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Multiforms and Momotarō

Mythological tales and stories remain deeply embedded in oral tradition and written literature because they are pervasive and persistent.  From Japanese folklore originates the story of Momotarō, whose heroic travails against the world’s demons have been detailed since the Edo period of Japan (as early as 1723).  Furthermore, numerous multiforms, or variations, of the original folktale have materialized since its conception including Iwaya Sazanami’s Momotaro = the Story of Peach-Boy and the film Momotarō no Umiwashi (1943) directed by Seo Mitsuyo.  By comparing and contrasting these two multiforms, one can not only determine the impact of the similarities and differences have on the fundamental story pattern but also better understand the historical context of each variation.

The historical context of each multiform under consideration must be established. The first multiform to consider is Iwaya’s Momotaro = the Story of Peach-Boy, and it was published in 1894 during the Meiji era, a period in which Japan began to emerge as a modernized nation.  This particular multiform essentially follows the fundamental story pattern of the original but deviates in its loss of erotic elements; it becomes a story much more suited for adolescents.  The second multiform under consideration is Seo Mitsuyo’s Momotarō no Umiwashi.  Produced in 1942, the animated film was released in 1943 as propaganda.  The animation strays from both the original and the first multiform under consideration mainly with its modern setting, ship vessels, and aircrafts.  However, it does not stray far from the basic plot of the original folk tale; the protagonist Momotarō still defeats his enemies at Onigashima (Demon Island or Ogre Island) with the assistance of his animal companions.  One must recognize that the two multiforms under consideration originate from distinguishable periods in Japanese history; Iwaya’s Momotaro = the Story of Peach-Boy came during the rise of modern Japan in the Meiji era, while Momotarō no Umiwashi was conceived in the wake of Japan’s military strikes on Pearl Harbor.

In order to better highlight the impact of the differences found within the two multiforms, the principle similarities must be established; specifically, they follow the fundamental story pattern of the folktale of Momotarō.  First, the two multiforms both have a youthful boy named Momotarō as the main protagonist.  In Iwaya’s Momotaro = the Story of Peach-Boy, the “name of ‘Peach-Boy’” (Iwaya 16) is explicitly given to the protagonist, and he is aged at “fifteen years old” (Iwaya 16) at the commencement of his journey.  Peach-Boy derives from the English translation of Momotarō.  Seo’s film never explicitly labels the boy as Momotarō, but the viewer implicitly identifies the name in the title of the animation, Momotarō no Umiwashi.  In addition, Momotarō carries the appearance of that of a young boy and speaks with the voice of an adolescent.  Both multiforms share similar protagonists.  Momotarō’s animal companions (or subordinates) compose the next feature from the fundamental story pattern that the two multiforms share.  Momotarō holds three types of animals under his command in Iwaya’s Momotaro = the Story of Peach-Boy; these “The Spotted Dog” (Iwaya 26), “The Monkey” (Iwaya 27), and “The Pheasant” (Iwaya 30).  Seo’s version of the multiform includes a multitude of creatures in the service of “Captain” Momotarō (Seo).  Including dogs, monkeys, pheasants, and rabbits, the animals serve in Momotarō no Umiwashi to place the animation in accordance with the second principle feature.  The final shared feature between both multiforms is that the protagonists of each have common enemies.  In Iwaya’s Momotaro = the Story of Peach-Boy, Peach-Boy intends to “wage war against” (Iwaya 19) those at “Ogre’s Island” (Iwaya 19), while in Seo’s Momotarō no Umiwashi, Captain Momotarō leads his forces to “attack Demon Island” (Seo).  Although the translations differ amongst the two multiforms, the target is the same – enemies at Onigashima (Demon or Ogre’s Island).  Both multiforms of the folktale follow the fundamental story pattern.

The first multiform under consideration must be placed into its historical context.  Iwaya’s Peach-Boy has humble beginnings.  He is “sent down…by the command of the god of Heaven” (Iwaya 16) to “an Old Man and an Old Woman” (Iwaya 9) and born from a “peach split suddenly in half” (Iwaya 15).  However as earlier stated, Iwaya’s multiform removes the erotic elements of the original in which Momotarō comes from aftermath of intercourse between the elderly couple and the Old Woman’s return to youth after eating a peach.  The changes in Momotaro = the Story of Peach-Boy transforms the original folktale into a story more susceptible to children; in turn, this transformation into a children’s story allows Iwaya’s multiform to become a learning source for building a strong national character – in line with the Meiji era and Japan’s rise as a modern nation.  In addition, Peach-Boy’s manners with his parents become an example for the adolescents who read the first multiform under consideration.  Before departing on his journey, Peach-Boy respectfully thanks his adopted parents.  He remarks that their kindness “has been higher than the mountain from which you cut grass and deeper than the river in which the washing is done” (Iwaya 17), and he begs his Old Man to “bid farewell” (Iwaya 18).  This scene demonstrates good behavior perhaps for those who have come of age.  In Momotaro = the Story of Peach-Boy, the reader must also recognize the method by which Peach-Boy acquires his animal companions.  He recruits them one after another as he travels the different terrains of Japan.  After meeting Peach-Boy with agression, the spotted “dog of the woods” (Iwaya 23) joins him after hearing his name.  Later, the “Monkey of [the] Mountain” wishes to accompany Peach-Boy (Iwaya 27), and “as they were crossing a moor” (Iwaya 28), the pheasant is made into a subordinate.  Peach-Boy travels actual terrain, and as he travels through Japan, he is either met with aggression or respect; this is akin to the folktales’ origins in the Edo period because it is almost as if he is uniting daimyos of different regions.  With every new ally, he also gives each half of one of “the best millet dumplings in Japan” (Iwaya 25).  The millet dumplings play a nationalistic role in this multiform – food to reaffirm that camaraderie is earned, cultivated, and homegrown.  In its historical context, Iwaya’s Momotaro = the Story of Peach-Boy is a children’s story from the Meiji era for building and teaching a strong national character with roots in the feudal Edo era.

The second multiform under consideration must now be placed into its historical context.  Seo’s Momotarō no Umiwashi abandons the backstory behind Momotarō, and instead commences with his armed animal army already in his command.  This resonates with the fact that at the time of the film’s production, Japan was already a unified nation at war.  The story did not exactly need Momotarō’s humble beginnings to create a unifying theme as Japan as a country was already a power.  It must also be stated that the cartoon is clearly propaganda for children.  The animals are cute and even includes an additional species amongst them compared to the original and first multiform – bunnies with long ears.  Cartoony music accompanies these characters in the background. The animation and non-diegetic sound in the film are both playful, but the film still maintains a tone of nationalism by incorporating Japanese elements.  Many of the animals sport hachimaki head scarves with the red sun, and the koinobori (carp streamers of Japan’s Children’s Day) seen throughout the film attach feelings of connection for Japanese children.   In addition, Momotarō no Umiwashi also loses the millet dumplings that once cultivated the relationships between Peach-Boy and each of his additional companions, but the characters are already homegrown.  The audience must also acknowledge Seo’s choice of antagonist in the film.  At Onigashima, the “demons” appear as Western men dressed in sailors uniforms.  In its historical context, Momotarō no Umiwashi is absolutely film propaganda for children to justify what happened at Pearl Harbor and, like the first multiform, to build a strong sense of nationalism.

In conclusion, the story of Momotarō remains as one of Japan’s most pervasive and persistent folktales, and as the multitude of multiforms have manifested over time, it has become a lesson-teaching and national pride-building story for children.  Iwaya’s Momotaro = the Story of Peach-Boy (1894) employs the folktale as an example for children to build a strong national character, coinciding with the emergence of Japan as a modern nation.  The animated film Momotarō no Umiwashi (1943) directed by Seo Mitsuyo also uses the folktale to build national pride, but it also depicts World War II themes in order to justify Japan’s actions at Pearl Harbor.




