Category Archives: Momotaro

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.

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.

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.

Momotaro: The Symbol of Propaganda

The tale of Momotaro is widespread and has long been established as one of Japan’s classical heroic folklores. Due to its widespread knowledge amongst Japanese society, many derivations have been created from the original folklore in the form of intertextuality and intermediality. Momotaro’s Sea Eagles is but one example of intertextuality that achieves its propagandist goal through its manipulation of the original folklore of Momotaro. The commonalities between Momotaro’s Sea Eagles and the original Momotaro are quite evident, as both stories contain themes of unity, themes of triumph over evil, themes of leadership, as well as themes of animals as soldiers. Although these two stories contain similar themes, their driven purpose is drastically different.

The folktale of Momotaro tells us the story of a boy sent by Heaven, birthed inside a giant peach, to be the child of an elder couple. The boy then grows up and leaves his parents to combat a group of notoriously evil demons on a nearby island. On his journey there, Momotaro befriends a dog, monkey, and a pheasant, who ultimately help Momotaro defeat the island of demons and return home with the pillaged treasure. The main themes that are presented in Momotaro are simple: they’re traditional themes that are common with folklore stories, such as themes of unity, themes of triumph in adversity, and themes of bravery against unmatched odds. Momotaro’s purpose is also simple: it doesn’t quite have one! As folklore stories tend to simply be stories of pleasure and culture building, Momotaro did not have a directed purpose to its creation.

Contrast this to Momotaro’s Sea Eagles however, and many elements and themes are replicated, but not simply for the sake of cultural binding and the quick laugh (as it may seem through the adorable and hilarious animation style), but rather used by Mitsuo Seo to further his propaganda that this army composed of cute and cuddly animals is the “good” army, and their actions against the Americans are justified as righteous simply because “the Americans” are the enemies and who would be so evil enough as to oppose these cuddly animals? Now Mitsuo Seo obviously wasn’t advancing for the rights of cuddly animals by this film, but rather was advancing the propaganda of Japanese victory over at Pearl Harbor.

The film weaves intertextuality by taking the ever beloved Momotaro from common folk legend and making him this respected commander of an army of cute animals.  Contextually, the propaganda’s perfect target audience is the younger Japanese generation, and by the use of intertexuality, Mitsuo Seo really hits home.  The text from the original solidifies Momotaro and his animals as the heroes of the plot, and the demons as obviously the opposing evil force, and this context is indubitably influential and similar to the context in Momotaro’s Sea Eagles.

The film also utilizes the original Momotaro’s very vague nature and steers it heavily to transpose a concrete and specific meaning to its audience. There are several mediums between the two stories that differ slightly for the sole purpose of telling a different story. Examples of this include Momotaro’s changed role from a primitive pack leader to a stern military general, the change to represent Momotaro through cartoon-like animations, and also the massive, almost factory-produced army of animals replacing the meager three that accompanied the original Momotaro. This use of different mediums is what conveys the ultimately different message in Sea Eagles. Placing Momotaro as a military general does many things. For one, Momotaro is already established as a credible figure, and placing him as commander of an army that is similar to his target audience is a formula that is made to deliver on his propagandist idea – which is convincing the younger Japanese generation of Japan’s actions as “good” deeds at Pearl Harbor. Placing Momotaro as a military general also has the effect of over-glamorizing, belittling, and ultimately censoring the real brutality that comes as a consequence of war.  Military leaders typically aren’t going to be your favorite folklore hero, but rather the hardened, stern and strong-minded character that would never give an ounce of true respect until proceeded by in rank. This misleading portrayal of a leader ultimately does serve to lure and entice kids to believe in this propadanda.

The censorship of war also goes hand-in hand with the cartoony animation style of Sea Eagles. Momotaro’s Sea Eagles delves knee deep into the very unstable and emotionally charged topic of war, and this topic normally associated with bloodshed and loss of human life is instead sugarcoated with images of cute animals that seem to siphon all the grim seriousness that wartime brings. Death and struggle, which are commonplace issues during wartime, is never addressed as a theme in the film, but is instead replaced by the hilarious antics and mishaps of these adorable animals who face very miniscule resistance in achieving their goal. This cartoony style, innocent and fruitful in nature to captivate young audiences, is another medium different from the original Momotaro that serves to advance Mitsuo Seo’s propaganda that the Japanese’s actions at Pearl Harbor were righteous and dutifully so, regardless of the true massive loss of human life (which was never outright illustrated in the film).

