Category Archives: Minamata disease

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.

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Works Directly And Indirectly Referencing The Story of Momotaro: How Folk Tales Are Manipulated For Achieving Different Goals

Momotaro, the Peach Boy, is a famous traditional teenage warrior figure in Japanese culture. His story depicts Momotaro, a divine creature who jumped out from a big peach found by an old lady, goes to fight the Ogres(Oni’s) with the help of his dog, monkey and pheasant fellows that he gathered along the way. In the end of the story, Momotaro returns with victory. The story of Momotaro is ubiquitously famous in Japan, and because of the popularity of Momotaro’s story, the image of Momotaro has been integrated, directly and indirectly, into various works. By comparing the animated film Momotaro’s Sea Eagles and the documentary film Minamata: The Victims and Their World to the national version of Momotaro’s story written by Iwaya Sazanami, we can understand how folk tales can be manipulated to serve different political purposes by making audiences gain empathy toward the issues in discussion, and therefore gaining support and agreement from the audiences. Specifically, The folkloric characteristics of the story of Momotaro, such as ambiguous time period,  ambiguous identity of characters, and inevitability of the presence of food and thus the impact of food, are important aspects for achieving this goal.

As a folkloric story, Momotaro doesn’t happen at a specific historical time; instead it is presented to happen merely “very, very long ago”. Even though this lack of specific time was certainly unintentional when the story was created, however, thanks to this ambiguity in time, later works can fit the Momotaro motif into any time period. In Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, the story of Momotaro is fitted into the time period of World War II – more specifically, the Pearl Harbor Attack. By fitting in the Momotaro figure straightly into the animation, audience is tricked to think that since the battle of Momotaro is a glorious battle, then the battle in the animation, directly featuring Momotaro as the leader of the army, is also a glorious battle. The ambiguous identity of characters also play a role, enabling the anime makers to transform the small army into a large national army, while changing Momotaro’s image from a chunky, friendly boy to a solemn political leader. Because of the ambiguity of the characters’ identity in the original folk story, nobody would question the new enforced identities presented in the animation. Though the identity of the enemies, or the Oni’s, remain obscure, there are bold images and descriptions that indicate the enemy to be United States. For example, the enemy’s flag consists of stripes and stars on the left upper corner, which is incredibly similar to the national flag of United States; the enemy soldiers are all white figures, resembling Caucasian race; even the image of the island and the battleships are strikingly similar to Pearl Harbor and the ships there. What’s more, there are lines, such as “Blue demon, red demon, chase them all”, describing the American soldiers as the evil Oni’s, while

Scene in which the background music sings the line "Blue demon, red demon, chase them all".

Scene in which the background music sings the line “Blue demon, red demon, chase them all”.

promoting how righteous Momotaro and his army are. By directly putting Momotaro’s story in the World War II setting, Momotaro’s Sea Eagles serves as a propaganda, educating Japanese citizens that the attack of Japan on Pearl Harbor is a righteous act.

Minamata the documentary movie, on the other side, fits the Momotaro motif indirectly into the time period in which Minamata disease wreaked havoc. In the movie, though none of the explicit Momotaro figure, the dog, monkey and pheasant soldiers are present, the spirit of the Momotaro story is subtly integrated, as the victims of Minamata gathers and goes on a quest fighting against the Chisso Corporation, the company whose factory mercury release contaminated food. The united victims resemble Momotaro and his army, and the Chisso Corporation resembles the Oni’s. A part of the movie records how victims go on a march to where Chisso Corporation locates, protesting and fighting for a responsible solution. This march represents the journey Momotaro has, and his fighting against the Oni’s in Sazanami’s Momotaro story. In fact, the Chisso Corporation is directly associated with the Oni’s, as one speaker during the march announces: “We have arrived in the land where the blue and red ogres dwell”. However, in Minamata, the allusion to Momotaro is not a filming technique, nor a technique for creating political propaganda, but a real-life application of the story since the film is a documentary. By making allusion to Momotaro’s story, the victims of the Minamata gain tremendous empathy and support from bystanders who are of course very familiar with the story of Momotaro, and these bystanders then join the march, or the “army of Momotaro”, to keep on fighting. In conclusion, by fitting the motif of Momotaro into different historical time periods and onto different characters and persons, different goals can be achieved, depending on the issue in discussion.

Other than the ambiguity in time and identity of characters, the ubiquitous presence of food in stories also show how folk stories, the story of Momotaro in this case, can be manipulated. First of all, food exists in every story. No matter if it’s a folk tale, a prose, or any other genre, as long as there is a storyline, there exists food. The ubiquitous existence of food makes the impact of food tremendously important in all stories. In this case, food serves as a power that unites people in all three stories.

Food in both Sazanami’s Momotaro story and the Momotaro’s Sea Eagles unite people by giving them strength, faith and making them loyal to Momotaro. In both stories, the millet dumplings are the food Momotaro gives to his animal fellows. In Sazanami’s Momotaro story, by sharing millet dumplings, Momotaro makes friends with dog, monkey and pheasant, and he resolves conflicts between them using millet dumplings as well. By using millet dumplings, Momotaro is able to create his small army, with his fellows respecting and admiring him, willing to fight for him. In Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, millet dumplings also serve similar purpose, uniting the army together as Momotaro’s soldiers.