Impact of Food in the Different Mediums of Momotaro

Momotaro is an iconic folk character in Japanese culture. Momotaro, literally meaning peach-boy, is a child hero who gathers a troupe of animals to defeat the Oni (ogres) and save Japan. Since the original folktale in the Edo period, the Momotaro stories have undergone several alterations in style and tone, depending on Japan’s social and political milieu at the time. This mishmash of elements makes this folk tale an open-source story. The definitive version of Momotaro was published in textbooks by Sazanami in the late 19th century, with the purpose of establishing a national identity during the Meiji period. In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, an allegorical anime movie called “Momotaro’s Sea Eagle” was produced, pitting Momotaro and his animal troops against the demonized ogres who represented America and the Allied Powers of WWII. Momotaro also loosely influences the documentary “Minamata: The Victims and Their World” by Tsuchimoto. This essay will examine the role that food plays in restoring youth, forming communities, and characterizing Momotaro and the drunken soldiers across the different versions of the Momotaro stories.

First, food is symbolic of youth and longevity in the Momotaro story of the Edo period. In the original plotline, an infertile old woman with no children discovers a peach floating in the river and decides to eat it. Suddenly, she discovers that her beauty and youth have been rejuvenated afterwards, and she proceeds to share the fruit with her husband. They engage in sexual intercourse afterwards, and Momotaro is born as a consequence. Therefore, the peach was symbolic of fertility and youth in this version of the Japanese folk tale. Furthermore, since Momotaro later goes on to defeat the ogres, it is possible that the peach gives one the ability to fight evil creatures.

In the other two versions of the Momotaro story, the plot point in which the old couple makes love is omitted from the story, lessening the power of the peach symbolism. One must consider the historical context in which Sazanami’s story and “Momotaro’s Sea Eagle” took place.  Sazanami’s story was published during the Meiji Restoration, when the Japanese were attempting to embody Western ideals in order to become a modernized nation. This diffusion of Western ideas caused Japanese society to view topics related to sexuality to be taboo. Consequentially, they changed the story to have Momotaro magically appear out of the peach as the old couple was cutting into it. This fantastical element would also appeal to the children who would be reading the textbook. The peach symbolism is not relevant to “Momotaro’s Sea Eagles” since the film takes place presumably after his birth, when he’s already a fully developed leader of his animal troops.

In addition, food plays an impactful role in the formation of communities, particularly between Momotaro and his animals. In both the Edo period and Sazanami’s versions of the stories, Momotaro embarks on his journey to defeat the ogres and encounters 3 different animals: a dog, a monkey and a pheasant. The spotted dog threatens to kill him if Momotaro does not give him all of his food. Once Peach-boy convinces the dog to join his voyage, the dog asks for one of the “best millet dumplings in Japan.” However, Momotaro only gives the spotted dog half of a dumpling. By denying them a whole dumpling, Momotaro asserts power over his recruits and puts him on a higher level than the animals. The food in this instance is being used as a material good to pay for the animals’ services to fight the ogres. Momotaro goes through the same initiation with the monkey and the pheasant, using the half dumpling to bind them as his retainers. Their relationship is comparable to an employer paying wages to his employees. As a human, Momotaro is on a higher level in the social hierarchy than the animals. This similarity emphasizes Momotaro’s effective leadership ability. The sharing of the dumpling works to unify Momotaro and his animals on their voyage to Ogre’s Island. The dumplings symbolize the camaraderie they have established with one another in their unified quest to defeat the Oni.

The millet dumplings also play a significant role in “Momotaro’s Sea Eagles.” In the animated film, the tone of the film is more serious than in the textual versions, since Momotaro is presented as a war general figure who leads a force of animal troops to fight the demons at Onigashima. The purpose of the film was to serve as a propaganda piece to improve morale and unify Japan in fighting the Allies in World War II. Consequentially, there is less of a focus on food in the movie adaptation, but the dumplings do appear. For example, one of the monkeys in Momotaro’s forces refuses to take action unless he receives his millet dumplings. Much like the textual stories, these dumplings act as material compensation for the animals to work for Momotaro, and a source of strength and sustenance. Right before the animal troops strike, they all consume the dumplings, an act which unifies them as a national body to defeat the Americans.

Furthermore, food has the power to unify communities in the Tsuchimoto documentary “Minamata: The Victims and Their World.” However, in contrast to the bonds of camaraderie formed in the other versions of the Momotaro stories, the people of Minamata are unified in their suffering. The denizens of Minamata ingested fish that had been heavily corrupted by mercury, causing them to suffer from Minamata Disease, which is a sickness characterized by damage to the nervous system. The fish contained high levels of mercury as a result of the production of fertilizer by Chisso Factory. Tsuchimoto depicts the victims’ unified struggle to survive the disease and receive just compensation from Chisso for their suffering.

The climax of the documentary arguably occurs at the scene in which the victims who seek more compensation visit Osaka, the location of the Chisso stockholders’ meeting. The victims invoke Momotaro as a symbol to unify them together. Their struggle with big business corporations parallels Momotaro, the underdog hero, against the ogres. There is an explicit allusion to Momotaro’s story when one of the speakers states, “We have arrived in the land where red and blue ogres dwell.”  This moment contains a lot of power due to its intertextuality; moreover, by invoking the Momotaro story, Tsuchimoto is dramatizing the victims as good, and Chisso Factory as the evil Oni. Utilizing a national folkloric figure such as Momotaro strengthens their cause by allowing the audience to relate and understand their struggle.

Food plays a large role in the characterization of Momotaro, his parents, and the drunken soldiers.” In the folkloric and Sazanami versions, right before Momotaro departs for his quest, his parents prepare millet dumplings for him. The act of providing food and sustenance for Momotaro characterizes the old couple as loving and caring people who support Momotaro wholeheartedly. Momotaro’s gratitude towards them supports the notion that food can strengthen familial bonds. On the other hand, Momotaro’s relationship with his animal caretakers is fairly different. Momotaro acts very stingy with the amount of dumpling he gives each animal. The act of only giving half of a dumpling to each animal characterizes Momotaro as having the most power. He views himself as superior to them, and is able to violently order them around to do his bidding. In this case, food acts as a way to manipulate the animals to form a community of voyage with him to the Ogre’s Island.

Food is also used to characterize the characters in “Momotaro’s Sea Eagles”. There is a stark contrast between the millet dumpling rations of Momotaro’s naval fleet and the alcoholic beverages on the enemy ships. Since “Momotaro’s Sea Eagles” is an allegorical propaganda film about Pearl Harbor, Momotaro’s fleet represents the Japanese forces while the enemy represents the forces of the United States. Having the animal troops consume the millet dumplings indicates a nationalistic pride in Japanese cuisine. The dumplings have more sustenance to them when compared to the alcohol in the American ship. One of the sailors of the American ship resembles Bluto from Popeye, subliminally characterizing American troops as overweight drunkards who do not have the honor and ability that Japanese troops have. The animated film, targeted towards Japanese youth, masterfully uses the Momotaro myth to subtly cloak the political message of the movie, which is to unite the Japanese nation and encourage them to defeat the Allies in World War II. This film was released after the Battle of Midway, which was a crushing defeat for Japan. Perhaps one of the purposes of this film was to boost the morale of Japanese citizen and give them hope that the war could be won. This method of utilizing the Momotaro myth in political propaganda is also seen in “Minamata: The Victims and Their World.”

Therefore, the different elements of food in the Momotaro variants, such as the peach, millet dumplings, mercury infected fish and the alcoholic beverages work to symbolize youth and life, form communities, and characterize certain characters in the stories. It is clear that since this folk tale was told in the Edo period, it has immensely grown in popularity and is extremely iconic in Japanese culture. Inevitably, the story of Peach-boy will continually be used to unify groups of people who need to unify under a common goal, despite their differences.