Another aesthetic element that makes Momotaro’s Sea Eagles different from its original counterpart is the film’s portrayal of Momotaro’s companions as soldiers; the “depersonalizing” of the dog, monkey, and pheasant, and replacing these companions with an outright army, a seemingly innumerable, disciplined, factory-produced force. Mitsuo Seo uses this different aesthetic to advance his propaganda of Japan’s superiority as a world power, and to also engrain to the Japanese youth the idea of their “victory” at Pearl Harbor. This army of animals is representative of Japan’s own forces, it is representative of an army constructed in unity and tasked with the heroic opportunity to defeat a foreign enemy. This military mindset of sacrificing oneself for the greater good of your country is certainly an ideal that is illustrated and capitalized on through the army of animals. The selflessness of the animals simulates the amount of selflessness that Japanese soldiers have faced, and in some extreme cases of death for a greater cause (i.e Japanese kamikaze suicide bombers) this military like structure presented in Momotaro’s Sea Eagles serves as a subtle maneuver to get the younger Japanese generation to sympathize with the military’s efforts. This military presence is yet another form of intermediality that transforms the original story’s purpose through the manipulation of this medium.

Instead of simply cheering the spirits and putting children to sleep at night (which is the effect that a perfect folklore story like Momotaro has)  Sea Eagles conveys a different story, and ultimately a different purpose by drilling the subliminal message in the young audience’s mind Many mediums  differ between the two stories,  and in Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, each medium is tactfully integrated to advance their different purpose.

Food, specifically millet dumplings, is also a common object amongst both the text and the film. In Momotaro, millet dumplings serve as a powerful symbol of trustworthiness, and stands strong as a symbol of unity. Each animal that accompanied Momotaro initially were skeptics of him and it was only after a slight battle did they decide to join his ranks and consume half a millet dumpling. In the original context, half a millet dumpling was sacred to the animals and symbolized a strong connection with Momotaro.  In Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, the context of the millet dumpling changes a little. Millet dumplings still do symbolize a form of community, but is altered so that the millet dumplings seem to be crucial, almost drug-like and heavily relied on as a source of strength and comfort.  There was a humorous scene in the film with an animal refusing to take off without his generous bag of millet dumplings, which signified how different the millet dumplings are perceived in both the text and the film. In the text, a single dumpling is split amongst the dog, monkey, and pheasant, as if it is some sort of church communion bread, holy in all its glory. In the film, dumplings are taken and consumed with quickness, for a sense of strength and security, but also with a strong level of dependence, it is almost drug-like. Ultimately, millet dumplings serve as a symbol of unity for both Momotaro and Momotaro’s Sea Eagles. Intertextuality amongst both the film and the text adds a far deeper meaning to the millet dumpling, which otherwise would appear to be just a simple food. Through the original Momotaro, we can interpret just how complex and symbolic this simple dumpling is.

Momotaro’s Sea Eagles and Momotaro have the same themes, and in context, the film is repackaged with different elements to really hit home with its propagandist message. Intermediality as well as intertextuality allows certain elements to be changed and manipulated while still retaining the base themes and story, and this film is a classic example of that. Minutiae details come in to result in such a largely different story, as we see an original, classic folklore story with a simple enough premise transformed into a propagandist tool used to captivate and sway an entire young Japanese generation of millions.

Peach-Boy: Food as an Instrument of Community Creation

Monkey eating dumpling in Sea Eagle

In the stories and fables centered on the hero Momotarō or Peach-Boy, food works as a symbol of solidarity as well as authority. Momotarō is a typical heroic character: noble, righteous, and a protector of the interests of the less powerful. In the fables about his exploits, he and his retainers protect Japan from various evil forces, usually in the form of ogres or demons. These two sides are often distinguished via the symbol of food, whether it is the millet dumplings that Momotarō gives his retainers in the original tales or the alcohol that is heavily consumed by the bumbling captain of the demons’ ship in a wartime cartoon. In addition, these relationships are portrayed differently in the various Momotarō stories based on the time period in which they were written. These changes are reflected in the treatment of food within the films and texts. Food and the act of consuming it is a powerful indicator of community and relationships, a fact, which is reflected quite frequently in the myths of Momotarō.