However, the detailed indication of food is different between the Sazanami’s Momotaro story and the Momotaro’s Sea Eagles. In Sazanami’s Momotaro story, millet dumplings build a rather intimate connection – friendship, and loyalty due to admiration and respect. The monkey, the dog, and the pheasant and Momotaro are more like brothers than merely a political leader and followers, in the sense that they develop intimate relationship with each other, and the animals all respect Momotaro. Millet dumplings also resemble kinship in Sazanami’s story: when Momotaro is leaving home, the Old Man and the Old Woman, who take care of Momotaro as parents, carefully prepare the millet dumplings for Momotaro.This symbolistically indicates that the millet dumplings contain the power of love, and that’s why the millet dumplings can have such a cohesive force that binds the fellows together. With the power of love and kinship coming from the millet dumplings, Momotaro and the animal fellows become brothers and fight together. This brother-like relationship between the dog, the monkey and the pheasant is carried on in Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, however with a new layer of meaning and indication, as the millet dumplings also posses a new layer of meaning. In Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, the soldiers are also united by the millet dumplings like brothers, but not brothers in an intimate way, but rather in the sense that they are all sons of Japan, the motherland, and they all fight for their motherland patriotically. Instead of showing kinship and friendship, the millet dumplings in the animation represents nationalism, which is the power that ties all the soldiers of the army

A monkey soldier happily eats a millet dumpling ration

A monkey soldier happily eats a millet dumpling ration

together. What’s more, the millet dumplings shows great literal dietary support, contrasting with the terrible diets of the enemy: the army of Momotaro is energetic, passionate and brave eating the millet dumplings, while the enemies, drinking alcohol, are sluggish and cowardly, only able to run away. In one scene, a monkey soldier becomes ultra-muscular after eating millet dumplings – the allusion of Popeye the Sailor here is integrated to exaggerate the literal dietary power of millet dumplings. Meanwhile, one captain from the enemy side is

A drunk, fat enemy general struggling on the ground, but unable to get up and run. There are alcohol bottles scattering around him on the ground.

A drunk, fat enemy general struggling on the ground, but unable to get up and run. There are alcohol bottles scattering around him on the ground.

presented to be obese and drunk, unable to get up from the floor, with several alcohol bottles lying by him, indicating his drunkenness, and thus reflecting on the terrible diets of the enemy’s army. By giving a contrast between the diets of the two sides, Momotaro’s Sea Eagle advocates Japan as the righteous side while bashing the Oni’s – United States, in this case.

While food positively unite people together in both stories that directly reference to Momotaro, food, or contaminated food in specific, unites people negatively in Minamata: The Victims and Their World: victims suffered from Minamata disease the contaminated food unite to fight against Chisso Corporation. Even though food in Minamata is a negative factor, it still unites the protagonists in the story just like millet dumplings unite protagonists in the other two stories, and the protagonists go on a quest fighting against the “evil Ogres”.

With the national version of Momotaro’s story by Iwaya Sazanami as an original story to refer to, the animated video Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, and the documentary film Minamata: The Victims and Their World both manipulates the story of Momotaro by playing with the ambiguity of time and characters, and inevitability of the presence of food and thus the impact of food as a uniting power. By playing with these characteristics of the story of Momotaro, folk tales – not just the story of Momotaro, but all folk tales in general – can be manipulated to serve different purposes by making audiences gain empathy toward the issues in discussion, and therefore gaining support and agreement from the audiences.

Symbolic Food

The traditional folklore of the famous “Peach-Boy” or Momotaro is wildly used in many children’s books and animation. Some of the popular anime have mini episodes where characters reenact the Momotaro story, though not very authentic reenactment. The story about Momotaro is about a boy who is born form a peach and goes off on a journey to defeat the ogres in Ogres’ Island, with a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant as his comrades, then goes back home to his adoptive parents, and elderly couple, after completing his quest. Iwaya Sazanami’s Momotaro is a re-telling of the traditional folklore, while Mitsuyo Seo’s animation Momotaro’s Sea Eagle is more of modernized reenactment of the battle in Ogres’ Island. Noriaki Tsuchimoto’s film Minamata: The Victims and Their World shows a journey very similar to Momotaro’s journey against the ogres, and the film even makes references and the protestors wear a head band similar to Momotaro’s as well. In these three textual/visual media, food serves as a unifier to form communities of family, comradeship, and rebellion because it represents certain emotions that lead to the formation of families, comrades, and resistance. These emotions lead to the formation of communities because these are emotions that bonds people to be together.

Old Man and Old Woman Making Millet Dumplings for Momotaro's Journey.

Old Man and Old Woman Making Millet Dumplings for Momotaro’s Journey.

In Sazanami’s Momotaro, food represents love, affection, care, of a family because the motive in giving and preparing food lead to the formation of a family and strengths the relationship in a family. For example, when the Old Woman first sees the large peach she says “I expect it would be very sweet eating! I will go pick it up at once and give it to my Old Man as a present—that will be the thing to do.” (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.11) In this scene, the peach represents the Old Woman’s love and affection for her husband because her first thoughts are not to keep the peach for herself, but to give to her husband as a gift. This selfless thought of the Old Woman towards the Old Man is called love because when you love someone you will put them before yourself. This love the Old Woman has for the Old Man is precisely what forms a community called family. Also, after Momotaro’s initial meeting with the elderly couple, Sazanami writes “this child came to be brought up as their own, and as he was born from a peach, the name ‘Peach-Boy’ was given to him, and all the care which love could give was given to him.” (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.16) The peach is in a sense the vessel that brought the Peach-Boy and the old couple together. The peach brought these three characters together to form a family, and without the peach, which gave birth to Momotaro, there would be no son for the Old Man and Woman to love and care for. Therefore, the peach is the unifier to this family because it was the vessel that creates the meeting between Momotaro and the elderly couple. As Momotaro prepares to leave on his journey, the Old Man and Old Woman prepares a “suitable food for a warrior on a journey” (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.21), which are millet dumplings. Though the Old Man was surprised by Peach-Boy’s request to go defeat the ogres in Ogres’ Island, the Old Man gives Peach-Boy his blessings and prepares food for him for the trip. The millet dumplings are the result of the Old Man and Old Woman’s hard work because to make the dumplings that had to beat the grains in a big stone mortar, like in the picture above. The Old Man and Old Woman are very old, with the woman being sixty years old, making the millet dumplings must be very difficult for them, yet they make it not for the purpose of feeding Momotaro because if they were worried about Momotaro’s hunger the elderly couple could have given Momotaro some money to buy food. The Old Man and Old Woman made the millet dumplings out of love and wanting to send off their son with a meal made with the love of a parent. Making the dumpling could be the very last thing that the elderly couple can do for Momotaro and with these dumplings are their love and hope that Momotaro will have a safe journey. These dumplings symbolizes this love and wich for Momotaro’s safe return unifies Momotaro, the Old Man, and the Old Woman as a family and solidifying their bond as a family until they meet again.

