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5 Page Paper: Of Food and Friendships

          Momotaro is a Japanese folk story that has survived through the ages. This folk tale centers around Momotaro, or Peach Boy, from his humble beginnings with an elderly couple that found him inside a peach to his triumphant victory against the monsters living on Ogre Island. However, despite this very familiar, simple story, there have been several variations of this folk tale throughout time. In addition, to several changes in the story due to geography, Momotaro has also been adapted to film. In the first full-length animated movie, Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, Momotaro and his naval crew set off to defeat the enemies of Demon Island. Despite the vast differences in the interpretations of Momotaro, food is always something that unifies the story.

         In the Momotaro interpretation by Iwaya Sazanami, which is the most renowned translation of the folk-tale, it tells of a time “very, very long ago” when an old woman discovers a large peach drifting in the river (Sazanami, 9). The old woman takes the very large peach home to her husband. Hoping to cut the peach in half, a small voice from inside the peach emerges and moments later a small baby jumps out from the peach. The small baby boy reveals to the couple that he has been sent from Heaven to be brought up as their own child. The couple raises the child to a young man. When he is of age, the Peach Boy reveals that he must go to an island settled by Ogres and bring the riches the Ogres have seized back home. Hearing this, the old man and woman start making millet dumplings for his voyage. During the Peach Boy’s journey, he encounters a dog, cat, and pheasant. At first, all three animals are quite defensive towards the Peach Boy, the dog even threatening him. However, after telling the animals about his expedition and his origins, all join him in the fight against the Ogres. After all animals declared to accompany him, he hands them each half a millet dumpling. This giving of food symbolizes a sense of camaraderie between the animals and Peach Boy himself. It showcases that Peach Boy trusts the animals and thinks of them in high respects. The certain millet dumplings he gives to the animals are not just any ordinary dumplings, but ones he regards as “the best millet dumplings in Japan” (Sazanami, 25). This highlights Peach Boy’s creation of a group that can fight against the Ogres on the island.

         In Sazanami’s famous interpretation of Momotaro, Momotaro is a peer to the animals. Despite having the role as a leader in the group, he fights side-by-side with the animals. He battles squarely with the Ogres and does not hide behind for protection. In contrast, the Peach Boy in Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, is the commander of the crew. He is not there to fight beside the animals, but there to lead them to victory with strategies. In the film Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, the Peach Boy acts as the captain for the animal crew. He does not go into the assault on Demon Island with the rest of the animals. The Peach Boy stays put on the large ship, and watches on as the rest of his crew advance towards Demon Island.

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In Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, Momotaro acts as a Captain to the animal crew. He does not fight with the animals, but commands them and their actions. In the animated film, the connection between Momotaro and the animals is much more constrained and there is no sense brotherhood that is evident in the folk story. This lack of connection could be that in the film, millet dumplings are only shared between animal to animal and Momotaro takes no part in it.

            Momotaro’s Sea Eagle is considered the “first feature-length cartoon” (Gerow, 10). It bases its story from the original folk tale of Momotaro. However, there are many stark differences between the cartoon film and the folk story. The most important is that the Peach Boy does not form any sort of brotherhood with the animals in the film. He is seen as someone of higher ranking in the film, and is less approachable to the animals. There is still a sense of camaraderie in the movie, but the feeling of kinship is much lower than that in the folk tale. The millet dumplings that Momotaro shares with the animals in the folk tale are not portrayed in the film. In the movie, only animals share the dumplings with each other and the Peach Boy takes no part in it.

            In the folk tale, the idea of the villains is very vague. They are only said to be Ogres who “take people and eat them” in Japan (Sazanami, 18). There are no further specifics on the enemy themselves. In contrast, the enemies are very distinct and recognizable. The evildoers in Momotaro’s Sea Eagle are the naval fleet on Demon Island. The film clearly characterizes the villains as drunkards who are cowardly and clumsy. In Sea Eagles, the enemies have a very definite, recognizable face whereas the Ogres in the folk story are a hazy idea. 

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Momotaro’s Sea Eagles portrays the villains as lazy, clumsy, and cowardly. It is distinct and definite. However, in the original folk tale, the enemy is unclear to the audience. The folk tale has an obscure view of villains, while the film itself shows very clearly who the enemy is.