In almost every story of Peach-Boy, there is an appearance of millet dumplings. In the original fable, Momotarō gives these dumplings to the dog, monkey, and pheasant that encounters on his way to Ogres’ Island. After receiving and eating these dumplings, the respective animals become retainers or servants of Momotarō. Thus food is acting as a direct agent of producing community. These dumplings, which were made by Momotarō’s loving parents, represent the mutual acceptance between the hero and the animals to become connected in some way. Food that was originally shared between family members, Peach-Boy and his parents, is now being given to these new characters, suggesting that they are perhaps joining his family or community in some way. Sharing and eating food together is something that everyone in a community, whether it is one of friends, family, coworkers, or etc., does together. Therefore when Momotarō performs this ritual with his new retainers it represents that they have overcome their differences (as each animal initially attacks the Peach-Boy) and decided to join together in some kind of relationship, in this case one of a lord and his retainers. In this case, food also works to build a community because it shows the Momotarō is responsible for the dog, monkey, and pheasant. He provides for them in the form of the dumplings, which are supposedly the best in all of Japan in return for their future service to him. Even in future versions, such as Momotarō’s Sea Eagle, a World War II propaganda film, food is used as a sort of reward for the retainers. For example, in one scene, after the forces of dogs, monkeys, and pheasants have successfully attacked the enemy, one of the monkeys is rewarded with millet dumplings and drink. He has performed his duty to the community, which in the film includes all of Japan in addition to his captain Momotarō, so he therefore deserves the delicious food. Food holds the community together because it incentivizes acting on behalf of the rest of the community. Food is not only a symbol of kinship but is also an agent of community-creation. Another example of food acting as a force to bring characters together in the Momotarō canon is the giant peach from which he is born. Old Woman and Old Man find a giant peach from which Peach-Boy, the son that they always wanted but never had, emerges. Once again, food is directly acting as a means of bringing people together into a community; the peach delivers Momotarō to the old couple allowing a family to form. In addition, being born from the peach also establishes Momotarō as a special character. While his parents are named Old Man and Old Woman and the rest of the characters are also similarly typified, Peach-Boy has a unique name based on his strange birth. Food not only creates communities, it also helps determine the roles of each member. The millet dumplings and peach from the original Momotarō stories are strong examples of food as the basis of a community. Without either one, Momotarō could not have existed because he would have no family to raise him and no retainers or servants to help him on his quest to get rid of the Ogres.

In addition to being a symbol and vehicle of the creation of communities, food also acts as a means of differentiating between different groups, notably Momotarō on the side of righteousness and the ogres or demons on the side of evil. In the original fable, the side of good enjoys the millet dumplings. The old couple makes them for their son, Peach-Boy, who gives them to his retainers as a sign of acceptance and as a reward for joining his quest. The Ogres on Ogres’ Island, with whom he battles, do not get any of the dumplings. Instead the Ogres are said to kidnap and eat people. The differences in cuisine determine that the two forces are not part of the same community, but are in fact distinct and opposing communities. Although this seems counterintuitive when taken along the idea of food as a force for producing community, it is still useful. Community is a group of people who have something in common, whether it is family relationship, aligned interests, or simply friendship.  This suggests that if one community with certain interests exists, than another community with different interests likely exists as well. So though food does not bring the Ogres and Momotarō and his band together, it is still creating community, two communities, in fact. Thus food discerns between differing groups as well as bringing people together to form these groups. In Sea Eagle, we can see another example of food as a distinguishing force. While the Japanese forces of animals use food as an incentive and a source of fuel to perform well, the demon forces on Demon’s Island (thinly veiled caricatures of American forces in Pearl Harbor) are useless, bumbling drunks who cannot perform their duties as successfully as their enemies can. In one scene, one of the Japanese monkey soldiers eats some kind of dish in the cockpit of the plane and immediately gains strength similar to the scenes in the Popeye cartoons where he eats spinach. As mentioned previously, another monkey is rewarded with millet dumplings and a bubbly drink after he returns home safe and victorious from the attack.  Therefore, in this community, aka the Japanese forces serving under Momotarō, food is a productive and helpful thing that holds them together. Meanwhile, on the demons’ ships, their clumsy, blundering captain, who looks like Bluto, the evil character in the Popeye cartoons, is depicted as a useless alcoholic with a copious amount of bottles falling out from his clothes. Hence, the community of Japanese animal soldiers has a very different relationship with food and drink than the community of American demons. The demons have a very dysfunctional relationship to food while Momotarō’s forces have a very healthy one. Food and the way the members of a group interact with it, can show how each group is different than the next because the way that it helps various communities form is always unique.