Momotaro giving the Spotted Dog, Monkey, and Pheasant each half of a dumpling.

Momotaro giving the Spotted Dog, Monkey, and Pheasant each half of a dumpling.

In Sazanami’s Momotaro and Seo’s Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, food symbolizes emotions such as kindness and happiness which unifies a group of individuals into become comrades. In Sazanami’s Momotaro, Momotaro gives the Spotted Dog “half-a-one” of the millet dumplings the elderly made for him, which he describes as “the best millet dumplings in Japan.” (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.25) The dumplings in this scene symbolize kindness because Momotaro gave half of a millet dumpling to the hungry Spotted Dog which attacked Momotaro in the first place. Although the Spotted Dog wanted to join Momotaro on his quest before receiving the dumpling, this dumpling solidifies the bond between Momotaro and the Spotted Dog because by sharing a meal together they become friends/comrades, instead of just acquaintances. When Momotaro meet the Monkey, Momotaro said “in consideration of your good intentions, I will give you half of one the best millet dumplings in Japan, and you may follow.” (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.28)  The dumpling again represents kindness because though the monkey came to follow Momotaro on his journey, Momotaro gives him half of a dumpling as a sign that he accepts the Monkey as a comrade before answering the Monkey’s request. Momotaro did not have to offer his dumplings to the Monkey, but he did it to show that he accepts the Monkey because you truly become friends/comrades with someone you shared a meal with. Again, Momotaro gives half a dumpling to the Pheasant when they first meet. (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.30) Though Momotaro seeked the Pheasant and made the Pheasant join him, Momotaro offered the Pheasant half of a dumpling as a sign that they are now comrades.

Monkey eating onigiri at the celebration after the battle

Monkey eating onigiri at the celebration after the battle

In Seo’s Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, after the monkey, dog and bird came back there was a celebration for the success of the attack on Ogres’ Island. The rabbit gave the monkey a rice ball to eat during this celebration. The rice ball, or onigiri, symbolizes the happiness that the other animals feel not only for the victory but for the safe return of the monkey, dog, and bird after everyone thought they were dead. This happiness makes the bonds between comrades even stronger because this happiness proves that your comrades care about you. This celebration with food and drinks symbolizes that bond between comrades because if it was for the strong team work and trust these animals have for each other, they would not make a feast to celebrate the accomplishment and safe return of the animals in the fighter planes.

In Sazanami’s Momotaro and Tsuchimoto’s Minamata, food symbolizes suffering which helps unify a group of individuals to become a community of resistance. Suffering is an emotion that can cause people to either crumble or rise to an occasion, in both the text and the film, Momotaro and the protestors rise to the occasion, creating a group that resists the ‘oni’ or ogre. In Sazanami’s Momotaro, Momotaro asks his father, Old Man, for permission to go on a journey to Ogres’ Island to defeat the ogres that “take people and eat them!” (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.18) Momotaro, who is now fifteen, feels that Japan, as a country, is suffering at the hands of the ‘oni’ or ogres because they see humans as food and seize all the humans’ treasures. In this scene the food is humans because that is what the ogres eat and what makes humans suffer because like all the animals, humans are now on the menu for ogres. This suffering causes Momotaro to want to be the hero that rescues Japan and return the treasure, so he goes off on a journey where he will meet with a Spotted Dog, a Monkey, and a Pheasant, and create a group of resistance against the ogres and fight back.  Minamata

In Tsuchimoto’s film, fish and shellfish contain mercury compounds that cause the Minamata disease cause major health issues where very few patients have a full recovery and most surviving victims suffer the basic symptoms. The fish and shellfish in this case are the food which symbolizes suffering because many fishermen and their families suffered because of these infected fishes and shellfish. The victims did not just wallow up in their suffering, but rose to the occasion and fought for what was right. They gathered a huge amount of supporters and protestors and marched their way to Osaka to prove that the Minamata disease is real. They used this suffering as a motivation to push forward just as Momotaro did. The food in both the text and the film symbolized suffering, but lead to the unification of groups that resistant to continue suffering and fought back with all their strength.

In conclusion, the foods in Sazanami’s Momotaro, Seo’s Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, and Tsuchimoto’s Minamata symbolize emotions that unify groups of individuals into a family, comrades, or a group of resistance. These emotions are love, affection, care, kindness, happiness, and suffering. Emotions of love, affection, care leads to the formation of a family because that is what a family is built on. Emotions of kindness and happiness form bonds of comradeship because these emotions are what begins and strengths the relationship between comrades. Although suffering is a negative emotion, it can be the motivation that leads to formations of a resistance group that protest and fights for what their members believe are right. Though these three media are depict and re-tell that traditional folklore Momotaro differently, they all show that food is an important unifier of communities.

 

Momotarō and Food: Unifiers of the Japanese

Although Momotarō originated as a simple folk hero in the early Edo period, he has transformed into a national symbol capable of creating strong bonds within the Japanese people. His portrayal has also changed with his evolution. The adult themes of the Edo period transformed to become more child-friendly before again morphing to a more militaristic attitude in war propaganda. However, the use of food in Momotarō stories has remained consistent: the establishing and strengthening of strong community bonds. Between media and through time, Momotarō is a national symbol and the use of food in his portrayals act as a way to cement community bonds.

