January 22, 2011

3 Japanese Folktales

Every now and then, I stumble across a Japanese Folktale that I think is an absolute gem and I save it to my computer. Here are three of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Love & light.
Jay Jii

House of 1000 Mirrors

Long ago in a small, far away village, there was place known as the House of 1000 Mirrors. A small, happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit. When he arrived, he bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house. He looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could. To his great surprise, he found himself staring at 1000 other happy little dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile, and was answered with 1000 great smiles just as warm and friendly. As he left the House, he thought to himself, "This is a wonderful place. I will come back and visit it often." 

In this same village, another little dog, who was not quite as happy as the first one, decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the door. When he saw the 1000 unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them and was horrified to see 1000 little dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, "That is a horrible place, and I will never go back there again." All the faces in the world are mirrors. What kind of reflections do you see in the faces of the people you meet?


Once, there was an emperor in the Far East who was growing old and knew it was coming time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or one of his own children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, "It has come time for me to step down and to choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you." The kids were shocked! But the emperor continued, "I am going to give each one of you a seed today. One seed. It is a very special seed. I want you to go home, plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring to me, and the person I choose will be the next emperor of the kingdom!"

There was a boy named Ling who was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his mother the whole story. She helped him get a pot and some planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. A year finally went by and all the children of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling's plant never grew. Ling told his mother that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But she encouraged him to go, and to take his pot, and to be honest about what happened. Ling felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace.

When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by all the other children. They were beautiful and in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other kids laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, "Hey, nice try." When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown," said the emperor. "Today, one of you will be appointed the next emperor!" All of the sudden, the emperor spotted Ling in the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. "The emperor knows I'm a failure!" he thought to himself.

When Ling got to the front, the emperor asked him his name. "My name is Ling," he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, "Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!" Ling couldn't believe it. Ling couldn't even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?

The emperor said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds which would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!"

A Broken Promise

Long, long ago, some children were playing at a seaside when they found a turtle. They began to bully the turtle. After a while, a young man came and said to them, "Stop it!" The children went away then.

"I really appreciate your kindness. I really would like to invite you to a wonderful palace now," the turtle said. As soon as the young man got on the back of the turtle, he was taken to a secret palace in the sea. When he arrived at the palace, he was very surprised and said to the turtle, "What a nice place!" The palace was very beautiful, and the king of the turtles gave a feast for him and he met many people. He had never seen such a good feast. He received a warm welcome there, and he was very satisfied with everything. He thought there was no other place nicer than that one. He said to the turtle, "Thank you, I am glad to have met you."

When he left, the turtle said, "I am going to give you two boxes, but you can only open one of the boxes. You must not open both. Don't forget!"

"All right. I will open only one." he promised. A large crowd of people said goodbye to him, and he went back to his land. After he got home, he opened the bigger of the two boxes. To his amazement, there was a great deal of gold in the box.

"Heavens!" he said loudly. He was rich now. He thought, "The other one must also be full of money." He could not stand not opening the box, so he broke his promise and opened it.

As soon as he opened the box, he became an old man. His hair turned white and his face was full of wrinkles. His looked like an old man over eighty years old. It all happened in a moment. After that he regretted what he did. "Just because I broke the promise..." he said, but it was too late.