            Minamata: The Victims and Their World, a documentary that tells the story of a village poisoned by the dumping of mercury by the nearby Chisso Corporation into the water, also shows the important connection between food and the essence of a community. The villagers suffer from a horrible disease as a result of their food supply of fish, which have all been infected with the illegally dumped methyl mercury in the ocean. Therefore, like the demons, the villagers of Minamata do not have a positive relationship to food and rather than helping to build the community, it is literally killing it. The villagers decide to confront the Chisso Corporation who burdened them with the terrible disease. These villagers compare their plight to the quest of Momotarō and even compare the home of the corporation to Ogres’ Island from the Momotarō stories. This places the community of affected villagers in the shoes of the heroic or righteous side (Momotarō) versus the side of evil (Ogres). The villagers, who originally had a rewarding relationship with food, as they were mostly fishermen who provided themselves with their own food have been reduced to the sad state of being tormented by the same very food. The community of Minamata villagers has been unified to fight against a common enemy as a result of their connection with food. The food that made their peers and loved ones sick has provoked a communal response against those who caused the misfortune. Therefore, just like Momotarō and his band of animal soldiers, these villagers seek out justice.

Food is something that is important in all cultures and in all groups of people, In general. It brings us together as well as differentiates us from those who do not share our interests. Food, as seen in the various depictions of the Momotarō myth, is the basic building block of communities. When we sit down at the dinner table with our families and share a meal, we are not so different from the Peach-Boy giving pieces of his millet dumplings to a certain dog, monkey, and pheasant. We are relying on food as a vehicle of building connections and of creating community.

Momotaro: Akutagawa’s Concerns

“Of course, the fruit that bore Momotaro had long ago flowed away into the mountain stream. But an unknown number of prodigies still sleep within those fruits. When will that huge Yadagarasu next stir the branches of this tree again? Yes, an unknown number of prodigies still sleep within those fruits…”


This quote is the concluding sentence of one of the most famous Japanese writers Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s Momotaro. Akutagawa criticizes the government’s repurposing of folk stories for propagating national ideology. This was because there was a background when Japan was in the time of imperialism facing China (Qing) and Russia during the Meiji era. The government was setting Momotaro as a symbol for heroism and propagating the need of war to the people of those days. As Gerow in the course reader says, while Momotaro became a central figure in Japanese moral education, he was frequently used during WW2 to represent nationalist military value. According to Morita, an instructor at Nagasaki University Japan, there are at least 63 Momotaro stories in Japan. Akutagawa was one of those who ironically criticized the government by publishing a whole new Momotaro story in 1924. I will compare the second Momotaro story in the reader with 3 versions of Momotaro which are “Momotaro’s Sea Eagle”, Iwaya Sazanami’s “Momotaro” and Akutagawa’s “Momotaro” in terms of “the motive for going to the demon’s island” through Momotaro’s characteristic. The reason why I compare them with the second Momotaro story in the reader is because it depicts the simplest and most generally known Momotaro story.

The Momotaro story itself is very simple. Long ago there was an elderly couple and they found a peach floating downstream. The old women brought the peach back home and when they tried to cut the peach to eat it, a boy appeared from inside who was named Momotaro. Momotaro grew up to become strong and was prepared to fight against the Demon. Momotaro sets off to defeat him, giving millet dumplings to a monkey, a pheasant, and a dog to enlist them as vassals (Gerow, 2007). After defeating the Demon, he brought back the treasures and lived happily ever after. This is more or less the plot of Momotaro, but the 3 stories slightly differ or include some other elements still sticking to this fundamental story. The reason why I focus on the motive for going to the demon island is because the second story in the reader does not provide a clear motive, but the other 3 versions do which will be discussed later. The “Momotaro’s Sea Eagle” is a movie animation made during World War 2 by the Ministry of the Navy of Japan. The plot of Momotaro vs. Demon is depicted in a war situation and there is a cute rabbit included in addition to the main three characters. Millet dumplings are also used as a ration before the animals attack the island. The animals successfully attack the demon’s island and eventually all came back safely. Iwaya’s Momotaro also pretty much follows the fundamental plot but the big difference is that it has a clear reason for Momotaro to defeat the demon which will be examined later on in this paper. For Akutagawa’s Momotaro, the plot is reversed: Momotaro is depicted as a lazy, evil character who tries to conquer the “palm trees soar over it, birds of paradise chirp in it, and it’s a beautiful land of natural paradise” as the demon’s island. Momotaro gets kicked out of the old man and women’s house after he tells them that he does not want to work at all. Since he did not want to work to live, he planned to go to the island to get the treasure and live a life with all the money. From the following paragraph will show each analysis for Momotaro.