In the original tale, Momotarō uses food to establish both camaraderie and loyalty among his vassals. The original story narrates how an old couple finds Momotarō in a large peach and raises him. “Peach Boy”, as Momotarō translates to, grows up and journeys to Oni Island to defeat the demons living there. On his voyage, he enlists the help of a dog, monkey, and pheasant using the millet dumplings his parents prepared for him. He returns from his expedition triumphant and laden with treasures. The food in the original version is instrumental in the story. The millet dumplings Momotarō gives to the animals wins him their loyalty. While winning their support, he also establishes dominance and leadership between him and his vassals. This is especially apparent when he “[places] himself between them [the dog and the monkey] and carrying in his hand and iron fan, according to the custom of all high military officials in those days […]” (28, Iwaya). Momotarō clearly establishes himself as a strong leader and the dominant figure of his vassals. He is seen as an assertive person to be looked up to and trusted. The comparison to a high military official furthers this idea s well as hints at Momotarō’s coming military might against the demons. His leadership is also apparent when he “pushed them [the dog and monkey] both apart […]” (26, Iwaya). He is responsible enough that he stops them from fighting and even has the foresight to recruit the monkey as another one of his vassals. The millet dumpling shared between the dog and monkey establishes camaraderie between the two. The food also binds the band together on their journey to Oni Island. Not only do they no longer argue, they fight alongside each other with loyalty and bravery. The millet dumplings convey the theme of camaraderie and loyalty on their journey.

In Mitsuyo Seo’s 1943 film Momotarō’s Sea Eagles, Momotarō and the millet dumplings are used to mobilize the Japanese people for the war effort. In the film, Momotarō leads a “Japanese” army of dogs, monkeys, pheasants, and rabbits against the evil demons of Oni Island, representing the American and British enemies in World War II. The film’s main purpose is to promote World War II and rally the Japanese people; in contrast, the original tale is aimed to teach and entertain children. However, the propaganda film gains power from using Momotarō as a symbol because people already identify with the original folk hero as a good, strong leader. This idea is furthered with the utter defeat of the Western “demons” and the fact that the “Japanese” army is completely unharmed. This idealized view of war only serves the film’s purpose as propaganda. Millet dumplings also rally the Japanese people together. Strong community bonds and intense loyalty are the Japanese’s strengths and the key to winning the war, and the millet dumplings represent this. In the film, the food does not simply establish these bonds, but actually makes the animals physically stronger.

The monkey's muscles become visibly larger after eating the millet dumplings.

The monkey’s muscles become visibly larger after eating the millet dumplings.

The millet dumplings, and symbolically the camaraderie between the Japanese, give strength to Momotarō’s army. The food in the films not only encourages camaraderie but also distinguishes the good Japanese and the demonized Westerners.

The beer makes the demons drunk and cowardly

The beer makes the demons drunk and cowardly

In contrast to the strength the millet dumplings give to the Japanese, food and drink make the Westerners lazy and cowardly. This distinction further unites the Japanese. The biased portrayal dehumanizes the enemies and makes their total defeat more righteous, again typical of a propaganda film. Food in Sea Eagles helps promote enlistment in the war and draws power from the national symbol of Momotarō.

Momotarō is not used only in literature and film, but also as a real world rallying point. In Tsuchimoto’s 1971 documentary, Minamata: The Victims and their World, the citizens of Minamata suffer from mercury poisoning caused by polluted waters. A neighboring factory owned by the Chisso Corporation had been pollution the water for thirty-four years. The film documents the victims’ fight for justice. One scene portrays the march of the victims to the annual Chisso Corporation shareholder meeting in Osaka. In one particular moment, a victim alluded to Momotarō, and the folk hero becomes a rallying point. In fact, the speaker for the victims referenced the corporation as “blue and red ogres”, a clear reference to Momotarō’s Oni Island.

The speaker references Momotarõ as a way to gain sympathy from the strangers in Osaka.

The speaker references Momotarõ as a way to gain sympathy from the strangers in Osaka.

Momotarō’s popularity as a defender of good and a strong leader made him an ideal symbol for the victims. His story is well known; likening the corporation to the infamous ogres serves to unite the strangers in solidarity and bring the issue closer to home. The long journey and gathering of supporters is also a parallel to Momotarō’s journey and gathering of vassals, again around food. However, the poisoned food is a weapon of the enemy rather than something to encourage camaraderie.  The reference to the familiar character of Momotarō as a defender of good also elicits sympathy for the victims, and the strangers as well as the audience join and support their cause. The ability of the victims to garner that much attention using Momotarō is a testament to the folk hero’s power. From page to screen to the real world, Momotarō retains his popularity and power.

Despite moving between media, or even because of it, Momotarō is a national symbol with a lot of influence, and he serves as a rallying point for multiple causes. Food also connects the various genres and becomes a unifier for the people involved, whether through camaraderie, or sadly, suffering. While the goal of each media was different, the three portrayals of Momotarō all shared the folk hero and food as the banners under which people came together. People tend to rally around strong leaders, and Momotarō is the ideal unifier for the Japanese people, even across time periods and media.

Social Enrichment Through Food

Evoking sharp, sensory emotions; promoting marvelous, cognitive associations; and communicating traditional, symbolic expressions, food elicits a profound quality throughout many cultures: unification of people. The Momotaro stories particularly embrace the idea of “uniting others” with food—mainly through positive associations of camaraderie. In comparison, Noriaki Tsuchimoto’s documentary highlights community strengthening through food’s symbolic power; instead, however, the characters join together through negative connotations of suffering. Food’s function as a unifier can be analyzed between both literary texts and visual films. Represented through Iwaya Sazanami’s Momotaro = The Story of Peach-Boy and Tsuchimoto’s Minamata: The Victims and Their World, food operates as a figurative symbol and a material object that unifies estranged communities.

