2015-06-25

takenoko bamboo shoot legends

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. Japanese legends and tales 伝説 民話 昔話 - Introduction .
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Legends about bamboo shoots 筍 / 竹の子 伝説 takenoko densetsu

. Edo no takenoko 江戸の筍 bamboo shoots in Edo .
- Introduction -

The most famous legend about bamboo is



Taketori Monogatari 竹取物語 The Tale of the Bamboo cutter
also known as
. Kaguya Hime かぐや姫 Princess Kaguya, Shining Princess .

There is a famous picture scroll about it


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Taketori Monogatari Emaki 竹取物語絵巻


- quote -
... a 10th-century Japanese folktale. It is considered the oldest extant Japanese prose narrative.
Taketori no Okina 竹取翁 The Old Man who Harvests Bamboo
... after she went back to Heaven
The parents became very sad and were soon put to bed sick. The officer returned to the Emperor with the items Kaguya-hime had given him as her last mortal act, and reported what had happened. The Emperor read her letter and was overcome with sadness. He asked his servants, "Which mountain is the closest place to Heaven?", to which one replied the Great Mountain of Suruga Province. The Emperor ordered his men to take the letter to the summit of the mountain and burn it, in the hope that his message would reach the distant princess.
The men were also commanded to burn the elixir of immortality since the Emperor did not wish to live forever without being able to see her. The legend has it that the word immortality (不死 fushi, or fuji) became the name of the mountain, Mount Fuji. It is also said that the kanji for the mountain, 富士山 (literally "Mountain Abounding with Warriors"), are derived from the Emperor's army ascending the slopes of the mountain to carry out his order. It is said that the smoke from the burning still rises to this day. (In the past, Mount Fuji was much more volcanically active.)
The protagonist Taketori no Okina,
given by name, appears in the earlier poetry collection Man'yōshū (c. 759; poem #3791). In it, he meets a group of women to whom he recites a poem. This indicates that there previously existed an image or tale revolving around a bamboo cutter and celestial or mystical women.
- - - More in the WIKIPEDIA !

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There are more legends and tales about bamboo shoots in various parts of Japan.
Many are about Kappa, the water goblin (with different names in various regions) and his problems with humans eating the bamboo shoots.

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oo takenoko 大筍 very large bamboo shoots
oo take 大竹 very large bamboo



source : mi-na-to.com/takenoko

In the Genroku period (around 1690) in a certain temple the ground had swollen over night to almost a mountain. After another day a huge bamboo had begun to grow there. There was no bamboo grove near the temple, so this was quite strange. The bamboo grew until its diameter was almost one meter (3尺). People came from far and wide to have a look at it.
Later in the year, the bamboo was given to a guard as an alms and he made containers out of it.
Another ending tells of the head priest cutting the bamboo and sharing the huge cuts as containers with his villagers.

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Once upon a time
There lived a son of great filial piety 親孝行息子.
One day grandma said "I would love to eat some bamboo shoots!" He thought to himself:
"You know it is winter now and snow is falling, there are no bamboo shoots growing anywhere."
But since he was full of filial piety, he just went off to the mountain forest. He begun digging in the bamboo grove and suddenly found one bamboo shoot sprouting off the root.
So he cut that off and went back home.
Then he cooked the bamboo shoot and gave it to grandma to eat.
People say that the gods make an exception if the filial piety is truly felt.
- source : siran13tb -

Filial piety is a virtue highly praised in the teachings of Confucius
"Never disobey," said Confucius -- it is one of his several definitions of filial piety . . .
. Confucius 孔夫子, Kung Tzu, Kung Fu Tzu, Kung Fu Zi, .

This story has been taken up at Kabuki:
Honchô Nijûshikô 本朝二十不孝 Honcho Niju Shiko
Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety
. Legends about bamboo shoots 筍 / 竹の子 伝説 takenoko densetsu .



