Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tales of Japan-Sharing Their Stories

Kitagawa Utmaro (Japan 1752 – 1806)

I know our hearts are heavy with grief and worry for the people of Japan. With so many miles between us it seems the only things we can offer are prayers and donations for their recover. But perhaps we can also offer stories, in our programs, libraries and classrooms. Let’s bring their tales into the world and maybe our words will travel and help sustain their spirits during these challenging times.

I have faith that the Japanese people will survive but until they are ready, let us carry their stories for them.

“When love is deep, much can be accomplished.” ~ Shinichi Suzuki

The Story of the Old Man Who Made Withered Trees to Flower

Long, long ago there lived an old man and his wife who supported themselves by cultivating a small plot of land. Their life had been a very happy and peaceful one save for one great sorrow, and this was they had no child. Their only pet was a dog named Shiro, and on him they lavished all the affection of their old age. Indeed, they loved him so much that whenever they had anything nice to eat they denied themselves to give it to Shiro. The word Shiro means "white," and he was so called because of his color. He was a Japanese dog, and very like a small wolf in appearance.

The happiest hour of the day both for the old man and his dog was when the man returned from his work in the field, and having finished his frugal supper of rice and vegetables, would take what he had saved from the meal out to the little veranda that ran round the cottage. Sure enough, Shiro was waiting for his master and the evening tit-bit. Then the old man said "Chin, chin!" and Shiro sat up and begged, and his master gave him the food... For the rest of the story go to

More stories from the Land of the Rising Sun: All of the books are in the public domain.

Fairy Tales of Old Japan
by William E. Griffis, 1923 – From the Baldwin Project

Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales by Grace James, 1912 – Free, downloadable book from Google Books.

Hundred Verses from Old Japan (The Hyakunin-isshu) translated by William N. Porter, 1909

Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki, 1908

Japanese Fairy Tales by Teresa Peirce Williston, 1911

Old-world Japan : legends of the land of the gods by Frank Rinder, 1895

Tales of Old Japan by A.B. Mitford, 1910

Additional Resources - These two blogs posts offer additional stories, curriculum and craft resources on Japan.


Folktales from the Japanese Countryside - A collection of 46 of Hiroko Fujita's traditional stories edited by Fran Stallings. The book includes a brief summary of Japanese history by emeritus professor Harold Wright, an overview of Japanese storytelling by Miki Sakurai, and a section of games, recipes, and crafts as well as facinating background notes on the stories.

Children’s Books on Japan K-8 

Karen Chace  2011 ©
This blog post was painstakingly researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at Of course, if you wish to link to my newsletter via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.


A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

My favorite Japanese tale is Three Strong Women. Heard Heather Forest tell it, it was so much fun :)
Also, the legend of Hoichi. I recently read a book of Samurai legends.
I also found a book in a used book store about kitsune lore. Very detailed collection...:)

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

One of my favorite Japanese tales is Three Strong Women. Heard Heather Forest tell it :)
Also, I resently found a book on Samurai legends, and another one on kitsune lore. I loved reading both of them :)

TheNote said...

Always awesome - you hot a perfect chord in me with this post.
Thank you again & again,

Jai Joshi said...

Beautiful post, Karen.