Iwaya Sazanami manipulates his writing to indirectly relate a smaller unification with a large-scale unification. In his Momotaro story, he describes an old couple who appears distraught over lack of children. However, once the old woman finds “a huge peach, big enough to fill her arms” (10 Iwaya), a little boy pops out of the fruit to explain his purpose: He intends to provide joy to the couple after “seeing that they are both so sad” (16 Iwaya). Sazanami develops a small, but significant community by employing a peach as a figurative, food symbol—an old woman and an old man become united with a child of their own. Comparably, this community development epitomizes the wide-ranging scale of unification that occurs in contemporary times: how ratatouille encapsulates the French; how pasta envelops the Italians; how lumpia bonds the Filipinos; and how ramēn/sushi unites the Japanese. In this case, the peach revitalizes a couple’s marriage, establishing a novel connection. Food not only has a physical attribute to forming happiness, but it also has a metaphorical element to uniting hopeless souls.

The historical context of Momotaro sets him in the late 19th century, with the English translation coming in the pre-WWII era. He epitomizes the popular hero who remains entangled in Japanese folklore. His figure also appears in countless wartime films and cartoons that appeal to the Japanese citizens as propaganda. In these widespread media portrayals, Momotaro usually represents the Japanese government; the citizens signify the animals; and the United States characterizes the demonic figure. The food and treasure that Momotaro and his animals receive after defeating the demon reflect the lost glory of Japan’s empire. Food’s presence in these stories holds another symbolic meaning: Food represents the attachment between the Japanese government and its people—just like how a chemical bond connects two atoms. Nevertheless, the Momotaro stories utilize food to cultivate strong relationships and lasting communities.

Tokiyoshi Onoue's personal testimonial compares to the whole Minamata community's experience.

Tokiyoshi Onoue’s personal testimonial compares to the whole Minamata community’s experience.

In similar fashion, Tsuchimoto applies food to compare one man’s suffering with a whole community’s suffering. He uses Tokiyoshi Onoue’s testimonial to illuminate a population’s distressful unity. As the Minamata disease forms a resilient community through people’s suffering, the Momotaro stories arrange cohesive communities through people’s comradeship: the contrasting quality between Sazanami’s writing and Tsuchimoto’s media. In the film, Onoue reveals his pain and anguish that the poisoning fish produced. The food’s contamination forcefully disables any consumers—blinding vision, restricting sound, and damaging basic motor skills. Upon recognition of the disease, Onoue begins to lose a certain amount of respect and trust of food’s safety. This personal relationship symbolizes the overall relationship that Minamata residents have with their seafood. The local fishermen, the close families, the dying individuals all start to discount their association with food’s unifying demands. Food’s figurative role as a uniting symbol emerges through the depths of people’s suffering. Minamata’s community develops a strong connection through everyone’s discomfort and torture.

The historical framework of the Minamata disease places it during a post-WWII era—a close similarity with that of Momotaro’s propaganda setting. Minamata’s remote location also sets it apart from the Japanese mainstream culture. This sets the stage for Minamata to create its own society and community. Since the residents did not have plenty of outside interaction, they had to combine their efforts with one another. The poisoned food ultimately matures the population through a tormenting array of sorrow. Even though the citizens become hampered to produce everyday tasks, they still overcome such obstacles to unify. Nevertheless, food embodies the metaphorical epitome of industrializing a spirited community.

Now implemented as a material object through the Momotaro stories, Sazanami employs food as a physical unifier between characters. He uses millet dumplings to bond Momotaro and a dog: “he accepted the half-dumpling and having eaten it he went on with Peach-Boy” (25 Iwaya). He continues to use millet dumplings to connect Momotaro and a monkey: “I will give you half of one of the best millet dumplings in Japan, and you may follow me” (28 Iwaya). He finally unites another pairing between Momotaro and a bird: “I now charge you to accompany me in the same way as the dog and the money in my expedition” (31 Iwaya). Once again, this small community of a hero and his comrades exemplifies the larger picture—how a massive community between the Japanese government and its citizens ripens. Food’s function as a unifier travels beyond the scope of just forming a community; it reaches the extent of establishing companionships and relationships. Sazanami manipulates food to serve as his community development initiative. He implements food to directly institute a bonding association—since the monkey, dog, and bird openly accept the dumplings. This illuminates how food works to build communities through certain respects of camaraderie and materialism.

The comparison between “Momotaro and his companions” and “the Japanese government and its citizens” signifies Sazanami’s purpose to portray community progression. The millet dumplings operate as a food symbol in the story, and the food represents the Momotaro stories in reality. Since the dumplings form a community between the hero and his acquaintances, the Momotaro stories form a community between the government and its people. Together, both communities develop a passionate sense of unity and accord to battle worldly evils. In Momotaro’s case, they travel to defeat the ogres at Ogre Island; in Japan’s case, they journey to conquer the Unites States at Pearl Harbor. Food manages to characterize a potent unifier that continues to produce fervent societies.

Community outreach and development.

Community outreach and development.

Through another comparison, Tsuchimoto highlights how food can symbolize the basis of constructing a vehement community. He chronicles the Minamata residents as they band together to confront the death-providing Chisso Corporation—the instigator who polluted the Minamata waters with mercury compounds. Indirectly speaking, the diseased food connects the people of Minamata as a single neighborhood, fighting to voice their harrowing pain and traumatic anger. An example of this cohesive community can be described through the documentary’s dramatic climax: Tsuchimoto films the residents attending a Chisso biannual, shareholders meeting. They collectively demand that the company president accept full responsibility for Chisso’s offenses against the environment and humanity. Food resumes its constant duty to unify communities—with love in its intentions and conviction in its production.

The story of Minamata’s fight for justice not only suggests historical importance, but it also reveals the determined spirit that a group of people is willing to deliver. This community struggle holds the potential to inspire other communities who also suffer from the hands of an indifferent bureaucracy. Although each family and individual embrace their own personal account of sorrow, they all combine their efforts and tales to form a community of simple, conscientious people. Tsuchimoto’s filming tactics fully epitomize the meaning of how food brings people into unison.