Momotaro: Unity through Food and Common Knowledge

Momotaro (1938), the story of the Peach Boy, is a Japanese folktale that has been retold and passed down through generations. It is about a young boy who appears from a giant peach and is taken under the care of an old couple who lived by the mountains. The couple named the boy Momotaro, translated as Peach Boy, and raised him as their own child. At age 15 Momotaro journeys through the sea with his companions, the dog, the monkey and the pheasant, towards the land of Ogres and wages war against them to protect the people of Japan. Momotaro became a heroic symbol by defeating the ogres, returning all the treasures back home. This classic folktale has been retold such as in Arai Goro’s 1951 abridge picture book version with more visual images to tell the story. Momotaro, once a local figure and turned into a well-known national figure in Japan, has been applied to different situations in order to appeal and unify the masses. In films such as the animation Momotaro’s Sea Eagles (1943), a propaganda film regarding Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor, and Noriaki Tsuchimoto’s documentary about the aftermath of mercury contamination on the people, Minamata: The Victims and Their World (1971), both took Momotaro as the ideal leader to galvanize people in partaking in their cause. The use of millet dumpling in the folktale establishes a commonality between Momotaro and his followers which is the catalyst of the development of the relationship between them. It is the consumption of dumplings that provided them with strength to fight and it serves as a contract between Momotaro and his loyal servants. However, it is not only food that creates such unity, but also the use of the folktale in films such as Momotaro’s Sea Eagles and Minamata that impels Japan as a nation to come together. Having something familiar such as the story of Momotaro, reminds people of Japan the values they regard as important and using that to work towards a common goal.

In Iwaya Sazanami’s 1938 version of Momotaro, Momotaro comes across the dog who offers his servitude and asks for a dumpling in return. Momotaro gives it half a dumpling as a payment for accepting the dog’s offer. The same thing happened between Momotaro and the monkey and the pheasant that comes a long his way. He gives them half a dumpling before proceeding their journey together to the Ogre’s Island. This interaction between Momotaro and the animals illustrates the authority Momotaro has over his companions. At first he threatens them of being killed if they get in his way, and later giving them half a dumpling. This establishes a clear distinction of the relationship between all of them, Momotaro being the commander, and the three animals being his loyal servants. The millet dumpling acts as a unifier because by accepting the millet dumpling, they have already agreed to the conditions that they must join Momotaro’s cause. In the 1951 version of this tale, this exchange was excluded from the picture book. Instead it illustrates Momotaro sitting along with the dog, monkey and pheasant, and “shared his millet dumplings” (Arai Goro, 3). Momotaro is depicted as friendlier compared to Iwaya’s version, because in the earlier version a barter takes place between Momotaro and the animals; half a dumpling in return for service. However, in this 1951 version, there seems to have more familiarity with their relationship. The picture book allows its readers to have more freedom in terms of interpreting the images illustrated. Since it can be interpreted in different ways, it is easier to take the story and put it in a specific context. In Iwaya’s version there is no mention of Momotaro physically defeating the ogres. It was his servants, with the orders of Momotaro, who defeated them. On the contrary, in the 1951 version Momotaro is illustrated fighting the ogre (Arai Goro, 4). Even though both stories slightly differs from each other, it is the dumplings that provided them with strength, bringing them all together.

The use of the Momotaro folktale in other media such as an animation film, stimulates a sense of nationality among its viewers who are familiar with the tale. The 37-minute feature film Momotaro’s Sea Eagles (1943) directed by Seo Mitsuyo, is a propaganda film to support the Japanese home front’s victorious attack on Pearl Harbor during the WWII in December 1941. Targeted to a younger audience, the film uses Momotaro as Japan’s hero against the Americans because it is a character that children recognize. It can be seen that the soldiers are cute, delicate little critters that are generally loved by children, making it easier to appeal to them. For this reason, Momotaro and his army naturally becomes the good guys and whoever opposes them are the bad guys. Similarly, Momotaro whose built and voice is still very much like a child, still exudes bravery and competent leadership thus influences its younger viewers’ perspective in that they too, like Momotaro, can have the power to lead a nation like Japan. Being unfamiliar with the folktale may not necessarily hinder someone from understanding the film’s plot, but perhaps familiarity with it can bolster the sense of nationalism. Assuming that the viewers of this film are all familiar with the context of Momotaro, it can help unite them simply because of the established knowledge about the folktale. Having a common knowledge and agreement about something can strengthen the unity of a nation. As a result both children and adults that viewed the film may feel stronger towards Japan because it is their national hero, Momotaro, that lead to Japan’s victory. In both the film and Iwaya’s 1938 version, Momotaro embodies the idea of Japan’s emperor. Momotaro possess the characteristics of an emperor, commanding his soldiers and leading his nation to victory. He may have not physically taken part of the war in both text and film, but he oversees what was going on and as shown in the film, as he gives commands to everyone on board, the animals listens attentively with confidence for their leader. The animal soldiers also possess the ideal nationalist ideology; to sacrifice one’s self for the better of the country. By having Momotaro play the role of the leader during WWII, children will want to embody his characteristics and serve Japan.

The film preserves some of the folkloric elements of the tale such as the animals manifested with human qualities. Seo explores these qualities further in the film by showing the dog’s and the monkey’s interactions with each other, such as the scene when the dog and the monkey were playing with jenga on the plane, teasing each other. This comedic relief alleviates tension in what is supposed to be a heavy topic of war. These simple interactions accentuates their human qualities making them that much more relatable to its young viewers. Such display of these qualities influences children to strive for such qualities to make their nation proud. The film also incorporates a well-known character, Bluto, from an American cartoon called Popeye the Sailor Man. Since Popeye was a well-known cartoon show in Japan during that time, children can immediately detect Bluto as the bad guy. Furthermore, one scene shows one of the monkeys eating a millet dumpling, and flexes its arm to show its muscles gained from eating it, similar to how Popeye eats spinach for strength. This reference to Popeye enables children who are familiar with the cartoon, draw a connection that Bluto is the villain, Popeye is the hero. This makes Momotaro’s side the protagonist because his soldiers had to eat dumplings for strength just like how Popeye has to eat his spinach. This boosts Japan’s national unity because there is a common enemy recognized by many. Knowing where the villain originally came from is not essential in identifying who the evil side is, but it helps viewers recognize the connection instantaneously. Moreover, it is good to note that even though the American’s are portrayed as humans in the film, they lack the human characteristics that the animal soldiers possess. It serves as a juxtaposition between the two sides, depicting the Japanese side as more human like and competent during war, naturally making them better than the Americans. The Americans were dehumanize and are portrayed as drunkards to justify Japan’s view that the Americans lacked leadership and are incompetent on defending themselves. In addition, the alcohol consumed by the Americans serves no benefit to them unlike Japan’s dumplings. The overconsumption of alcohol and portraying Americans as drunkards, reiterates the idea that American soldiers lack cooperation with their comrades on board. It is possible that Bluto was used as the ‘leader’ for the American’s side in the film in order to send the message that even though the Americans are big and rugged compared to the tiny animals, they lack the clever wits of the Japanese. No matter how physically strong you are, it is no match against intelligence.

The use of the folktale of Momotaro in different mediums echoes what characteristics and morals the Japanese value. As a folktale, Momotaro is timeless. Its events took place a “very, very long ago” (Iwaya, 9), with no specific location. This allows the story to be transferred to different times, and still be relevant to what is taking place. Going back to the film Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, the application of the folktale in this propaganda film extends Japan’s bushido ideology of honor and bravery. In the folktale, Momotaro and his servants displays the way of the warrior to save the people from the Ogres. These same values are applied during the time of WWII and reinforced repeatedly in the film creating a national agreement of “us versus the other” and sends this message to future generations. A scene from Minamata (1971) directed by Noriaki Tsuchimoto, shows demonstrators of people who were affected by the minamata disease gathered at a train station in Osaka to protest against Chisso Factory. One of the spokesperson alludes to the island where the “blue and red ogres” (Tsuchimoto, 1971) dwell, whom they must confront and defeat. By taking Momotaro and applying it in their cause brings the people together because they each assume the role of Momotaro, and the factory as the evil Ogres. Or perhaps the spokesperson can be seen as Momotaro, and the rest of the demonstrators as the servants, all aiming at one goal. The people voicing out their complaints against the factory enhances our understanding that Momotaro has the values that are important to the Japanese. In order for these demonstrators to succeed they must display the same courage as Momotaro did.