....................................................................... Chiba 千葉県

香取郡 Natori

futamatadake 二股竹 / 二股の筍 two-pronged, bifurcated bamboo shoot



In the year when the secret statue of Kannon Bosatsu is shown, two-pronged bamboo shoots are made as offerings. The homes where it grows make the offering and take care to grow more.
Once there was a family that did not want make an offering. But their only son got very ill and they decided to offer the precious bamboo to pray for his recovery.



....................................................................... Ehime 愛媛県

宇和島市 Uwajima town

enko ゑんこ / エンコ - Kappa

Once the owner of a boat had a meal of bamboo shoots. While he was enjoying his lunch, an えんこ Enko (local name of the Kappa) came along and wanted to eat some too.
The man told him to come back the next day for his treat. So the man grilled some bamboo sticks and offered them to the Kappa as lunch on the next day.
The Kappa took a bit and was quite surprized: "Whow, these humans here must have very strong teeth!"
And he escaped hastily, never to come back again.

. Legends - Kappa densetsu 河童伝説, Kappa minwa 河童民話 .
- Introduction -

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城辺町 Johen town

tanuki 狸 Tanuki badger

Once a grandpa who went to the forest to dig out bamboo shoots was bewitched by a Tanuki.
He was balancing up and down a log for hours and could not help it.
Then to get his revenge, one rainy evening, he pretended to be bewitched again, sat in the shade of a tree with his hair hangning down like a lady and waited for the Tanuki to show up. When the Tanuki came by, he killed him with his ax.

. The Japanese Tanuki racoon dog .



....................................................................... Fukuoka 福岡県

久留米市 Kurume

Kappa 河童 The Water Goblin

In Kurume people eat bamboo shoots for the Boy's Festival in May.
They also cook rice with the roots of bamboo and offer this at the shrine 水天宮 Suitengu.
Later this offering is floated down the river. This will make the local Kappe believe the people here are very hard and tough and difficult to chew, so he will not cause any water accidents.

. Kappa Legends from Kyushu  河童伝説 - 九州 .

. tango no sekku 端午の節句 Boy's Festival .



....................................................................... Fukushima 福島県

gogatsu no sekku 五月の節句 Boy's Festival

For the seasonal Boy's Festival in May you have to eat yam (Dioscorea japonica) and bamboo shoots.
If you do not keep this custom, you will be turned into a 蛆 maggot.


. tango no sekku 端午の節句 Boy's Festival .

. uji 蛆 (うじ) maggot - Made, Fliegenmade .



....................................................................... Gifu 岐阜県

上宝村 Kamitakara village

yamaotoko, yama-otoko 山男 the "Mountain Man" monster
"kindly giant of the hills"


by 竹原春泉 Takehara Shunsen

Once a man from the village went to the forest to dig for bamboo shoots, but he was captured by the "Mountain Man" and never came back.

"Mountain Man" - a monster found in many parts of Japan.
He is usually half-naked and very hairy. He kidnappes people. If someone meets him in the forest and escapes, he usually gets ill. But gnerally the Mountain Man is a gentle monster, helps the woodworkers carry their loads in exchange for some food.
He is a hero of the 絵本百物語.
Legends from 静岡県, 新潟県, 神奈川県,青森県
- - - More in the WIKIPEDIA - 山男 !
- reference -

- 56 legends to explore - yokai database -


Most probably identical with
. - Yamawaro, Yama-Waro やまわろ / ヤマワロ / 山童 "Child of the Mountain" .
- - - - - and his alter ego
Kappa 河童 "Child of the River"


....................................................................... Gunma 群馬県

勢多郡 Seta district

seri to takenoko 芹,筍,dropwort and bamboo shoots

Dropwort begins to grow in the fifth (lunar) month, bamboo shoots come out after the summer solstice (and Summer retreat for Buddhists 半夏 bange).
Plants that come out on the 11th day after the solstice (now this is the 2nd of July) are forbidden to eat.