While Tsuchimoto and Sazanami develop contrasting works of art, they both succinctly illustrate the same, basic message: Food not only functions as a figurative symbol to unify communities, but it also works as a material object to unite others. Whether a situation expounds anguish, happiness, friendship, or violence, people always find a way to become intertwined through food’s bitter taste; food’s sweet taste; food’s rare taste; or food’s repulsive taste. Food grasps that special power to unify communities under the best conditions, or the worst conditions. It remains as a symbol that refers to any aspect of a culture’s or individual’s history and identity.

March Against Food

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Description of the Minamata disease.

Minamata: The Victims and Their World (1971) Directed by Tsuchimoto Noriaki is a documentary about the Minamata disease which, simply put, is methyl mercury poisoning. The disease originated from a Chisso Corporation factory that was dumping methyl mercury (a byproduct of the fertilizer they manufactured), illegally, into the ocean. This careless action poisoned the sea life with the mercury, which in turn poisoned the people who ate the diseased creatures. When it became apparent something was happening, it was too late, the affected people had been stripped of their senses and their ability to think and speak properly. Even when the source became apparent, there was no easy solution, and many were told not to go see doctors or to tell anyone one from the outside about the disease. The Chisso factory had a lot to answer for. The legal battle was settled with money, but as you could imagine many were not satisfied; this is a documentary of those demanding reimbursement besides money. Throughout the film, the audience gets the sense that Chisso are the “bad guys” but even more so, it is depicted that the food has in a sense has become part of the enemy, or rather, the weapon of the enemy. An enemy that the people must rally against to defeat; much like the Oni in the legend of Momotaro.

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Picture of one of the fatalities, as well as the victim’s wife’s own emotional struggle as she watched her husband “rot” away.

We see food here acting as a weapon of the enemy rather than a necessity for living. The methyl mercury from the factory is dumped into the ocean, creating a silent enemy to the unsuspecting villages nearby. “Human victims were mostly fishermen or their families, and there was a tendency for successive outbreaks in the same family” (00:00:32). These people are just everyday people trying to get by. This disease caused victims to experience pain and had symptoms such as “heads that loll, eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t hear, mouths that can’t speak or taste, hands that can’t grasp, legs that won’t walk” (00:20:57). Not many were able to recover from the disease; those who survived often were not able to live normal lives and were mentally impaired by the methyl mercury. Most still suffered from the basic symptoms, such as loss of control in movements, pain, and numbness in the limbs. As we see, the poisoned food has condemned these people to a life (if it can be called that) of suffering—if they survive that is.

The victims of this disease, however, were not only those who had the disease, but the victims’ families as well. In the documentary we see many of those who have Minamata disease, but we also see those who are close to them. Many loved ones were lost either in death or in the madness caused by the poisoning; parents, grandparents, siblings, relatives, and close friends. Those left behind felt a great loss, as shown especially at the end during the shareholders meeting when the older woman is yelling at the executives to give back her parents. Grief turns to rage and a demand to see someone pay, as money is too easy and does nothing to bring back the people lost to the disease. Thus, we see the people come together in the great tragedy to go against the oni who have turned food into a weapon by poisoning it.

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The announcing of the success of the fundraising for the patients of Minamata disease and their cause.

Though the people want to make the Chisso Corporation pay, they themselves seem unsure how. It is then decided that they will take the “patient” and make a journey to a shareholders meeting. To be admitted to the meeting, however, they must each hold at least one share of the company. The shares as well as the trip over would not be easily affordable by those in the poor village (especially since they have to pay for treatment for the patients). So, in order to gain money they begin a fundraising drive. We see people not only from one fishing village help, but several other remote villages which before had basically kept to themselves. The people come together in order to go to different cities and events in order to ask for, or in some cases preform for,  donation as well as inform the people what the Minamata disease is, how the problem was created, and their plan to go against their oppressors; Chisso. The people showed great understanding and donated more than the people of Minamata had expected; even kids came up to the people and donated small change. Through the tragedy of being maimed by the food, or Minamata disease, we see people come together.

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After the “pilgrimage” to Osaka, speakers for the Minamata Patients get to talk to their supporters. One references to Momotaro, likening the journey, and the “Minamata War.”

Finally once the funds had been raised, the people who had come together because of the poisoned food, go together in a march to go face these “oni” who poisoned their food supply, much like the Momotaro legend. Though in this documentary we don’t see a conclusion, but we do see the people make their way, despite many obstacles. And from the periphery (near Minamata) we see them supported not only by those in the village back “home,” but also by those who donated to their cause, as well as by the people who meet them at the station to show their support. As we have seen, food acts as a common enemy for those affected, bringing people together in order to fight for what is right, no matter how hard, or long it takes.

Minamata: No Affection Only Infection

Since food is necessary to life, it is instinctive to eat for self-preservation. Beyond this innate urge, food also holds a deeper connotation for family and society. Despite our cultural origins, the preparation and enjoyment of food is a commonality we all share. Food is much more than nourishment; it is the vehicle through which society communicates sentiments, expresses affection and creates bonds. When one thinks of life’s varied occasions, food is most likely at the epicenter. People use food to mark special occasions like birthdays, weddings, holidays, promotions and even funerals. Food is used to comfort people in times of suffering and nurse the weak in times of sickness. Through its loving preparation, the sharing of food with others is what keeps us connected.  Food plays a significant role in our daily lives, so much so, that it often defines ones identity, community, traditions, and relationships – it is the common thread that keeps us connected.

In Noriaki Tsuchimoto’s documentary, Minamata: The Victims and Their World, we visit a small fishing village in southwest Kyūshū sandwiched between the Kyūshū Mountains and the Yatsushiro Sea. We are exposed to a crippled community suffering the consequences of environmental pollution and stripped of their identity, compassion, livelihood and most importantly food. Through Tsuchimoto’s expert use of expository filmography, we gain an intimate glimpse at the severed relationship between food and society via a pandemic outbreak of methyl mercury poisoning.  The result is a disconcerting series of interwoven mosaics highlighting the stark reality of this disease, its impact on the residents, and how food is transformed from one of life’s greatest joys into a deadly quandary.