The formation of communities in both Goro’s and Iwaya’s interpretation of Momotaro folktale is rooted from food. The same can be said in Seo’s Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, where it explicitly shows community building between the animals and juxtaposes it with the lack of community on the American side. By taking this well-known tale and applying it to a real world dilemma in Minamata exposes the injustice faced by its people, and pushes them to come together and fight. The development of small relationships can lead to the growth of bigger communities.



As humans, a species among many others that walk the earth, we also breathe, eat, and drink to survive, and live. Just like air and water, food is an integral necessity that fuels our civilization. Thus, food has become the subject of glorification across time and cultures: food used as traditional treatment for special holidays like turkeys for thanksgiving, candies for christmas; food used as ceremonial treatment like the Eucharistic bread for solemn Christian ceremonies. Food possesses in itself the cultural richness so vast and powerful that enables it to connect people within and across different cultures.

I. Food and the tale of Momotaro

The tale of Peach-boy Momotaro, a traditional folk hero well-known among the Japanese, tells the story of a boy born to an old couple from a giant peach the old woman found floating down the river. This boy, Momotaro (Peach-boy), later becomes a young brave general who sets out to defeat the Orges by forming a small army of him, a dog, a pheasant and a monkey. Momotaro was frequently used to symbollically depict the might of the Japanese army in Japanese propaganda cartoons (G. Eigasha, Momotary’s Sea Eagle). The tale also reflects the unifying power of food present in some key events of the story.Image

As he himself admits to the old couple, Momotaro is no mere human (Momotaro, p. 16 – 17). When Momotaro reaches adolesence, he proposes bravely to the Old Man to go find the Orges and slay them. The old couple make no attempt to stop him and so they do the best thing they could: give him food for his voyage. (Momotaro, p. 18)

It is not uncommon that people leaving for long journeys often carry things that remind them of their homes and families; especially with people who form strong bonds with their upbringers/ parents. Here, food becomes the unifying object that reminds Momotaro of his parents. He describes the millet dumplings as the best ones of all Japan (Momotaro, p. 20); perhaps they may not be so, but for the millets to qualify for such entitlement, they carry the passive values that only Momotaro can discern.

On his way to slay the Orges, Momotaro encounters with different animals, who challenge but later yield to Momotaro, knowing his popularity. Their relationships with Momotaro are further enhanced thanks to the millet dumplings that Momotaro decides to share with the animals. They eventually cast aside their quarrels and whole-heartedly entrust him as their leader. A strong community of voyagers is formed through this unexpected unification. From strangers, Momotaro and the animals become friends/ battle comrades, combining their strength to resist the evil force. Such image is once again featured in a modern version Momotaro’s Sea Eagles.Image

Although it is amidst the war, the animals still take time to enjoy meal with one another. Such activity establishes strong sense of camaraderie among them. Food, as distributed by Momotaro, once again displays its power and vital role in building friendship within the community of resistance, and suffering, which are inevitable in every war.

But how so can something like food can possess that much power? First and foremost, food itself is a treatment, it wards off the hunger and embrace the raw ecstatic feelings as we bite down and swallow the food. Sharing the food is the act of sharing the ecstasy of consuming it, and, in certain case, sharing one’s survivability with the other. It is no longer a mere object, but trust and care are also infused within. On a long voyage swamped with the unknown dangers, no one knows what comes next, power lies in the union, and, thus, food manages to become the unifier within the voyage community; and with that power, the animals find security when they stand against sufferings together.

The unifying power of food against suffering is not just fabrication from a children’s cartoon. Throughout history of Japan, food came to unify people under one banner.

II/ Food and revolts in Minamata

The blight of Minamata disease (also known as Chisso-Minamata disease) still remains to the present day. First discovered in 1956 in Minamata city from the sights of abnormal behaviors of diseased pets, Minamata disease soon struck fishermen and people who came into contact with the water or contaminated food supply (Tsuchimoto, Minamata: The Victims and Their World). Minamata disease was no mere bacterial disease, but proved to be caused by methylmecury, a lethal chemical dumped into water. The Chisso chemical factory was responsible for this pollution, making 2265 victims fall ill (of which 1784 did not survive) (Wikipedia, Minamata disease record). Image

Despite the obnoxious effects that methyl mecury had on the fishermen populace, the Chisso corporation chose to avoid the problem by bribing and working surreptitiously with higher officials to cover the issue up. They tried to scare the fishermen into silence by saying that exposing the problem will cause great decline in fishery market. Yet suffering persisted because the cause of illness laid nowhere else but in the food the people consumed itself. Seafood had always been a major source of food in Japan, also being embraced as the symbollic cuisine that represented the Japanese culture. For this reason, food became the unifier of the communities with people suffering from the disease and people who chose to stand up against the wrongful industrial practice.

“Can you imagine legs that can’t walk; eyes that can’t see; mouth that can’t taste…?” said Mayami Sakamoto (Tsuchimoto, Minamata: The Victims and Their World).

The Chisso corporation tried numerous way to stop the protests by launching a counter-protest against the fishermen. They also offered contract for compensation to ease up the situation, meanwhile trying to abandon the Chisso factory in Minamata to expand to other regions. However, the compensation


proved to be too insignificant. The will of the community was so strong that the people would not let Chisso get away with their crime. Many campaigns were launched and planned out to demand Chisso for justice: large scale fundraising, public speeches, getting in touch with Minamata patients, etc. They formed a Litigation Group to file a suit against Chisso, which, after 4-year and the impactful last testimony by Hajime Hosokawa, successfully demanded Chisso to compensate a total of 3.4 million dolars to the victims of Minamata.


The tale of Momotaro and the stories of the Minamata disease, in which food played a vital role, still remain remembered today. Beside being just a mere object of satisfaction, food contains the essence of cultures, of human connections and of the entities that it comes from. There are stories of people who also seek to glorify and understand those values like Count G. In The Gourmet Club, whose passion in food brings him closer to the Chinese food-lovers and an unexpected dinner that inspired him for life. Movies likeThe Cove made by social activists trying to save dolphin also mentions the food aspect coming from dolphins that relates to the Minamata disease in Japan. Even in daily life, underlying all the food we have for lunch and dinner are fascinating but no less profound stories.

Food can have various meanings in people’s life. First of all, food is a source of energy; having food properly can help people to keep their bodies in a good condition. Furthermore, food is meaningful not only in physical way, but also in emotional way. By sharing same food together, people feel close to each other, and unite each other. In the literature or the film, food also plays an important role as in our real life.

Momotaro, is a famous traditional fairy tale of Japan. Momo, means peach in Japanese, and Taro is a part of common Japanese male name. An old woman finds pretty peach on the river and brings it to home. An old man, her husband, is also very pleased with the peach saying that it really looks good. The peach turns to a young boy, and the old man and the old woman names him Peach-boy (Momotaro). One day, Peach-boy decides to start a journey to go to the island inhabited by Orges in order to defeat the Orges. Before Peach-boy’s departure, the old man prepares millet dumplings for him. I think that can be interpreted in two meanings; the old man wants to offer him a powerful sources so that he can fight well, and also preparing food for someone is a good way to show affection. At the beginning of Peach-boy’s journey, he meets a dog and a monkey, and Peach-boy willingly shares his millet dumplings to them, and they becomes companions. Sharing millet dumplings is only a part of their journey, but it has the most important meaning since it is a starting point to open their minds to each other. Also, millet dumplings work as a source of energy and leads Peach-boy, the dog, and the monkey to win a victory.