....................................................................... Hiroshima 広島県

dokuro, sharekobe 髑髏 skull

One of the oldest books of yuurei ghost stories is the 日本霊異記 Nihon Ryoiki.
There is a story of the year 774 from Bingo no Kuni 寶龜9年備後國.
When people passd a bamboo grove after the sun has set, they will have pain in the eyes and even cry for a long time.
Examining the bamboo grove the villagers found a skull, through the eyes had grown a bamboo shoot. So they pulled it out and re-burried the skull. Later it came out of the grove to thank the villagers.

. Nihon Ryōiki 日本霊異記 Nihon Ryoiki - Record of Miraculous Events in Japan .
"Ghostly Strange Records from Japan" - is an early Heian period collection.

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呉市 Kure

enko エンコ Enko Kappa

One day a man was preparing a stone wall for his fields when a Kappa showed up and challenged him to a round of sumo wrestling. If the man lost, the Kappa would be allowed to suck the treasure out of his anus.
The man wrestled with all his might and full of fear, but the fight just went on and on. After some time they both got hungry and stopped for lunch. When the Kappa saw the man eat some bamboo shoots, he mistook it for the stem of bamboo and thought: "If the humans have such strong teeth to chew bamboo, they can easily chew me up . . . !" and he run away in fear, never to come back.

. enkoo, enkō 猿猴 Enko Kappa, "ape of the waters" .



....................................................................... Hyogo 兵庫県

At the shrine Hirota Jinja 廣田神社 / 広田神社
there is one bamboo shoot sprouting every year on the third day of the third month in the early morning.
One year it begun to sprout much later in the day and people were quite surprized, calling it almost a miracle.



....................................................................... Kagawa 香川県

三豊郡 Mitoyo district, 詫間町 Takuma village

People throw bamboo shoots and Sasa dango (Sasa mochi 笹餅) rice dumplings into the pond as offerings. Later when the children come to swim there, there will be no water accidents, because the local Kappa is too busy eating the offerings.

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yumemi 夢見 seeing a dream

A man on a pilgrimage to Konpira san in Shikoku had a dream on his way. He saw two bamboo shoots grow up rapidly to the hight of a human and begun to sing:
"We don't need a flute or drum . . . we long for our daddy!"
He got worried and hurried home. Here he found that his second wife had killed the two daughters from his first marriage.
In this region is is therefore a bad omen to see a dream with bamboo shoots.



....................................................................... Kagoshima 鹿児島県

熊毛郡 Kumage districe 上屋久町 Kamiyaku village

takenoko onjo 筍おんじょ The old man and the bamboo shoots
onjo is the local dialect for an old man in Kagoshima.

Around the middle of June the Takeonjo are coming out.

When smelling a bamboo shoot, you can hear the sound of pokkii pokkii ポキッポキッ in the distance upstream.
Following this sound, you come to a road with three forks, where the Takeonjo is lingering.
If you ask him the way, he will not say a word but point to the mountain. You must be careful and walk back in just the opposite direction as he points to get out of the mountain forest.





....................................................................... Kumamoto 熊本県

yamawaro ヤマワロ Yamawaro Kappa

In the village of 七滝村 Nanataki the Yamawaro likes to eat bamboo shoots. He begins to bite into them from the side, so it is easily recognizable.
Once a man was preparing the path between his rice fields when a small child came along and told him there were many bamboo shoots that someone had pulled out. Nothing was to be seen but it must have been Yamawaro, thought the man hand hit the air with his hoe. Then he heard a sound in the water as if someone had jumped in.
But later this farmer became quite ill and had to stay in bed.


. Yamawaro, Yama-Waro やまわろ / ヤマワロ / 山童 .
"Child of the Mountain" -
- - - - - and his alter ego - Kappa 河童 "Child of the River"


....................................................................... Kyoto 京都府

綾部市 Ayabe town

One of the seven wonders on the seven days of January of the 志賀郷 Shiga district are the bamboo shoots of Shinoda Shrine 篠田神社の竹の子.