        Even with all the differences between the film and the folk story, one similar idea is the utilization of food as a unifier. The millet dumplings in the folk tale create a feeling of familiarity and companionship. This is also apparent in the movie where crewmembers serve millet dumplings and alcohol after the victory against Demon Island. Food constructs a feeling of friendship and togetherness during times of triumph and success. Dumplings are rewards to the animals after the success on Demon Island. Food is a way to join forces together. The use of food as something that combines powers together is most evident in the original folk tale. In the well-known story, Momotaro gives millet dumplings to create a united front. There is a sense of unification and cooperation despite the different animals. With the dumplings, there are no longer any differences with the varying animals; they all have one objective and one brain to rule them all.

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As seen in these screenshots, food and alcohol are objects that unite a whole community together. After their victory at Demon Island, all animals join for a feast to celebrate. Food is a unifier of different animals and creates a sense of kinship with everyone.

        Throughout the years, there have been different interpretations of Momotaro. However, one thing very similar is the importance of food. It is something that unites the different characters and their different skills. With food, the group, or crew, create a community with one objective. Sharing food creates companionship and kinship in the world of Momotaro, a trait needed to fight against their enemy.

Bibliography

Gerow, A. (2007). Momotaro’s Sea Eagles. UCLA Course Reader Solutions, Japanese 70:

            Images of Japan: Literature and Film, 173.

Sazanami, I. (1938). Momotaro = the Story of Peach-Boy. UCLA Course Reader Solutions,

            Japanese 70: Images of Japan: Literature and Film, 174-192.

 

 

 

 

 

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Entrées of Consolidation

When we eat, we establish a direct identity between our culture and the natural world. Food reflects social identities and membership in social groups.  It not only unifies people from all aspects of life, it serves as a facet of society and socialization throughout the world. People are able to gather together when food is present. It allows us to feel relaxed and socialize with one another even if there are stark differences between groups. Food allows us to strengthen social ties and serves as a unifier not only within cultural groups themselves, but between those groups. It reduces cultural differences to a minimum, reducing the disparities seen between groups of various races, ethnicities and even socioeconomic standing. This unification can be seen in the tales of Momotaro or Peach Boy, a Japanese folk hero whose stories have remained incredibly influential in Japan for the past three centuries. Food serves as a main unifier throughout the various adaptations of Momotaro. Whether they are in literature or film, food is used to symbolize community and functions as a method by which Momotaro can contract animals to help him with his quests. Throughout these variants of the story food remains a common element; food as a method to portray nationalism. The characters in the story represent different elements of Japanese society and are united by food.

In the original Momotaro story published by Iwaya Sazanami, food, specifically millet dumplings, play a crucial role in Momotaro’s development into a hero. At the very beginning of the folk tale, Momotaro’s adoptive parents discover him in a giant peach. They are “both so astonished at this appearance that they were frightened out of their wits, and they fell down” (15). The peach symbolizes life in Japanese culture and thus Momotaro’s appearance brings new life into the lives of the old couple. He is portrayed as coming from Heaven and thus has a mission on earth that he must fulfill. Once he reaches the age of fifteen, he feels an intense desire to go “wage war against them [the oni], to catch and crush them and bring back all their treasures” (19). He bids his family farewell but not before his father prepares “suitable food for a warrior on a journey” (21). This food, Kibi-dango or millet dumplings, may not seem out of the ordinary, but in reality it is these dumplings which are the means by which Momotaro can ultimately be successful at the end of his journey. As he goes about his quest, he gives half a millet dumpling to each animal he encounters on his journey. The dog, monkey, and pheasant each, in turn, become his honorable retainers and thus accompany him to the Ogres’ Island to defeat the oni. The dumplings serve as ways to bring the group together and to maintain respect and loyalty to each other. At first, the animals are incredibly aggressive towards each other but after receiving their dumplings, “all three animals were the best of friends and obeyed Peach-Boy’s commands, heart and soul” (32). The humility and esteem the dumplings bring the group into a familial connection. Prepared by Momotaro’s parents who love him dearly, these dumplings spread their love for him to the animals that end up becoming unconditionally loyal and respectful to him. His “influence of a great General is a great thing!” (32). Thus, with his new army, he is able to overcome the demons. The millet dumplings are what lead to the intense camaraderie between the group and shed light into the ability of food to bring together people from all different backgrounds for a common cause. Food is portrayed not only as a labor of love from his parents but also as a method by which Momotaro becomes a hero. With the support of this food, he accumulates all he needs to accomplish his goal and it allows him to reap the benefits of the spoils of victory.