The film, Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, is a Japanese propaganda film produced in 1942 by the director named Mitsuyo Seo. The folk tale Momotaro was dramatized into an animated film, and that is the reason that the title of the film was named after Momotaro. The characters of the folk tale such as Momotaro, a spotted dog, a monkey, and the orge (demon) appear in the film, but the story of the film is more war-like since it was produced during the World War II to stimulate Japan’s Pearl Harbor Attack. In the film, the animals such as a dog, a monkey, and a rabbit prepare war to defeat demons. Before heading to demon’s island, the monkey prepare millet dumplings for his companions, similar to the old man of Momotaro. Millet dumplings have an important meaning in the film too. Before the war, the warriors need enough energy to fight, and millet dumplings give powers to the warriors in order to win the war. Also, food does not only strengthen physical power; the warriors share same food together, and it strengthen their connections and unifies them.


Monkey brings millet dumplings for his companions

Monkey becomes stronger after eating millet dumplings

The film, Minamata: The Victims and Their World, is a documentary film directed by Noriaki Tsuchimoto in 1971. Japanese company named Chisso illegally discharged contaminated water into the river, and as the result, residents living near the river suffered from severe diseases called Minamata-diseases which is named after the name of the region, Minamata. At the beginning of the film, it says that most of the residents were engaged in fishing, and it would mean that their main dishes for everyday were seafood. Living by fishing and having similar food would make the community share a bond. However, after Chisso discharged the polluted water containing mercury, it affected all the communities; people started to become ill and even stray cats that ate contaminated fishes died in unaccountable posture. In this situation, food put the community into suffering; sharing food eventually turned into a disaster making innocent people suffer from diseases. Also, because of severe mercury poisoning of water, the residents could not eat the things that they had enjoyed through their lives. However, Chisso cooperation and even the government ignored them and treated them like ‘people who are fated to die’. So the residents who had been suffering from mercury poisoning or who already lost their beloved family members decided to fight over Chisso cooperation and the Japanese government, so they went to a trip to Osaka in order to protest. This is quite similar to the story of the folk tale Momotaro and the film Momotaro’s Sea Eagle; the residents are like warriors and the Chisso cooperation and the government are like the opposite side that the warriors are fight against.

The folk tale Momotaro, the propaganda film Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, and the documentary film Minamata: The Victims and Their World, have not only the similar spiritual lessons, but also have similar feature: food. Sometimes, food brings people all together and encourages them feel unified, and sometimes, food offers people physical energy, and sometimes, food bonds the group together by a common fate.

Momotaro and Minamata

Momotaro is a Japanese folk character. In the folk tale, he was born of a peach floating in water. An Old Man and an Old Woman bring him up. When he becomes fifteen years old, he, together with a spotted dog, a monkey, and a pheasant, goes to the Orges’ Island to defeat Orges and save those islanders. In the movie Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, Momotaro is a commanding officer of an aircraft carrier. The troops succeed in the conquest of Demon Island by bomb attacks. In both the folk tale and the movie, Momotaro is not alone; he develops a community of his followers to support himself in the attack. Food is a tool used by to unite “people” in a common struggle.

In the Momotaro stories, food is a symbol of best wishes, responsibilities and trust in the development of community. In the folk tale, Momotaro has three followers – a spotted dog, a monkey and a pheasant. Momotaro forms his own troops by giving each of his followers half of a millet dumpling made by his parents. The homemade millet dumplings are a symbol for the wish of returning home. Momotaro’s parents made him those millet dumplings and expect him to win the war and come back home safely. By sharing the millet dumplings with the three animals, Momotaro is sharing the wish of returing home successfully and safely with his followers. Since Momotaro is sent down by the command of the god of Heaven, he has his responsibilities as a child of his parents and also as a leader of his people. He views saving those suffering people on the Orges’ Island as one of his responsibilities. By sharing the millet dumplings with the three animals, Momotaro is sharing his responsibilities for those islanders and his trust with his followers.

The movie shows nothing of Momotaro’s family and depicts him merely as a commanding officer. Momotaro loses his responsibilities as a child and is only left with the responsibilities for his people. Though Momotaro appears to be alone and does not have much communication with the troops, he is still the spiritual leader of the army. Instead of giving real food, he gives an encouraging speech to the animals. His encouragement is the food for his follower’s soul, supporting his soldiers to defeat their enemies. His troops include rabbits, monkeys and pigs. Before the bomb attack, a rabbit gives some food to a pig, conveying her best wishes and trust.

While the folk tale and the movie both use food to transmit wishes and trust, not like in the folk tale where food is a tool to develop followers, in the movie food is passed from one soldier to another, showing the audiences that the soldiers are solidly united. The folk tale depicts the development of community in details while in the movie the community has already formed. Since the movie is derived partly from the folk tale, it is taken for granted for audiences who know the folk tale that Momotaro has developed a community of “warriors”. Without knowing the folk tale, one might feel confused about who Momotaro is and where the troops come from.

Though the Momotaro movie relies on the folk tale, the movie is different from the folk tale in the background of the story and their targeted audiences. The omitted passing food scene in the movie also helps to show the change from a simple folk tale to a military movie. Unlike the folk tale, the Momotaro movie is closely related to reality. In the folk tale, there is no specific description about the space and time that the story happens, but only some description like “Very, very long ago”, “in a certain place”. However, in the movie the Orges’ Island represents the Pearl Harbor. Momotaro leads the troop to attack Orges’ Island symbolizes Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor during WII. The movie conveys a strong belief of Japanese people that Japan is going to defeat the United States just like Momotaro defeats the Oni. In other words, the Momotaro movie is to spread Japan’s military thoughts during WII to audiences, particularly children.

As the media changes from folk tale to movie, the targeted audiences also change from everyone to children in particular. Partly based on the folk tale, the Momotaro movie also borrows American animation figures like Bluto, a villain in Popeye stories. He becomes a captain addicted to alcohol in the Momotaro movie, giving audiences an image of irresponsible captain. For people who know the Popeye stories, Bluto has one more image – “a bad guy”. The Momotaro movie uses Bluto to represent the American army in order to show audiences that Momotaro and his troops are going to defeat those bad guys to maintain justice. Since the targeted audiences are children, the movie uglifies Bluto to make children tend to favor Momotaro more.

By sharing homemade millet dumplings, Momotaro develops his own troops. Similarly, in Minamata movie poisonous fish brings the Minamata disease victims together because the chemical factory Nitsuchi refuses to acknowledge its actions of poisoning the sea and causing the disease. In both the Momotaro stories and the Minamata movie, food is a unifier to form communities of voyage. However, the journeys differ in the roles that water plays in Momotaro and Minamata. Water, as the food for life, is an unstable factor since it is affected by human actions.

Momotaro is the leader of the community that he develops while in Minamata the disease is “the leader” that brings the victims together. Momotaro is a waterborne food sent down by the command of the god of Heaven. He rallies his troops to protect humans from Orges. In the Minamata movie, poisonous fish in water polluted by human actions carries Minamata disease. The Minamata disease victims go on a journey to protect themselves. What Nitchitsu does to the victims is equal to what Orges do to the islanders. Orges can be viewed as human actions that destroy the nature and finally harm humans in return.

Since ancient times, water is the place that gives life; water is the food for life. Similarly, Momotaro comes from water and the Minamata disease spread through water. In Momotaro stories water generates lives while in Minamata water destroys lives. “The water that bears the Boat is the same that swallows it up.” Human intervention of the nature turns the water from a “mother” that generates live into a “killer”.

Food helps to unite people with the same goals together to protect other people or themselves. However, food may also become harmful when humans do harm to the nature.