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There is also a 竹の子祭り Bamboo Shoot Festival a the shrine in February, to foretell the outcome of the harvest according to the size of the bamboo shoots. It shows the trust of the farmers in the growth of things and their relation to the deities.

志賀郷の七不思議。
正月1日に満開になる藤波神社の藤。
作物の豊凶などを占える阿須々伎神社の茗荷と、
篠田神社の竹の子。
正月2日に花を咲かせて耕作の豊凶を示す若宮神社の萩。
正月5日の朝に突然実をつけ、一日で熟す諏訪神社の柿。
正月6日に滴が落ちて日柄や水難を示す向田の里の滴松。
正月7日に風もないのに揺れて吉凶を知らせる向田の里の揺ぎ松。


かんあけやしのだのもりのこみちかな 
kan-ake ya shinoda no mori no komichi kana

end of the cold season -
the small path in the forest
of Shinoda shrine . . .


芳月 Yoshizuki

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北区 Kita ku

shi no yochoo 死の予兆 omens of death

If the birds sing in a long, sad voice, if the blossoms of udonge 優曇華 cluster fig tree begin to bloom in the garden, if a person gets black warts and spots on the skin (死黒子) this is all an omen of approaching death.
If a person sees a dream where his teeth fall out, or where bamboo shoots or mushrooms begin to grow wildly, this is an omen of approaching death.


....................................................................... Nagano 長野県

下伊那郡 Shimoina district

atama ga hageru 頭が禿げる to become bald

If bamboo is broken off and stolen you have to rub salt into the cut. Then the head of the person who stole the bamboo will become bald.



....................................................................... Niigata 新潟県

巻町 Maki town

Onca an old woman on her way to sell bamboo shoots lost her footing and fell near the end of the long slope. The almost went over the cliff, but someone (most probably お地蔵さま Jizo Bosatsu) grabbed the basket on her back and pulled her back to the road.



....................................................................... Shimane 島根県

隠岐郡 Oki district, 都万村 Tsuma village

Kawako カワコ / 川子 "The River Child" (Kappa)

During the 川子祭り Kawako Festival at 西郷町 Saigo village 西郷町 bamboo stems cut in rings is floated down the river and bamboo shoots are boiled for humans to eat.
So the Kappa in the river will think that the humnas have such strong teeth and will run away.

. kahaku, kawa no kami, kawako 河伯 River Deity, "river chief" .


....................................................................... Wakayama 和歌山県

中津村 Nakatsu village

goora ゴーラ Gora Kappa

A child of five years went to go swimming to the river, but it fell down the embankment. He saw something like the face of a monkey near the sandy part of the river bed.
He brought some bamboo shoots and rolled them up and down on the embankment, then he saw the monkey-like creature run away.
This was a Gora, they say. (goora ゴーラ is the local dialect for Kappa.)


. Koora Booshi 「甲羅法師」Kora Boshi Kappa .


....................................................................... Yamagata 山形県

西村山郡 Nishimurayama district

鳥海山の筍,月山の筍 Bamboo shoots from Mount Chokaisan and Gassan

At 竜が岳 Mount Ryugatake there are some flat areas with just sand and stones. Legend knows that the Tengu mountain goblins come here to practise sumo wrestling. Once the wrestlers Chokaisan to Takenoko and Gassan no Takenoko fought the whole day but none could win. They spent some time in a hot spring but their backs hurt very much and they could not stand straight any more.



This is the reason why the bamboo shoots from both mountains are now bent.
The shoots are best harvested early in the morning and eaten in miso soup. They contain not so many bitter substances.


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source : 京都・左司馬の河童さん日記 - Kyoto
Kappa and Bamboo at shrine 大原野神社 Oharano Jinja.


- Reference in Japanese -

- Reference in English -

yokai database 妖怪データベース
- source : - - 筍 and 竹の子 -

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. . minwa 民話 folktales / densetsu 伝説 Japanese Legends . .
- Introduction -

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