Mitsuyo Seo’s adaptation of the traditional Momotaro lore, Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, utilizes some of the same food elements seen in the traditional tale. However, this adaptation is not used solely for the purpose of entertainment but takes on a slightly darker, propagandist twist. In the film, the millet dumplings don’t have the same emotional effect as seen in the original tale, but they seem to still have a significant effect on Momotaro and his minions. The millet dumplings, as seen in the hands of a monkey, give a reaction similar to the one seen in the American Popeye cartoons. They give him the strength and fearlessness needed in order to complete his mission for his country.

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                     The similarities between Popeye and the monkey in Momotaro’s Sea Eagle

The dumplings are also used as rewards for the retainers and are part of the spoils, which they take after defeating the demons. The benefits of the dumplings are evident as the soldiers overrun the demons’ ships and decimate their forces. This sweeping victory aims to showcase the Japanese superiority over their American counterparts. It lifts the attack on Pearl Harbor to a mythical level; Momotaro leads pheasants, monkeys, and dogs into a fight against evil demons. The millet dumplings are more complex in Sea Eagles; the sense of love and camaraderie seen in the traditional story takes on a much larger nationalistic meaning. The nationalistic approach sheds light on the dumplings effects versus those that of the effects of the alcohol on the captain of the demon ship. While his fleet gets destroyed, he squirms around in his drunken squalor helpless to stop the invasion. The stark contrast between Momotaro and the demon captain is apparent in that the captain continues to drink while Momotaro executes his plan to perfection. The captain is not only a drunkard but is also incredibly overweight. These two characteristics are obvious propaganda tools portraying the American diet as unhealthy while that of the Japanese is lauded for its benefits to its soldiers (such as with the monkey). Overall, food in Sea Eagle represents more than just a “superman drug,” it represents the desire for Japanese global dominance in World War II. The dumplings serve as the unique aspect of Japanese culture that is untouched by Western influence; this distinctiveness aims to show the Japanese as good while the Americans are portrayed in a much more negative light.

            Noriaki Tsuchimoto’s documentary Minimata: The Victims and Their World aims to show the negative effects that food has on communities as a whole. Unlike the Momotaro stories, this documentary shows the unity that families and communities have during times of intense suffering. Throughout the entire film, the audience is exposed to residents of Minamata and the mercury poisoning caused by the fish contaminated by Chisso fertilizer factory. The families suffer from deformities and other critical diseases and thus are subject to intense hardships due to lack of government effort and the slow response by the factory itself. The food itself is the reason why the people are in such a bad state yet they continue to share their food because of the rich culture and sense of community that is felt through these eating interactions. The endurance and love they show each other is inspiring, but the conditions for life is so fatefully tragic due to the seemingly endless amounts of mercury found in the nearby water sources. The food that they need to survive is what is actually killing them. This vicious cycle only continues even when they go to the shareholder meeting because of the lack of compassion Chisso shows for its victims. This film is a window into the anger, grief, and agony that lasted a lifetime for the people involved. Family members share the agonies endured by their loved ones before they died of the disease and show the consequences that the food around them had on their lives. However, throughout all the suffering and tragedy, the community grows closer together; the people unite under a common goal, much like in the Momotaro stories, and work hard together to overcome any obstacle in their way. The film serves as a disturbing reminder of the indifference of corporate entities to human welfare and stands as a testament to the power of community in overcoming that indifference.  

The theme that becomes apparent in all three works is the ability of food to be a uniting factor within and between communities. Food establishes bonds and maintains those same bonds throughout the test of time because of its cultivation, preparation, and consumption which all represent a cultural act. Food serves as a representative of unity and community. Whether it be the coming together to fight against demons or to fight against an insensitive, corrupt company, the fact of the matter remains the same: food is the facilitator of modern culture. Without food, we are left with a fragile society that lacks the intrapersonal relationships needed for a fully functioning humanity. Food is no longer just a normal material object; it is a symbol of the synthesis required for the successful advancement of a nation.   