Soyoung son.
This movie was made that the story based on the pacific war in 1942, it is that Japan was trying to attack the island; Pearl Harborand unfortunately, terminated with Japan’s surrender because of the pacific war, so this director wanted to give a hope and make a hero for depressed Japanese. This animation, Momotaro, starts off to attack the demon island with loyal monkeys, rabbits, birds and a young captain of ‘Momotaro’, but it was taking short a moment to win, while Japan got assaulted from demon island at first, there were Mommy bird and baby bird were playing and suddenly baby bird was crashed with flight and got hurt, but the one of army ‘money’ took care of baby and he found boy bird’s mother. As the attack was taking so long, all the corpsman who were waiting for the news of their situation and finally got a call that they had success to attack the island and they won, so all corpsman who joined the war were coming back and they were going to take a picture as ceremony of success but the camera was missing. That might be ‘bad’ omen, inevitably, one flight hadn’t come back yet, they got attacked from the demon and was going to crash the flight, but the birds got help from Japanese saved them, hence


this war was victory. As watch this film, the captain is young and strong even though he is alone, without parents and he commend all the corpsman by himself. However, this movie was not serious that much as Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors,after a while this film came out, the book, ‘Peach Boy’ was published in 1951. This book is targeting to children as well as the film and this story is more systematic but not detailed as well. There are old wife and old husband, and they never had a baby unfortunately, someday old woman was washing a cloth on the river while the old man went to mountain for cutting the fire-wood and there was something coming and it was ‘huge’ peach, she was pleased to let her husband see this kind of great food and when they were trying to eat and cut, the baby was born in the peach, and he said that they don’t have to be afraid, the reason why he came to them because he got order from  the heaven and since they had no children, he will be a boy for them as well. So the old man and woman give him a name as ‘peach boy’, one day when he got 15 years old, he had to say their parent goodbye to attack the island of the Ogres which is devil and harmed Japanese. The parents were preparing some food for a warrior on a journey, it was dumpling. When he was on his voyage, he met a dog at first and they were hungry, so Peach boy shared the dumpling as well and second he met monkey and last, bird, these animals heard about the Peach boy and decided to be servant, and finally they went to Ogres Island to attack. And end up they won, so found food and gold back and return home. This book story is very consistence, how and why appear the Peach boy and what he wants to do, however, in opposition to the film, the peach boy have parents and friends around him and it is folklore, not like a war documentary.There is one film ‘A talkie manga’by Tsuchimoto in 1936which directed to make a connection with here of ‘the Peach boy’ and there are many animal from Disney looks like a bad guys attack the island where Japanese live and


while Japanesesuffered an expected defeat by them, they took out of the girl and run away. So the tiger who was with the girl despaired and go to ask help to the Peach boy, end up, the Peach boy hero beat the devil and find a girl and give them a peace. This film is also about the hero named as Peach boy and produced with a view to encouraging to children and all Japanese have a hope instead of frustrated that surrendered to opponent. This film is voiceless but there is some music sound that makes people to feel tension, exasperated and happy.

The movie is more like a documentary and very serious, it focuses on having a war and talking about win for the war with US and criticize to American cartoon. “It both celebrates Japanese victories and fights a cartoon war, its enemy being not just the American military, but it is an American animation that had dominated Japanese screen before Pearl Harbor.”(p10)In addition, this film comes with black and white used, and describe the Peach boy as looks like a girl, very weak and very womanly but strong and have a charisma so that he command all of other animals of subordinate and give them an order very thoroughly, but interesting things that the main character doesn’t fight with them, just order and all others comes animals except, the captain. Plus animals who join this fight, looks so lovely and cute either but still stout. This film doesn’t show that some story of family or the process why they start to attack them, alsothere are no family, parents, friends and home coming. This film reflect limited place that having a war on the sea. This is not silent movie but somewhat more literature adaptation On the other hand, in a book, the Peach boy describe as boy, grows up so fast and strong also, not imaged with feminine. “Don’t be afraid! The truth is I have been sent down to you by the command of the god of Heaven… therefore commanded that I should be handed over to you to be brought up as your own child.”(Momotaro, p16) as he said, right after he was born from the huge peach, he


was characterized as very manfully and durable. This book focus on talking about the hero of the Peach boy and having a warm story as well. There are old man and woman who never had a baby, it is very sad but luckily they get child from the Peach as hero.It is very typical fairy tale for letting child to be awaken that there are somebody out there for Japanese.When the boy is going to trip, the parent is preparing the food, dumplings and other stuffs for him, and he shares the dumplings with the dog and money. It shows of some friendship and culture. Even though he meets the dog and money at first time, he is willing to share some food with others. Momotaro is good reader and he orders and gives some instruction and way how to attack and when to do, besides he joins the fight and completely defeat the oni.But unlikely the video, he fight with his servants directly and they win because they do what peach-boy said and ordered. This story goes with kind of destiny, because, old woman is nearby the river separated with old man, and coincided to get a peach as well. As this is a book, everything has to be described very well for helping to image some appearance character and background, and there are lots of dialogic and folkloric. “Well! Time passes quickly! And Peach-boy was soon fifteen years old.”(Momotaro, p16) Moreover, it sometimes emphasize when it is important, express with repeated words. At first page, it says two times that “Very, very” (p9) and there is also kind of songs “The distant waters are bitter! The near waters are sweet! Shun the bitter! Come to the sweet!” she repeated as well for welcoming peach and it works because the peach was stopped right in front of her.

In my opinion, I like the book better than the movieeven though the video is more fun because there is proceeding of why they have a fight so it is easy to understand what they want to do and say, more concrete story and simple plus, it has warm story. Ending is happy and everything goes back to normal and fine life. It makes me more have a pay attention. There is the


millet dumpling which is best in Japan, old man and woman cook the dumpling for the voyage of peach-boy, this means that people have to eat and prepare very well when they do something very important, even if the war is very ‘huge’ issue there have to be existence of food and it is indispensable, and even he shares this food with his friend, it express of friendship and food is not only one need, it has to be shared and eaten by all together. And share something important food which has small amount with others means they are already friend, close or they believe each other.

A Mighty Figure and its link – Millet Dumplings

Momotaro story, as a well-known Japanese folklore, is being positioned in such state when people use to refer characteristic like leadership, camaraderie and loyalty. There has numerous folklores are been passed by from older generation to younger generation throughout the history of Japan. For instance, the story of Yuki-onna, the story of Kaguya- hime and the story of Urashima Taro and the Ryugu-jo.  Unlike the other Japanese folklore stories, the story of Momotaro tends to be more portraying on family warmness, loyalty of bushido and advocating righteousness. Moreover, the protagonist of this story, Momotaro, also represents heroic characteristic like brave, kindness and adamancy Food is placed in significantly important role in the story. Whilst Momotaro, or Peach-Boy, is named after his birth from a giant peach, however, the keystone food that links Momotaro with his family, and relationship between Momotaro and his three animal followers is millet dumplings.

The story opens up with background of how is the Old Man and the Old Woman’s life before they find that giant peach. Here is a hidden flag that neither the Old Man or the Old Woman is being bothered by Oni, or in other word Ogre, which Momotaro is going to conquer later in the story. The husband and wife have lived peacefully in a certain place for about 60 years. One day, the Old Woman finds a giant peach which flows down with the river. She plans to give it to her husband as a surprise gift in his 60-year-old birthday. When they try to cut the peach in half to feast for the birthday, a voice comes out from inside of the peach, and Momotaro appears to them as the peach is divided into half by itself. Momotaro tells the two that he is sent by god of the Heaven to them as to be their son. The husband and wife have not yet gotten any children, so they are extremely happy and appreciate to god for the gift. Many years pass by and Momotaro has grown up to a fifteen old young man. He recalls his quest promises his family will be return to them after he conquer the Oni island. With tears and cares, the Old Man and Old Woman have prepared millet dumplings for Momotaro upon his departure for his journey. In his way to Oni Island, Momotaro is able to meet and make the Spotted Dog, the Monkey and the Pheasant become his servants. When he makes these animals be his servants, he gives out half of a millet dumpling to each of them. In end of the story, Momotaro and his servants conquer the Oni Island and bring out all the treasures the Ogres have hidden; as Momotaro has promised, he returns to the Old Man and the Old Woman at very end of the story.