In this “grass is always greener” cinematic shot, we are transposed into a residents shoes. Unfortunately, our vision of prosperity soon leads to our subsequent demise.

In this “grass is always greener” cinematic shot, we are transposed into a residents shoes. Unfortunately, our vision of prosperity soon leads to our subsequent demise.

With fishing and farming as the only source of monetary income, a
fledgling Minamata revels in the idea of welcoming big industry into their small town. The Chisso Corporation is the means to transform the town into a prosperous society. Unfortunately, it tears apart their community and physically debilitates a preponderance of its residents. Divided between the union workers and the fisherman, the community is left flailing like a stricken fish on the ocean’s surface. Tsuchimoto’s distant use of observational framing allows us to maneuver amongst the chaotic town and humanizes this personal, yet shared, struggle. Through this fly-on-the-wall perspective, we intimately view Minamata’s plight and vicariously experience the intense social shame of such a conservative society. Most residents fear the disease to be contagious, while others are staunch loyalist to the Chisso Corporation through their dependency on the factory for income. The community essentially ostracizes the victims and tries to erase history, without a trace or a memory. As we look around, there is no affection only infection.

Casted out like garbage, a victim is left to learn the game of baseball alone.

Casted out like garbage, a victim is left to learn the game of baseball alone.

With complete disregard for continuity between scenes, Tsuchimoto further
juxtaposes seemingly unrelated shots together in a melodic collage of cinematic
genius. By stressing the fragile relationship between Minamata’s victims and
nature, Tsuchimoto reveals the personal struggle and subsequent destruction of
a community. Through his poetic portrayal, we witness a broad spectrum of
shared relationships –  an elderly man hunting octopus, a widow concocting bait, sardine netting, the ominous factory, concrete pipes pumping chemically laden runoff into the ocean, suffering children, and an infuriated community. This subtle, however, explicit portrayal of daily life shows the moral erosion of Minamata’s community.   Yet, the undeniable truth is that everyone is susceptible to this indistinguishable disease through their interdependency on the local fisheries for sustenance.

The hands of the victims are the same hands that provide the town with food.

The hands of the victims are the same hands that provide the town with food.

As one fisherman poignantly states, “the vital point [to kill an octopus] is between the eyes”, one cannot help but think of this statement as a metaphor for the Minamata community. Methyl mercury poisoning is a neurological syndrome affecting muscle coordination, impaired vision, paralysis, loss of speech, insanity and ultimately death. Ironically, these are the same symptoms affecting the communal bonds of Minamata. Their lack of coordination allows for the continued pollution of their food, their impaired vision promotes further neglect of the victims, and their refusal to speak against the Chisso Corporation’s atrocities eventually leads to a paralyzed town left wallowing in their own chaotic and insecure delusions.

Tsuchimoto’s documentary reminds us of the alarming importance between food and human welfare.  Food is why we gather, not just to eat, but to talk, share, and connect. It facilitates conversation and acts as the medium by which we strengthen and nurture our relationships. Without healthy food we as humans will literally die, but as a society we will perish in the social context. Tsuchimoto’s ability to cinematically capture this unfortunate disease will serve as an enduring lesson to us all, but more importantly, we are left contemplating the stark reality of foods role in the fragility of society.

What is Left Unsaid: Cultivating Diaries, Poems, and Food

Throughout the course of Japanese 70, we have encountered a series of literature and film that depict a range of genres that cultivate different relationships between humans and food. Upon reflecting, and perhaps due to personal taste, I believe that, from this range of genres, the genre of diaries is the most effective for cultivating a relationship with food. The reasons are its poetic nature, subjectivity, casualness, and accessibility. Above all, I believe the diary genre establishes a personal and intimate relationship between people and food. Specifically, I refer to My Years of Meats and Vibrator to demonstrate this relationship.

In My Year of Meats, we get a personal account from Jane regarding her development of a new cooking program and her encounter with the Flowers family. According to Jane, “While you are shooting them, they are your entire world and you live in the warm, beating heart of their domestic narratives, but as soon as you drive away from the house, away from the family all fond and waving, then it is over” (Ozeki 35-36). This statement marks the intimacy that Jane develops with the program, the family, the wife, and the food. Her accounts are subjective, giving others a perspective from a multitude of perspectives. This leaves the readers the possibility of judging on their own to consider what is left unsaid and what it means.

In addition, her comments, because they are subjective, are also personal. This creates another level of intimacy in which the feelings of Jane are directly portrayed without further manipulation and editing, in contrast to the reshaping publicity in Giants and Toys. Moreover, the interludes of Sei Shōnagon’s diary poems attach a poetic element to the diary genre. Such elements create a sense of brevity, succinctness, and ordinariness, avoiding the distant and unfamiliar feelings typically associated with serious and formal methods.

Shot 1: Food Creating Social Connection on Truck

Similarly, we observe the same type of casualness and ease of access in Vibrator. Rei Hayakawa and Takatoshi embark on a road trip after their random acquaintance at a convenient store. They slowly break the ice with the help of soju, cigarette, and chips. This natural tendency of desiring to eat is complemented with our natural tendency to establish relationships and connections with others. Another important aspect of Vibrator is Rei’s constant self-conscious voices. They represent her innate feelings, without any disguise, and can be seen as a form of mental diary that reminds us again of poetic elements similar to The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon.

In conclusion, I believe the diary genre creates an intimate relationship between people and food. The diary genre lends naturally to the understanding of food through personal accounts and experiences in which we can freely interpret according to our tastes and beliefs. To serve as an extension, I point to the current technology in which personal blogs are so accessible and easy to create, forming a platform in which many foodies share their experiences and thoughts on food. Pictures are not only easily embedded on the blogs, open platforms also enable bloggers and readers to share comments and feedback regarding specific articles. Truly, we have seen how the traditional form of a diary book has transformed in our current generation, marking a more open and interactive yet personal relationship between people and food.