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.

Momotarō: The Story of the Unification Against Injustice

The plight of the unseen and unheard masses sometimes grows to be so large, so as to stir up an uproar and wave of discontent, one of which that consists of the righteous and good conquering the evils and perils of the world.  In the Japanese folktale story Momotarō, which arose in Japan as early as the Edo Period (1603-1867), a righteous and honorable character by the name of Momotarō (桃太郎 Momotarou , “Peach Boy”) conquers the evil Oni (鬼, “Demon,” “Ogres”) of Oni Island. Momotarō conquers such Oni through the help of several animal companions who he awards millet dumplings to. The food of the traditional millet dumplings essentially unites Momotarō and the animals that he meets along the way, giving rise to the victory over the Oni which comes up in all forms of the Momotarō reiteration. Momotarō, being an upright and versatile character, is able to withstand the test of time through its popularity as a figure of unification against evil.

The Name Momotarō itself is derived from the Japanese word of “momo,” meaning “peach tree” and “tarō” meaning “big boy;” which is also a name that is often traditionally given to the first son of a Japanese family. Across both literature and text, the symbol of the peach which gives rise to Momotarō, represents much more than the fruit itself. The peach fruit aspect of the folktale embodies ideals of prosperity and longevity, which Japan very much seeks for itself. With the peach’s large proportion that of which has never been seen before, as told in the Iwaya Sazanami’s 1938 publication of Momotarō, the peach can be seen as a reflection of the type of nation that Japan sought to be displayed as. On a historical standpoint, Japan was growing as an industrial nation and military power in both the 18th and 19th century, paralleling the enormous growth of the peach. The peach while symbolizing a long life, also referred to the youthful generation of Japan, making it an ideal tool to target children as well. Through Momotarō, Japanese children grow up with values of bravery, selflessness for one’s country, and resolve in dire situations.

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The Birth of Momotarō from the Peach

Within the Momotarō tales, not only does the food of the peach appear, but also the cuisine of Japanese millet dumplings which Momotarō utilizes to essentially seal the companionship with the animals (typically of which consists of the dog, monkey, and pheasant). The millet dumpling, also known as the kibi dango (団子), is a delicious and simple Japanese snack which serves to provide for comfort and nourishment to Momotarō and his comrades in their battle against the evil Oni. In Mitsuyo Seo’s film, Momotarō’s Sea Eagle, the millet dumpling is handed out to the enlisted soldiers under Momotarō. In such scene, the millet dumpling provides sustenance and assurance to the animals before they set off to battle the Oni, who coincidently resemble American cartoon characters such as Bluto, Popeye, and Betty Boop. The Iwaya Sazanami 1938 textual treatment of Momotarō, in contrast to the film, portrays only half of the millet dumpling being given to the animals. In such way, a hierarchical system is established through the millet dumpling; a system of which consists of the god-sent Momotarō above his animal comrades. This subtle aspect incorporated into the textual version of Momotarō reflects the traditionalist view of Japan in hierarchy to the rest of the world (where Japan is above other countries). The millet dumpling, native to only Japan, across all platforms of Momotarō, prepare the animal soldiers for a battle for the basic rights of the villagers who suffer harassment and devastation from the demons, who have frequently pillaged the local villages.

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In further analyzing Iwaya Sazanami’s 1938 publication of Momotarō, ironic aspects revolving around the millet dumpling appear. The millet dumping is incorporated into the quarrel between the animals and significantly defuses the situation. In such scenario, the millet dumpling serves to end fighting and quarrel through its appeal as delicious nourishment. However, through the unity and camaraderie of the animals caused by the millet dumplings, war against the Oni is essentially made possible. In this case, the millet dumpling serves as a mechanism in initiating and sustaining war, rather than defusing war. Through ironic incitation and destruction, greater peace is achieved for the people of Momotarō, paralleling what many countries seek with war, including Japan. The simple millet dumpling of simple ingredients is made out to be not so simple with its utilization throughout the Momotarō renditions within Japan.