Momotaro’s intension to conquer the Oni Island is somehow differs from other stories. First, neither he or the Old Man or Old Woman are lived under threat from Oni. Usually a hero in a folklore builds up his heroism through steps like first undergoes difficulty that relates to its regional life, then as story proceeds, the hero overcomes his weakness and finally his enemies, and at end his story becomes an epic that is remembered by others. Notwithstanding Momotaro’s heroism is not built in steps as above process, by conquering the Oni Island and eliminating the threat to people, his heroism is represented even more superior than ordinary heroism. It’s because, first, Momotaro is not been forced to conquer the Oni Island. He has had choice not accept this task at beginning since neither him or his family are threatened by the Oni. He accepts this quest for not beneficial to him nor his family, but to all people that live under threatening. It implies that Momotaro is actually transfigured as a Godlike character in the story. In combat with the Oni, the story describes the Pheasant, the Monkey and the Spotted Dog are fighting hard in the battlefield, except that no word on Momotaro’s action in battlefield from the content. In the movie Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, it also reflects the idea of Momotaro has become a mighty figure in the film.


Mighty figure

This scene is where Momotaro gives out conclusive speech of the campaign and announces the survival of lost comrades is being confirmed. Mighty figure, in respect to the meaning in Bible, it automatically makes people think of similarity with Jesus. Likewise Jesus has told his servants that the bread is his body and wine is his blood, and offers bread and wine to his servant; in Momotaro’s story, there is also a food that similarly connects the Mighty and its servants.

Millet dumplings, as a farewell gift received from his parents, has an inestimable effort on relation between Momotaro and his servants. As prove of master-servant relation, each animal has given half piece of a millet dumplings. Millet dumplings links Momotaro, “the great General”, with his servant as their loyalty to Momotaro as “obeyed Peach-Boy’s commands, heart and soul.” (Pg32) There is a discussable point where Momotaro only gives out half of a millet to his servant. Momotaro has told the Spotted Dog that “these… are the best millet dumplings in Japan. I cannot give you a whole one, I will give you half-a-one.” Literally, it seems be to clearly explained that the reason Momotaro gives out only half a millet dumplings is because he think the dumpling is the best in Japan, so he can only give out half of one piece. However, millet dumpling is given to the Spotted Dog in response to its request, but neither the Monkey nor the Pheasant have asked for the dumplings. Therefore, it’s oblivious that dumplings offer to the Monkey and the Pheasant is from Momotaro his own will. And by giving out only a half, it is considerable that the purpose of it is not only for faireness, but Momotaro himself wants to establish a connection with those servants.


Monkey is holding his millet dumpling in the film

In the film, it also indicates the importance of millet dumplings to those servants, like the scene above. After all, millet dumplings in its original role, have fed Momotaro and his servants from starvation as food, a material object. In addition, it also symbolizes as attestation of honor and loyalty, and as a role of unifier to the Mighty Momotaro and his loyal servants.

At last, the whole story is linearly well-organized and content of story can give positive influence to young children. In addition, albeit the literary text and visual text versions are mostly in common, but the ending of these two versions are different. In literary text, Momotaro and his servants carry those treasures that are seized from Oni Island is being used by Momotaro themselves. As the ending indicates that “they with Peach-Boy, had more and more power, and they lived happily ever after, in the midst of their ever-increasing dependents and retainers.” In contrast to the other version, it indicates that “they took the ogres’ hidden treasures and piled them on a cart to give them back to their rightful owners.” As folklore’s essence, those stories are being told and spread over hundreds of years, specific contents may have been changed into many different versions. In respect to the literary version, it can possibly think that the background of that age is in Daimyo period, which Momotaro himself is likely acting like a daimyo. As of the visual version, may consider to be closer to the original folklore.

Analysis of the Role Played By Food in Society Based on Momotaro Stories

Momotaro is one of the most influential mythical characters in Japan. He is also referred to as “Peach-Boy” and has been featured extensively in folk stories, children cartoons, and war propaganda.  In the film “Sea Eagle”, Momotaro is used as an animated character to dramatize the events that took place during World War II.”Sea Eagle” was produced to influence viewers to celebrate the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. According to the original folk tale, Momotaro emerged out of a peach. Momotaro’s fight for justice against the demons has made him an icon among people who are fighting for their rights. Momotaro’s character inspired the victims of Minamata to fight against the environmental pollution caused by the Chisso fertilizer company. This paper discusses the role played by food in the society through analysis of visual and literal Momotaro stories.

In Sea Eagle, Momotaro’s crew comprised of dogs, monkeys, and rabbits that worked together to defeat forces of evil. Momotaro is depicted as the military leader commanding a crew of animals in a naval ship. The ultimate objective of the mission is for the animals to conquer Demon Island. Demon Island in the film represents America. Momotaro embodied the leadership, strength, and loyalty that the Japanese required to defeat America and win the war. The film was directed by Seo Mitsuyo, and the legend of Momotaro was included to target children by using animated propaganda. Mitsuyo contrasted the relationship between humans and animals to show how heroism, humor, and teamwork are important in gaining victory. The other aim of use of the character of Momotaro was to spreads ideas about Japanese nationalism to younger generations and to make light of the seriousness of war.  The film passed the message that the Japanese were the superior good “guys” while the Americans were the inferior “bad guys”. Momotaro commanded the other animals and issued orders to them. Monkeys and dogs acted as soldiers and pilots flying to Demon Island to conquer the island while rabbits used their floppy, large ears to direct the planes during landing and takeoff.  An American character was used as a villain, and he had demonic accessories such as horns on his head and a tail. The use of Momotaro’s character made the war seem like more of a game than a battle in the eyes of the children of Japan. Momotaro and the animals were exaggerated and glorified as invincible heroes. There was not a single casualty in the film.

In the original fairy tale, as portrayed in Arai Goro’s picture book, a grandmother and a grandfather were living together. One day when the grandmother was washing clothes in the river, a large peach came floating down the river. The grandmother took the peach and went home with it. She then cut a peach, and a boy emerged. Since the boy emerged out of a peach, he was given the name Momotaro meaning “Peach Boy” in Japanese. When Momotaro grew up he was unusually strong.  One day he spoke to the grandmother and the grandfather about going to conquer devils in Devil’s Island. He carried millet dumplings with him. On the way, he met a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant. The three animals agreed to help him if he gave them millet dumplings. In the Devil’s Island, the animals assisted Momotaro to enter the compound. The dog tormented the devils by biting them, the monkey scratched them, and the pheasant picked at their eyes. Momotaro fought the Demon’s general using his sword. Momotaro forgave the devils when they promised him that they would never torture humans again. They then gave Momotaro treasures, and he returned to his homeland as a hero.

Unity and nationalism was needed during the Minamata disease. In the 1971 documentary by Tsuchimoto Noriaki, various locals suffered from the Minamata disease. Momotaro fought for justice to save all human beings from being tortured by devils. The idea resonated with the victims of Minamata who featured in Tsuchimoto Nariaki’s documentary since they were also seeking justice.  The Chisso Company produced fertilizers for export. The purpose of producing fertilizers is to increase the production and supply of food. Chisso legitimized its harmful business by claiming that it was its business was solely for the interest of the empire. The people of Minamata ate poisoned fish and shellfish resulting in mercury poisoning. Fatal illnesses and deaths resulting from the mercury poisoning continued for more than thirty years before the company and the government took any measures. Food is a symbol of power because the Minamata people could not do anything about the dangerous environment and the bad working conditions because they were relying on the jobs provided by Chisso to feed their families. The victims of the disease faced stigma and discrimination from the community as most people depended on the company for their food and livelihood. Just like Momotaro, the victims united against the exploitative pollution that had plagued their land and pursued compensation. The legend of Momotaro unified the people of Minamata during their team of need. They fought for their rights to well-being, health, and life just as Momotaro fought the demons that plagued the land.