The Akutagawa version is quite a shocking work of Momotaro showing many violent scenes when he pillages against the defenseless innocent demons. He depicts Momotaro and the animals as a complete “evil”. Momotaro says “Forward, forward! Kill the demons without leaving any behind as soon as you find them!” and “Like a storm, they chased after the fleeing demons. The dog killed a young demon with just one bite. The pheasant pecked demon children to death with its hard beak. And the monkey—the monkey, simply by being a cousin of us humans, before strangling a demon girl to death, ravaged her to his heart’s content.” Turning over the pages, your image of Momotaro and the animals will totally collapse. After Momotaro’s massacring of the demons, the demon chieftain (along with the other demons that narrowly escaped death) come up to Momotaro for forgiveness but he says “Now, with my exceptional mercy, I will allow you to live. In return, you will present me with every piece of treasure on Demon Island”. In addition he takes his child as a hostage. Akutagawa also includes the revenge by the demons: “When the demon children became adults, they bit the guard pheasant to death, and absconded to Demon Island at once. In addition, occasionally the survivors of Demon Island would cross the sea, and set fire to Momotaro’s mansion or try to break his sleeping neck.” Overall, obviously not the Demon but Momotaro and the animals were the “evil” in this story. This was Akutagawa’s way of cautioning the audience that since Momotaro is always a “hero”, there are people who take advantage of to make propaganda. He concludes his story by saying that even though this Momotaro is dead, the fruit within the 2nd or 3rd Momotaro will keep on condemning the predatory nation. Back in those days Japan was conducting wars of invasion and he was concerned about the cyclical battles for revenge: he feared that the cycle of war would continue.

The “Momotaro’s Sea Eagle” does not clearly convey any information on why Momotaro is attacking the demon’s island, but since the audience knows the immediate time is WW2, it is obvious that the attack represents the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. As it is a propaganda film, although Momotaro is shown as a person who exhibits strong rigid leadership against their enemy, Momotaro himself just gives orders to the animals and does pretty much nothing. Since the film is for children in Japan, the audience can see the cuteness of the animals which we cannot see in texts. There are no “treasures” but the victory at Pearl Harbor should be it. In spite of Akutagawa’s awareness of Momotaro’s use as propaganda, this film was made 20 years after his Momotaro.

Iwaya’s Momotaro has a clear, pure reason for going to the demon’s island: Momotaro is sent down by the command of god to protect Japan. Long ago Japan was inhabited by the Ogres and Momotaro needs to get the treasure back from them. The heroism of Momotaro was not only during WW2 but also in the Meiji era when this was published. Especially in the Meiji era, still the power of the Emperor was strong and it met people’s needs for a strong leader. Akutagawa’s concerns arouse from these days and leads to his version in the Taisho era.

There are a variety of Momotaro stories in Japan which has a strong connection to the history of Japan. Akutagawa was one of those who were concerned about Japan as a predatory nation and he was the one who repurposed the Momotaro story as no one has ever done before. Japan did move on to the war, but his work still stood out in literature because of his innovative work of reversing the image of Momotaro and the demon which brought a big impact to convey his critique.

Momotaro: Prove Yourself

The popular children’s folklore hero, Momotaro, has for centuries remained a prominent figure in Japan. Momotaro’s story has been retold over the years through film and text. The folktale follows the story of a young boy, Momotaro, who sets out on a journey to defeat the Ogres of Ogre Island. Iwaya Sazanami’s 1938 story Momotaro, and Mitsuyo Seo’s animated 1943 film, Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, are both adaptations of the original Japanese folklore starring the famous hero, Momotaro. This text and film both operate under different assumptions about Momotaro’s status as a leader, as well as the enemy party’s status as evil. On the one hand, Sazanami allows the audience to assume the evil status of the enemy and provides evidence for Momotaro’s honorable nature, while on the other hand, the film does the exact opposite, respectively; it exemplifies the malevolence of the enemy while assuming Momotaro’s benevolence.


Iwaya Sazanami’s retelling of the Momotaro folktale begins from Momotaro’s childhood. In the text, Momotaro sets out on a journey to defeat an enemy party: Ogres. It is Momotaro’s “…intention to start at once and wage war against them…” (19).  Momotaro is determined to defeat these “…hateful creatures…” that “…do harm in Japan…” (18-19). The text assumes the Ogres to be the villains of the story because of Momotaro’s desire to wage war against them. The reader is not given any proof as to what characteristics the Ogres have that define them as villains in the text. Despite not providing the reader any basis for why the Ogres are evil, Sazanami makes it believable simply because of the type of creature he chose to represent the enemy: Ogres. Ogres are typically monstrous beings, and simply choosing them as the enemy conjures up images of depravity in the reader’s mind, thus rendering any further explanation superfluous.