That Penny Donated: Manifesto Genre in Minamata: Its Victims and Their Worlds

The manifesto genre is a genre that represents a form of official public declaration that asserts a set of principles or rights in which the declaring party believes to be innate and natural. Through the lens of this genre or prototype, Minamata: Its Victims and Their Worlds can be seen as a manifesto in the form of a film documentary. Specifically, the documentary’s formal techniques first establish its seriousness via portraits, interviews, and factual statements. Next, the notion of the collective-we is seen through protests, donations, and unions. Lastly, the final demand of justice and rights is manifested through political action.

Shot 1: Interview and Portrait of Victim Family

In this particular shot, we examine the formal elements to highlight the background of the documentary manifesto. This particular scene follows from a series of portraits of those deceased due to the Minamata disease. Prior to the portraits, full scenes of white words on black backgrounds state the history and impacts of the disease. Immediately, the audience receives a wealth of information regarding the dreadful epidemic. Next, to create a sense of attachment and emotion, portraits are used with names and ages of the victim labeled. Furthermore, as seen in the above scene, the actual interview, the items on the shrine, and the tea on the table all serve to create a mixture of pain, sorrow, respect, interaction, and warmth.

Shot 2: “A war Waged by we who hate War!”

With the formal elements above emphasizing the dreadful consequences of the disease, the collective victims are finally united on a foundation of rights, justice, and emotion. The cause for the declaration of the manifesto is now set, and the working fishermen class, along with their families, have come together to rise. As shot 2 indicates, the speaker refers to the collective-we to emphasize a sense of unison, creating a sense of belonging, sympathy, understanding, and strength. Such qualities are clearly representative of the manifesto genre. Furthermore, aside from the “we,” the speech also uses “you” and “they.” Such classification and segregation of people further fuels a sense of unity. The “you” addresses each individual personally, instilling strength and advocating for action and reflection, while the “they” addresses those responsible for the epidemic, creating accountability.

Shot 3: Formal Document Related to the Minamata Disease

Then, political action is finally taken. With a series of negotiations with relevant departments related to public health, law, and research, the cause of the Minamata Disease is finally discovered and proven. Shot 3 can be viewed as the climax in which the protestors finally come together with the greatest magnitude and strength, putting their demands right in the face of the directors of Chisso during the shareholders’ meeting. The victims’ standard costume, and especially the written document raised high up in the air in shot 3, all indicate their determination and rage.

With this determination and rage, the directors of Chisso are forced to compensate the families. However, most importantly, justice has been delivered not only for the deceased, but also for the remaining suffering families. Hence, from the establishment of a cause and foundation, to the gathering of the victims, and finally the ultimate uprising of the fishermen and their families, Minamata: Its Victims and Their Worlds is a documentary that exemplifies the manifesto genre. This uprising of the working lower class against the corporate elite, with support even from the little girl who has donated a penny, has firmly demonstrated the essence of the manifesto genre and the strength of the people.

Characterization of Momotaro: Makings of a powerful documentary and effective propaganda cartoon.

Classical folk lore representation of the image of Momotaro and his followers.

The classical folk lore hero, Momotaro, is employed as a tool by the directors of Minatmata and Momotaro’s Sea Eagle to help the greater Japanese public relate to the national anxieties taking place in each film. By employing the popular image, unfamiliar and traditionally uncomfortable situation are made familiar and with new perspective. The story of Momotaro is as common to the Japanese public as the fairytale of Snow White is to American youth. Momotaro is a brave, selfless and noble child sent from the heavens. He sacrifices his peaceful life with his parents in order to defeat the ogres terrifying Japan. Both directors Seo and Tsuchimoto call upon this hero imagery in their respective films.

In Momotaro Sea Eagle, director Mitsuyo Seo uses the imagery of Momotaro as a propaganda instrument. During the time of the filming, WWII was raging and the bombing of Pearl Harbor has just taken place. Mitsuyo Seo chooses to represents Momotaro as a brave and strong commander, allowing any Japanese the ability to relate to the military.

Momotaro in a Japanese navel outfit directing his follows to attack Demon Island.

In the image above, we see Momotaro in a modern Navel outfit with the Japanese national symbol worn across his head. He is directing his troops to carry out a bombing raid on Demon Island. Mitsuyo Seo employs this use of Momotaro to successfully relate viewers to the war and their own national duty; a situation that should be new and terrifying is replaced with common and familiar themes of Japanese folk lore. Momotaro is seen as a high power, one who demands respect and obedience. He has a duty to lead his subordinates into war and defeat the enemy for the greater good. Viewers of this film relate themselves to the dog, monkey, and pheasant and are overwhelmed with their own calling to take up arms and fight for the righteous Momotaro without questioning the reasons for the war.

Noriaki Tsuchimoto also calls upon the popular image of Momotaro in the film Minamata: The Victims and their World. The film centers on the townspeople of Minamata’s quest to shed national notoriety and receive compensation for the spreading of pollutants by the Chisso Corporation. The image of Momotaro is drawn upon less directly but still just as powerfully.

Protestors from Minamata addressing the public on their way to the Chisso shareholders meeting.

In the image above, we see the people of Minamata demonstrating in the streets of Tokyo wearing traditional pilgrim clothing. What is truly powerful are the words this woman speaks, “We have arrived in the land where the blue and red ogres dwell.” This makes direct reference to Momotaro’s journey to Ogre Island. Tsuchimoto identifies the entire town of Minamata as the hero with a duty to travel to a distant land representing their cause. Thus the protesters are viewed within the image of Momotaro, and this allows the common viewer to identify with their cause to defeat evil just like Momotaro.

In each film, a pressing national threat has emerged that is strange and unfamiliar to the public. The image of Momotaro is employed by both directors in order for the common viewer to understand and sympathize with the statements being made. In effect, viewers have no choice but to assume the nobleness of the characters displayed as Momotaro and the evilness of the enemy, thus making for a powerful documentary and effective propaganda cartoon.