In the visual and literary texts about Momotaro, food was used literally and symbolically. The first reference to food is Momotaro’s name since it refers to a peach. A peach was used in the tale since it is a symbol of longevity and sustenance.  In the Japanese culture, the peach is seen as a symbol of productivity, sexual relationship, and life. The fact that a ripe peach tumbled and floated down a river into the hands of an old lady hinted at the continuity and longevity of life. Just like the peach in the fairy tale, food also provides sustenance and longevity in life.

The other memorable and distinct use of food is the use of millet dumplings as seen in all versions of Momotaro tales in Japanese literary and visual mediums. In the texts, Momotaro uses the millet dumplings to form binding relationships with the animals that he comes across on the way. He gives each animal a piece of the millet dumpling. Food is, therefore, a symbol of companionship and camaraderie since it unites the animals and Momotaro to fight for one common purpose. Seo Mitsuyo echoes the idea of food as a symbol of camaraderie in his film. In one scene from the film, a monkey refuses to board the airplane until he is given millet dumplings. In the film, the millet dumplings are also the source of the miraculous and infinite power possessed by the animal pilots. The millet dumplings reveal that food represents a sense of togetherness among the Japanese people. In the original version, it brought a pheasant, a monkey, and a dog together. The idea of unity was communicated in Seo Mitsuyo’s “Sea Eagle” since children could learn nationalism by associating with the talking birds and monkeys. The depiction of different animals combining forces and defeating a common enemy made Japan had the justification to wage war in the pacific.

Food is a symbol of power in the Minamata documentary since people were willing to be subjected to pollution because they depended on the Chisso Company for sustenance. They ate poisoned fish just so they could earn their daily bread. Food is a fundamental influence in human life. It can serve as a unifying factor like it did to unite Momotaro and the animals in the original play and in the “Sea Eagle” film.  It can also act as a divisive factor like it dead when people living in the Minamata region refused to support the victims of mercury poisoning. Food is also used by leaders to influence and control their subjects. In the original fairy tale, Momotaro used food to get the support of the dog, the monkey, and the pheasant. In the film, the monkeys agreed to work after receiving millet dumplings which gave them invincible power. The Chisso Company was able to continue polluting the environment for a long period because the local population depended on the jobs it provided for daily upkeep. The main reason people work is to get food to sustain their livelihoods.  Food is, therefore, a very strong force and power in human relationships and communities.


Feasting Together

It is said that a family who feasts together, stays together. For most people, food is seen as a source of energy and nutrition for the body, a necessity of life, but it is also a way for people form bonds others. In most cultures, families and communities come together to eat which establishes a connection between each other because when people share food at the table, they also share stories and experiences which elicits responses of laughter or even sympathy. Being able to connect on a personal level creates unity and a sense of community with others as illustrated by the Momotaro stories of Japan. Momotaro, a Japanese folk legend, leads his trusty squad into quests and battles in order to destroy the enemies that threaten the safety of Japan. In both visual and literary texts, food ties Momotaro and his crew together while also giving them the strength they need to carry on and become victorious in their quests.

In Iwaya Sazanami’s rendition of Momotaro, food represents providence and good fortune for the old couple as well as used as a sign of respect and trust that creates a band of warriors who are loyal to Momotaro and his quest. When the old couple finds Momotaro, he is actually within a peach which happens to be a fruit that is highly valued and often associated with the gods in Japanese folklore. This implies that Momotaro is a blessing from the gods, meant to bring the couple together and to grant them happiness. Although Sazanami never mentions anything about the man and woman having any lack of nutrition, they work very hard so when the peach comes floating down the river, it is a significant event for the old couple becomes it is a reason for celebration and a reward for their work. It makes their life “healthier” in a sense with the appearance of Momotaro in their lives. He is a healthy addition to their lives and is very beneficial to their lonely life because his presence gives them joy and he helps out the old couple in their daily burdens. The old couple is so grateful for Momotaro and his influence on their lives that they willingly let him leave them for his quest to save Japan.

Momotaro begins his journey after the old couple makes him millet dumplings in order to ensure his well-being. Millet dumplings are a material objects that originally were only to serve the purpose of guarantee Momotaro’s well-being but instead they become a symbol of trust and acceptance into Momotaro’s followers. He offers half a millet dumpling to each of his new followers in order to feast with them and create a fellowship with the dog, the monkey, and the pheasant. Furthermore, by offering food to his followers, this situation begins to mimic the parent-child relationship where the parent provides for the child, which, in this situation, makes the three followers his dependents. Throughout the whole book, Momotaro is referred to as “Peach-boy” and even refers to himself as “Peach-boy” reinforcing the idea that he was a gift from the gods as sustenance to the old couple’s lives. After his quest, his role as sustenance is extended to Japan because he helps the country well-being in his victory over the Ogres.

Misuyo Seo’s Momotaro’s Sea Eagle reinforces the idea of food as a way to form bonds but chooses to focuses on food as a unifier of Momotaro’s forces rather than an initiation of his followers as his forces head to the Demon’s island to face the enemy. In the film, the troops consume millet dumplings just as Momotaro and his followers did in Sazanami’s story, however, it is a feast among his many troops. Food becomes something to rally behind because it not only creates unity among the troops, but also gives them the strength to conquer the enemy. This is illustrated when one of the monkeys quickly wolfs down a millet dumpling and he suddenly becomes muscular enough to overwhelm the enemy with whom they are in combat with. As a propaganda film that was premiered in the midst of World War II, it paralleled the events that were occurring in the war and influenced citizens to cheer for Momotaro and his troops. Though it was Momotaro’s great leadership that led to the victory over the demons, the millet dumplings were what gave them the ability to do so and thus they are a representation of the strength of the Japanese people in the war. Millet dumplings were something that could be shared by all and creates a sense of camaraderie among the Japanese people and its troops.

Although the Momotaro tales are often associated with a noble journey and a victorious quest or purpose, Tsuchimoto’s Minimata: The Victims and Their World, alludes to the stories as people victimized because of food. Sustenance united Momotaro’s troops yet was the source of problems in Osaka. When people of Osaka consumed the fish of the nearby polluted waters, they also consumed mercury which resulted in a mass of innocent civilians with severe cases of Mercury poisoning. They relate their suffering to the people of Japan by equating their pain with living in “the land where blue and red ogres dwell” in order to convey the devastating the effects of mercury poising that ravaged their city. In alluding to the Momotaro stories with the ogres, the victims illustrate their situation simply because of the familiarity of the Momotaro stories to the Japanese people. This epidemic caused people to unite against the company that had polluted the water, to fight for justice and reparations. Although food caused this plague, it also brought people together to combat injustice and to band together in order to make a difference in the victims’ lives.

Having a sense of community is hard to find in a world that has many enemies and suppressors, but in partaking with others, a bond is formed between people who defend each other. In the Momotaro tales and film, food is a unifier that brings a group of people together to find strength to defeat the enemy as well as a reminder of one’s roots. The millet dumplings become a tie between the troops as they follow Momotaro into war. As for Minimata, the food that the community often shared together was poisoned, and thus, because of food, the people come together to fight the injustice of the big businesses that have polluted their lives. In each context, it is food that influences their actions and their outcome because it is an act of fellowship. Although food gives them strength to overcome the enemy, their victories did not stem from the consumption of food. Rather, it came from their ability to unite because of the personal connection formed in the act of partaking the food together.