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In the traditional folktale version of Momotarō such as in Iwaya Sazanami and the National Diet Library Newsletter publications, The Peach Boy is portrayed as a righteous and virtuous character sent from the heavens, worthy of much respect and worthy of being followed after by the various animals of the forest. More recent displays of Momotarō, such as in  Mitsuyo Seo’s Momotarō Sea Eagle, establish a standpoint where Momotarō is a Japanese citizen in the Navy. In such sense, Seo alludes to the idea that Japan as a country is worthy of respect from all others, and is on a level and standard close to that of the gods. Seo transgresses the boundary between man and god, giving rise to a distinction between Japan and other foreign countries. Japan with its rising as a political power and growing militaristic agenda benefitted greatly from the numerous effects of the steadfast figure of Momotarō in film.

Initially, the folktale was used as a sort of children’s story so as to instill righteous values and character upon young Japanese children, but with the progression of time Momotarō came to represent many platforms and fulfilled several agendas, some of which included war propaganda and human rights campaigns. In the period both preceding and during World War II, Momotarō would be the popular choice as a type of central figure in militaristic and nationalistic propaganda. Momotarō propaganda such as with Mitsuyo Seo’s Momotarō Sea Eagle was created in hopes of instilling the “Japanese Spirit” into the Japanese populous, so as to push the war effort in Japan’s favor against demons such as the Americans. Just as in the animation where the various cute animals unite to fight off the Oni, eventually defeating the demons, Japan too sought for a Japanese unification amongst its citizens in the war effort against America.

Even after World War II, Momotarō would still be used as a figure head in times of crisis such as with the discovery of the Minimata Disease in 1956 in Minimata City of the Kuramoto Prefecture within Japan. As the disease grew in number and prevalence, Noriaki Tsuchimoto sought some sort of greater awareness and justification, which came in the form of his film, Minamata: The Victims and Their World. Such documentary put to light the social injustices of the large corporations, and called for the unity of the Japanese citizens against the evil big industry which poisoned Japanese waters and produce (in particular fish) with their mercury-enriched fertilizers. This very much paralleled the plights and struggle within the Momotarō folktale, making Momotarō an ideal figure to head the campaign against the evil demon’s of Japanese big industry. A Minimata community began to form in the periods following the the outbreak of the disease, as a result of the all the suffering and pain the villagers endured. Minimata, being heavily dependent upon the fish produce, suffered in silence whilst the big corporations, ignorant to their pains as they could afford food of higher quality and purity. This new community with its newly-found resolve and unification would at the very least have its voice heard, while gradually obtaining their goals of social justice with regards to the poisoning of Japanese waters.

Japan throughout its history of both prosperity and devastation would require a figure to unite its citizens in a holistic community, capable of uplifting any disaster. The tale of Momotarō fulfilled such role for the Japanese people with its aspects of camaraderie and resistance through the unification under the millet dumpling and symbolism of the peach. Time and time again, whether it be through literature or film, Momotarō and its food displays the greater power of a community as a opposed to an individual. Even the simplest of objects such as the food of millet dumplings can unify an entity that would otherwise be powerless while segmented. A war may be waged by a single entity, but it must be fought by the masses to be considered even possible. The importance of the Momotarō and food to Japan’s constant plight is undeniable, and will likely be prevalent for generations to come, whether it be as a result of the instillation of values, war of powers, or devastating disease, as is evident in Japan’s extensive history.

Transforming Momotaro

The image of Momotaro undergoes a transformation that is influenced by the changes that continue to be made throughout Japanese history. The classic Momotaro image originates from a popular Japanese folklore tale in which he is born from a peach and soon becomes a heroic figure of the land. As he becomes older he ventures to distant islands to defeat the evil oni and saves the creatures of distant islands alongside a group of animals he befriends throughout his journey. In these folktales, Momotaro is seen defending the distant islands form the demonic invaders alongside his friends to maintain peace within the island. Nevertheless, as these folktales continue to be passed on to other generations, the new issues that Japan faces calls for inverted images of this well-known character in films and propaganda to promote these issues. Although the character’s actions in these films may resemble the original folktale, there exists a hidden negative image of the character that creates doubts about how heroic Momotaro can be. Momotaro is manipulated into a hero that best suits the time period and the most inverted image of Momotaro can be seen in World War II propaganda.

