Japanese Folktales or Mukashibanashi (昔話) are popularly known by children and adults all around Japan. People learn of these stories from school or from their parents at a young age and pass on the stories once they have children of their own.
There are a number of folktales in Japan, but one of the most popular tales known to every Japanese is the Legend of Momotaro. It has been said that the Legend of Momotaro came from the city of Okayama and the boy has become the symbol of it.
Originally, the legend of Momotaro came from the myth of the old tales Kibitsuhiko no Mikoto and Ura. Kibitsuhiko was a Prince who had a guardian which was Momotaro. It reached them that an ‘oni’ or ogre named Ura had been causing disturbances in the Province of Kibi and attacking the people. Along with his companions, Momotaro defeated Ura and saved the people.
There are many variations of the story of Momotaro ever since it started to be passed on. But one of the well-known stories of Momotaro is how an old childless woman found a giant peach floating down the river while she was washing clothes. She brought the peach to her husband and when they opened it, they discovered a boy inside. The boy said he was sent from heaven to be their child. When Momotaro grew up, he decided to defeat the oni that were rampaging the land and the old woman gave him kibi dango for his journey. Along the way, he met a monkey, a dog and a pheasant who he gave kibi dango to in return for helping in defeating the oni. They succeeded and won over the ogres and were given all the treasure and returned to the village. This version of the story is most commonly taught to children in Japan.
Named the origin of Momotaro, Okayama has a number of things dedicated to the legendary folktale hero and his story. Situated in front of JR Okayama station is a statue of Momotaro. The head of Ura was said to be buried deep inside the grounds of Okamaden palace and that he lived in the Kinojo Castle and Oni no Sashiage Iwa.
The city of Okayama is also known to have the best tasting peaches and is also famous for their kibi dango that is a popular souvenir for tourists who visit there. There is also a festival every year in honor of the legendary Momotaro.
Similar to the legends of gods and deities, folktales in Japan also play a part in the lives of the people. The best way to know more about Okayama and Momotaro, of course, is to check the place itself and visit each of the distinctive landmarks that have been part of the legend. Eating a peach or kibi dango in Okayama would be a nice treat as well!