Sazanami’s text chooses to truly demonstrate Momotaro’s status as a good leader. As he embarks on his journey, Momotaro meets a dog that he convinces to accompany him on his journey. Momotaro must prove to the dog that he is not evil by telling him that he is “…traveling for the sake of the country and [is] on [his] way to conquer ‘Ogres’ Island’” (23-24). In this same scene, Momotaro gives the dog half of a millet dumpling as an offer of friendship. The dog “…accept[s] the half-dumpling and having eaten it he went on with [Momotaro] (25). Momotaro continues to give millet dumplings to the other animals that soon accompany him on his journey. In this way, the author is able to effectively prove Momotaro’s trustworthiness through the friendship formed between Momotaro and the animals he meets.




The author’s choice to prove Momotaro’s trustworthiness in the text bears a stark contrast to Momotaro’s good leadership that is simply assumed in the film. In Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, the director depicts Momotaro as the leader of an army of animals whose ultimate goal is to defeat the demons of Demon Island. The film’s adaptation of the story chooses to focus on Momotaro’s journey as he wages war on the island. In one scene, the army of animals line up and listen to Momotaro as he explains their plans to defeat Demon Island. Momotaro’s character is not formally introduced and the audience lacks an understanding of any tangible characteristics that would make him a good leader. The audience is simply meant to accept the fact that Momotaro is the captain of the ship, and to continue on from there. The audience is able to ascertain Momotaro’s good nature due to the loyalty of his followers, and the trust they have in him from the way they follow his orders. In the film, Momotaro is not shown to be very involved in the war efforts; he simply tells his army that he will await their return from war. It is clear that in this adaptation of the story, Momotaro is a distant leader. In the text however, Momotaro is very involved in the war efforts and is by his warriors side at all times as they work to defeat the Ogres together. This involvement also serves to improve Momotaro’s image as a good leader in the text.





The portrayal of enemies in the text is ostensibly different from that of Seo’s film. This film does not explain why Momotaro has set out on his quest to defeat Demon Island. The villains, however, are not granted the same deference. One way the villains in the film are portrayed as evil is through the overconsumption of alcohol. In a scene where Momotaro’s army is attacking the demon army, the leader of the army begins to obnoxiously consume alcohol in the middle of the attack. The audience is able to form a relationship between this overweight, disgusting looking man’s overconsumption of alcohol, and his leadership abilities. The audience then forms a negative opinion toward the demon army, and can readily identify why Momotaro desires to defeat them. The director of the film is able to successfully employ the idea of the overconsumption of alcohol to establish who the villain is. While the text chooses to prove and establish Momotaro’s goodness, the film does the opposite, choosing to imply Momotaro’s goodness because of his strong, perhaps moral desire to defeat an enemy that the audience also agrees needs to be defeated. Momotaro could only be as heroic as his enemies evil; had Seo followed the text’s lead, the film would have portrayed a seemingly good character leading an attack on innocent, albeit unsightly, beings, demons or not. The enemies’ demonic forms would not have necessarily implied to the reader that they were dangerous forces had they not been depicted as doing something harmful in their scenes.


Food and drink play important, but different roles in Momotaro’s Sea Eagles and Sazanami’s Momotaro text. In the film, the consumption of alcohol is used to display negative characteristics of the enemy army. In the scene with the leader of the demon army drinking an excessive amount of alcohol, the audience is left with a negative image of the demon army in their minds. However, in the text, the consumption of food is used to form positive relationships between characters. When Momotaro gives a millet dumpling to the monkey who soon joins him on his journey, he “…made the monkey his retainer” (28). In this way, the author utilizes food as a way of forming friendships between Momotaro as a leader and the animals as his helpful warriors.


Both the film and text adaptation of the story of Momotaro operate under contrasting audience assumptions of Momotaro as a benevolent leader and the antagonists as the enemy. In addition, Mitsuyo Seo and Iwaya Sazanami both employ the use of food to further demonstrate key characteristics of either Momotaro or enemy depicted in their story. However, Seo and Sazanami differ in their choice between establishing good and evil. Sazanami chooses to allow the status of the enemy to be assumed rather than proven, while outlining Momotaro’s righteousness, while Seo did the exact opposite. Despite the contrasting choices, Seo and Sazanami were able to retell the same story while maximizing the benefits of each of their respective mediums.