The story of Momotaro is said to have originated as far back as the Edo Period which was a time of economic growth and balance since Japan had been recovering from instability and inner conflicts. The ideals of the people during this period can be found amongst this folklore tale in the actions and goals that Momotaro wishes to accomplish in the story as well as the beginnings of Momotaro. He is born from a peach which is symbolic of the prosperity of the Japanese empire during this time. In Japanese traditions, the peach represents longevity hence in this case Momotaro is the Japanese empire which was thought to be prosperous by the people and continued to be prosperous for many years. The boy’s attack of the oni symbolizes the past hardships which were overcome leading to a life of living happily ever after similar to the ending of the story. The reason for this success is due to his effectiveness as a leader when it comes to battle. Momotaro keeps full control of his group of friends by presenting them with millet dumplings but limits the amount he gives them as a means of asserting his authority. He manages to keep this group together by demonstrating that he is the clear leader of the group who not only leads but ensures his group is cared for, content, and respected. This method is representative of the means used to create balance in Japan. During this time there is one clear leader, the emperor, and the people are accepting of this social ranking because the people are maintained satisfied and at peace knowing there are no existing problems currently in Japan for the time being. Overall, the tale focuses on the idea of removing the impurities that pose a threat to the peace at hand similar to the changes that Japan made to bring peace to the land. Momotaro is the peacekeeper of the tale, but once World War II began, a more controversial Momotaro began appearing in films and cartoons such as Momotaro’s Sea Eagles.

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Momotaro defeats the evil ogres in combat in the classic Japanese tale.

Once World War II began, Japan began mass producing anti-American propaganda in support of the war. Films, cartoons, and all other forms of media reflected the hatred towards the United States using existing well-known icons of Japan such as Momotaro going up against typical American icons such as Mickey Mouse or Popeye the Sailor. In 1942, a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, an animated film called Momotaro’s Sea Eagles was produced as a Japanese propaganda film.In Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, Momotaro and his animal crew are at war with the demons of Onigashima and Momotaro must devise a plan to defeat these demons while ensuring his entire crew returns safely. The film follows the basic plot of the story in which Momotaro is destined to lead a group of animals to combat the evils that threaten an island and recover the treasure that is meant for the “good people”. The difference in the film and tale is that the demons in this film represent the Americans and the naval fleet used in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 whereas the demons in the tale symbolized the evils amongst a nation. Although Momotaro is once again represented as a hero of Japan, the measures taken to protect his country reveal the character to be more violent because rather than destroying ogres, he is now shown destroying innocent lives represented as villains. His motives also contribute to this negative image because he not only defends his country because the demons impose a threat to the country, but also because of the inexplicit hatred towards the demons.

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Bluto represents how the Japanese view Americans as tough, angry fools in Momotaro’s Sea Eagles.

In the film, Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, Momotaro is the leader of the army and commands his soldiers to attack the demons of Onigashima which are shown to be American sailors on naval fleets. The sailors which are depicted by a more idiotic version of Bluto, a featured character of the American cartoon Popeye, appear to be helpless in the film. Nevertheless, the reason to attack these “demons” is never specified in the film imposing the question of whether or not the measures taken by the honorable Momotaro are morally correct. He is quick to lead an attack and destroy the villains until they are all gone because the film is a representation of the current war going on. Instead of creating a diversion that will cause the men to surrender such as in the story when he fights until the ogres decide to surrender, he continues to sink all the ships along with all the sailors on board. The idea that these are people being destroyed also contributes to the negative image because he is not dealing with supernatural beings that terrorize his land but rather humans which creates more tensions since it may be difficult to see men lose their lives in war. In the film, Momotaro continues to be the hero since he has saved the country from the Americans as desired by many during the wartime period. Yet the concept of war manages to generate the anti-hero image of this character because he is responsible for the loss of the men aboard the ships. At the end of the war he does not win any treasure that he can give back to his country as in the original story meaning he in reality has destroyed others for the satisfaction of knowing his country is dominant over the United States. Momotaro transforms from being a smiling, child-like heroic figure to a more mature, aggressive, and stern leader willing to do anything necessary to win this war.momomo

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Classic Momotaro(below) is more unified with his group as opposed to military style-Momotaro(above)who commands a whole army of animals and stays out of group actions.

