Food, as a way of telling a story and bringing people closer together has been in Japanese fairytales and movies for some time now. Food has been a way of showing things such as respect, rejuvenation, and strength. In Japanese literature such as the story of the “Peach Boy” the food is a very significant part in the entire story and travels throughout in many forms. Also, there is a strong presence of politics in the Momotaro stories, which depict the Japanese as the hero’s and saviors against the United States in both the Momotaro fairytale and in the movie the “Sea Eagle”. In both the fairytale and movie one can see how food and politics have created a story that makes the Japanese seem strong, independent, and respectful of one another and contain some kind of magical power in what they put in their bodies. Also, through these fairytales comes to light a way of using these tales to help further their propaganda and war time effort to depict the Japanese as the hero’s in every story. By looking at Momotaro and documentary film making one can see how the Japanese were able to give the citizens a war time tale that brings them to the top and shows how they are better than their rivals, (which is assumed to be the United States.)
The fairytale of Momotaro was first written and translated into English in 1885. Japanese fairytales have been around for a long time and they all have a special meaning in every story. Some of these meanings “…often involves humorous or bizarre characters and situations, and also includes an assortment of supernatural beings, such as bodhisattva, kami (gods and revered spirits), yōkai (monster-spirits) (such as oni, similar to Western demons, ogres, and trolls), kappa (河童, “river-child,” or gatarō, 川太郎, “river-boy,” or kawako, 川子, “river-child,” a type of water sprite), and tengu (天狗, “heavenly dogs”), yūrei (ghosts), Japanese dragons, and animals with supernatural powers such as the kitsune (fox), tanuki (raccoon dog), mujina (badger), and bakeneko (transforming cat).” (Japanese Folklore and Mythology) The tale for Momotaro could be considered a “Yokai” because of the monsters he has to defeat. Even though this tale is about death it is still considered a children’s tale because of what it has to say. This tale of the “Peach Boy” was one of just an old man and women who found a peach and a boy was born from this peach. When he grew up he went to defeat Ogre’s who stole many things from the Japanese and brought them back to their rightful owners. Food is one of the first things that is talked about in this fairytale. The Peach in the original story was a way of rejuvenation because when the old man and women took a bite out of it they became young again. At that point because they were childless they decided to have a baby. However since this was a little too graphic the story was changed and the boy was born from the peach. This is the first the reader see’s as to how food can be regarded. Food is a way of rejuvenation and life. If people do not eat they will starve and die, but in this story because of how important it is they wanted to show that it helps create life because of what food gives to people and how much it helps with the life of a person.
Next in the story when “Peach Boy” is all grown up he ventures to an island to defeat the Ogre’s, on his way there he meets a talking Dog, Monkey and Pheasant. Animals are a very significant part in the Momotaro stories because they are a part of the astronomical calendar, which helps bring them all together and fight as one. These animals seem to have been picked for reasons of character. The dog is looked upon as being loyal and that is seen in the tale when he tries to attack anyone who gets close to “Peach Boy”, the monkey is seen as smart and respectful which the reader sees when he first meets “Peach Boy,” and the Pheasant is considered a noble animal which he shows when he first talks to the ogre’s and fights them. While he recruits these animals to help him defeat the Ogre’s he gives them dumplings and says how they are the finest in Japan. This shows how food is a material that can also be a way of persuasion and helps make people be loyal to you because you may have something that they want or need. It is also considered a symbol because of what it does to the animals and people that eat it. The Dumplings are a way of persuasion in helping defeat the ogre’s, because he only gives them half, they will always want more which helps “Peach Boy” recruit these animals because of the dumplings. It also helps unite them in a way because of how the “Peach boy” handles the animals as well. He gives them all half, which makes them equal. This shows how one animal is just as important as the other which helps bring them all together. In this “fairytale,” food is the central way of producing and securing the defeat of the Ogre’s and giving everyone strength to do so through the “finest dumplings in japan.”
Momotaro’s “Sea Eagle” is very similar to Momotaro’s fairytale because it has the same characters and idea about it. There is still “Peach Boy” and the monkey, dog and Pheasant, the rabbits are new but they are a part of the Japanese astronomical calendar, which helps the story progress. Also the dumplings are seen in this movie as a way of restoring energy and giving life back into the animals. However, this was a film of propaganda used to give the children of that time pride of their country and made them want to fight for them as well. This film is clearly one that portrays the United States as the enemy which the audience see’s when a character named Bluto from the Popeye cartoon produced in America during the time when this film came out as a stereotypical drunk American solider. This animated movie even though aimed as children and mostly for young boys, was a way of showing how Japan and its citizens still thought of themselves as the victors in some way because they attacked first at Pearl Harbor and did not surrender until two bombs were dropped on them. The “Sea Eagle” was a way of restoring life into the Japanese citizens and mostly for the children because it gave them a way to look at the loss as not a loss but a way to move on and know that they survived and can one day fight for their country again.
Food and Propaganda can be seen throughout the Momotaro stories. Food is a way to give back life and energy and help them in defeating their enemies. Food in both stories is a symbol of strength, which helps them to defeat their enemies. Food in both stories is a material object as well because they need to eat to survive. The food is also a way of showing unity with one another because they want to make sure everyone has energy to help themselves, each other and the citizens they want to protect. The Propaganda in the film gives the citizens hope and trust in one another and it gives them a way to become one and know that they will do anything for their country.
“Japanese Folklore and Mythology.” New World Encyclopedia n.pag. Web. 25 Nov 2013.<http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/japanese_folklore_and_mythology>.