like showed him where all the gold was and set free all of the people he was holding who were suffering and et cetera. And then he brings home all the gold to the old people that raised him, and then they’re like super rich until they die. And thats the end.

Analysis:

This tale, told to entertain children, teaches audiences the dichotomy between good (the hero, Peach Boy) and evil (the demons) and can triumph evil through superior physical strength. 

For further analysis of the tale and its function of spreading Japanese nationalism, see 

Antoni, Klaus. “Momotarō (The Peach Boy) and the Spirit of Japan: Concerning the Function of a Fairy Tale in Japanese Nationalism of the Early Shōwa Age.” Asian Folklore Studies, vol. 50, no. 1, 1991, pp. 155–188. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1178189. Accessed 30 Apr. 2020.