Momotaro’s increase in authority in the anime accounts for the lowering of his heroic stature rather than making his image more valiant. In the tale, Momotaro unites with a dog, monkey, and a pheasant and fights alongside them as they recover the treasure of the good people from the ogres terrorizing the island. He exhibits his heroic qualities by sacrificing his life alongside the other animals for the common good and they are successful due to working together. In Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, rather than fly alongside the pilots of the planes and join them in combat, Momotaro is the leader giving specific orders to the crew but does not leave the ship to join his crew. Instead he gives the crew orders to follow and remains on the boat awaiting the full crew’s arrival after the mission is successful. The crew he has is much larger than in the tale yet here he does not take the initiative of deciding to be involved in the war. Therefore, rather than Momotaro be the hero of this mission, the true heroes of the mission are the monkey and dog pilots who risked their lives bombing the demon ships. Yet because this operation was made possible by Momotaro, he is still considered a hero by all.

 

 

The Invisible Glue: Food

The folktale of the teenage Japanese hero, Momotaro, is a story that has continuously changed due to the fact that it was passed down throughout history as an oral narrative. However, the distinction between good and evil as well as food shows up throughout all the variations. The millet dumplings that Momotaro carries on his journey are a source of sustenance for himself and his companions, a material object as well as a symbol of power. It helps define the characters as one group that is on the same voyage against the evil ogres, although done differently in the different readings. Momotaro, being the one that shares the dumplings with the animals, becomes the leader of the group; the leader that takes them to victory over the oni that are terrorizing the Japanese people. The dumplings represents not just an object of sustenance, but power. In contrast, food in Noriaki Tsuchimoto’s documentary on the Minamata disease and its victims is a method of disease transmission, an object that symbolizes death. Nonetheless, in the two readings of Momotaro and Tsuchimoto’s documentary, Minamata: The Victims and Their World, food, especially the sharing or commonality of food, works to tie groups of people, who may have never come in contact, together.

            Iwaya Sazanami’s version of Momotaro the folktale depicts the relationship between Momotaro and his companions much more hierarchical than that of Arai Goro in his picture book variation of the story. In the translation, Momotaro is called Lord Peach-Boy throughout Iwaya’s story by each of the animals that eventually accompany him to Ogre’s Island. They also march as soldiers would in a war with Momotaro being the general figure in the back and the animals like foot soldiers in front of him. Peach-Boy is depicted as a spectacular leader that is able to control and mediate disputes and receive only positive feedback all the time. As a folktale, similar to a fairy tale, the good always beat the evil in the end, no matter how hard the circumstances; Momotaro is a perfect fit for it. However, in Iwaya’s narration, Momotaro seems to be so powerful that voyaging to OgresIsland and beating them is an easy task for him. The decisions that he has to make on his way to the island do not seem to deter him at all. When the first animal asks him for a millet dumpling, he firmly says that the dog does not deserve a full dumpling and gives him half of it. If Momotaro had never brought anything to eat, he may not have been able to have the animals as his soldiers because they would have needed energy to fight the ogres. Therefore, food is the material object that gives energy and also the symbol for strength and power that built Momotaro’s small army.

            In contrast to Iwaya’s militaristic Momotaro folktale, Arai Goro’s picture book version uses many jumps in time, drawings, and captions to create a sense of a friendly group of friends going on a trip, rather than a voyage against the vicious oni. The specific picture that has the caption talking about the sharing of the millet dumplings looks displays a scene much like a circle of friends eating a picnic; drastically different to the way the story was portrayed in the narration by Iwaya. Even though the representation may be different, the presence of food in the first picture that shows both Momotaro and the animals exemplifies the idea that food is the glue that brings others together. The dumplings are not mentioned or seen in the pictures prior to this picture, the one that presents the community that is going off to fight the ogres. As it did in the Momotaro story of Iwaya, if food was not present in the story, the following of Momotaro by the other animals would be difficult to explain in the context of the story itself, assuming that one does not already know the previous variants of the folktale. The sudden appearance of different animals would require much more captions to explain compared to the other jump in times that occur, as the picture book only shows pictures of events in the story that are important to the narrative: the birth, growth, and specific points in the journey to and from the island.  A question may arise then, why is the scene of Momotaro sharing his food with the animals important? The sharing of the millet dumplings with the animals immediately puts the animals on Momotaro’s side in the fight against the wicked ogres. Soldiers on the opposite sides of the frontier line do not share food with each other; comrades of the same army do. In the folktale, the ogres are not seen or mentioned eating anything, from that and the fact that Momotaro and the animals defeat the oni, food can represent the supremacy of Momotaro and what he represents, the Japanese, at least in Iwaya’s rendering. In Goro’s take of the story, Momotaro may just be a hero that children can relate to and try to strive for as nationalistic ideas declined after World War II.

