Page 1, Momotaro

Momotaro, also known as “Peach Boy,” is one of twenty-five crepe paper books in Hasegawa’s Japanese Fairy Tale Series. In August 1885, the first five volumes of this series were copyrighted in English with translations done by Reverend David Thompson. By the end of 1885, Hasegawa had published his entire Fairy Tale Series in three languages: English, French, and Swedish (Sharf, 11).

The story of Momotaro begins with an old woman who discovers a large peach down by the river as she washes her clothes. She brings the peach home and when she cuts it open, she finds a boy inside. The couple names him Momotaro - “peach boy” - and they raise him as their child. They take care of his health and education until he grows older. One day, Momotaro leaves his parents and travels to a distant island to defeat the devil in hopes of bringing peace to the human people. On his way to the island, he meets a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant, and the four of them travel together to defeat the devil. Momotaro arrives at the island and demands that the devil surrender. Momotaro and the animals defeat the devil and return home with its riches. Momotaro is recognized as a brave hero in society.

The Peach Boy represents a combination of kindness and courage that Japanese boys are expected to achieve. According to Green, Hasegawa wanted Western readers to acknowledge these Japanese values and share his country’s beliefs (Green, 29).

This tale existed before the 1600s, but it only became widely-known in its present form late in the Edo period (1600-1868). Momotaro also falls into the category of hyochakutan (tales of being washed ashore), a folktale genre that is closely tied with and told among those living near the sea (Encyclopedia of Japan, Kusazoshi). 

Exhibit created by: Isabelle Dumoulin and Asma Ebadi