The Story of Princess Kaguya–A Japanese Tale

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Japanese
Age: 25
Occupation: Office Worker
Residence: Japan
Date of Performance/Collection: April 24
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece

This is a Japanese tale my friend, identified as AI, told me about. I am identified as IC.

AI: There was an old bamboo cutter. One day, when he was gathering bamboo in the mountains, he came across a bamboo stalk that was shining very brightly. Wondering what it was, the old man cut the bamboo, and found a cute little girl inside. He thought it was a gift from the gods and took the little girl home. He showed the girl to his wife and she instantly fell in love with her. They named her Princess Kaguya and raised her with tender loving care. Kaguya grew up to become a very beautiful lady.

However, rumors about Princess Kaguya’s beauty spread throughout the country, and soon, five great young men came to ask her for her hand in marriage. Princess Kaguya just wanted to live a quiet life, so she came up with an idea. She said, “I will marry the one who can find what I want.”

Things she asked for were very difficult to find: a stone pot of Buddha, a cowry shell from the nest of a swallow, leather clothes made from the skins of the legendary mice, a branch from a jewel tree, and the five-colored jewels from the dragon neck. No man could find these things, and they all gave up.

As the day of the full moon approached, Princess Kaguya started crying as she looked at the moon.

“Why are you crying?” asked the old man and woman. “I am not of this land. I am from the moon. Escorts from the moon will come and take me back on the night of the full moon in August. I must return where I am from,” said Princess Kaguya. She told the old man and woman that she would miss them very much.

The old man and woman decided to protect Princess Kaguya from the moon escorts by placing warriors around the house. However, the warriors couldn’t move when they saw the escorts from the moon There was a blinding light and the warriors could not drive them away. Princess Kaguya thanked the old couple for their care and returned to the moon.

IC: What do you think this story means?

AI: I’m not sure but I think it’s more magical and beautiful compared to Momotaro. This story is also more popular to girls.

IC: Why is that?

AI: I’m not really sure but bamboos are always close to temples, which are beautiful places in Japan and that a beautiful girl was born from the bamboo is magical. Also, the story is so old but Princess Kaguya wants to find love of her own, not marriage that is a kind of arranged marriage. I think it shows that people will always look for love, even traditionally and now.

Background:

My informant is a 25-year-old Japanese woman who grew up mostly in Hong Kong and Korea. She currently works in Japan. She remembers hearing about this story when she was in Hong Kong and went to a Japanese cram school and the teachers told her this was crucial story she had to know as a Japanese.

Thoughts:

I think this story talks about how you must always return to where you belong, which can be interpreted as you shouldn’t try to be someone you’re not. Kaguya eventually returns to the moon because that is where she belongs. Even if she wanted to stay, she couldn’t. Although in real life, there aren’t celestial beings from the moon, I think it can be applied to friendships and peer pressure. Growing up, children are often influenced by the opinions of their peers and it can drastically impact their future path. The wrong group of friends will send them down the wrong path. With the right group of friends, you will be on the good path and become someone who will have their own opinions and understand when you should stand up for your own beliefs.