            Furthermore, folktales are not the only types of mediums where food brings people together for a common cause. For example, in Noriaki Tsuchimoto’s documentary, Minamata: The Victims and Their World, food is the common link that connects the hundreds of people who became a victim to the Minamata disease and the people who decided to rally against the Chisso factory that was harming their neighborhood. The seafood being caught by the fishermen in Minamata were the first casualties of the mercury poisoning and became the material object that transferred Minamata disease to the people of Minamata and other small towns around it. This commonality of the reason and the consequence created a community of resistance against the Chisso Company. The individuals who took part in the rallies for the disease victims in front of the factory gates may have never met if it not had been the community that gathered because of the pollution done to the water and food supply. However, in the case of the documentary film, the food does not represent vitality, instead it represents disease. The contaminated fish and shellfish are the cause of an extensive and aggressive disease affecting hundreds of people directly and indirectly. This commonality led to a common consequence and formation of a community of mistreated individuals             who became the patsies of the Chisso Company. Although they protested and rallied for an apology and meaningful resolution to the troubles and lives the company had cost through the pollution from their factory, unlike the folktale of Momotaro, the citizens of Minamata were unable to defeat the ogres that sat behind the microphones during the stockholder’s meeting.

            Positively or negatively, real life or folk tale, food parallels unification or a unified body of people. For example, when a family enjoy their dinner at the table together every night it brings a stronger sense of unity to the family. Also, a personal observation I made during my job at a restaurant was that the customers who came to eat there everyday recognized each other and look to have bonded after a period of time. Regardless of who a group of people contains, a situation where food has a place in, a kind of congruity is made; an agreement that dinner at home was more important than being out with friends for dinner. What a person eats is closely linked to his or her emotions, so when there is a similarity in the food consumed, presuming that they had the same feelings toward the experience, an invisible connection is made; one that can be powerful enough bring individuals together to fight off evil in the fictional and nonfictional world. As shown through two different versions of the written story of Momotaro and the documentary film Minamata: The Victims and Their World, eating the same food link people with each other often, without being conscious of it, forming communities of voyage, resistance, and camaraderie.

Momotaro: Uniting the Community Through Food and Leadership

In Japan, as well as the rest of the world, communities often create strong bonds amongst themselves through social and physical interactions. While the most common way to bond is by verbal communication, sharing and providing food, a common worldwide staple, to one another takes community building to a whole different level. In the tale of the legendary Japanese folklore hero, Momotaro, also known as the Peach Boy, the symbolization of food establishes companionships amongst the characters throughout the story. In addition, Momotaro displays leadership in his community through his heroic acts in order to maintain the bonds instituted. Due to its popularity within the Japanese culture and the historic origins from the Edo era, many variations of Momotaro were made from folktales to movies to children’s books. Despite the variations of the folklore, Momotaro kept its foundations within each version.  Although the legend of the Momotaro was portrayed in many literary and visual variants, the basis of the story persists through the representation of food and leadership to unify and strengthen community relations.

Published in 1894, Iwaya Sazanami’s Momotaro =: The Story of Peach-Boy follows a traditional and definitive approach to the folk legend of Momotaro. Traditionally, an elderly couple found the character of Momotaro inside a giant peach; hence, the name, Peach Boy. The elderly couple rejoiced Momotaro and raised him to become strong and enterprising. Prior to the giant peach, the elderly man and woman were depicted as “both so sad” due to their lack of offspring (Sazanami 16). The celebration of the giant peach represents the power of food through strengthening bonds and enlightening emotions. Since the elderly couple is finally able to raise a child as a result of the peach, the joy of the upbringing of Momotaro will strengthen their bond and bring them pleasure since they are now obligated to raise him to his full potential.

After Momotaro receives millet dumplings from his father, he encounters a monkey, a dog, and a pheasant, his potential animal comrades. During his encounter with the monkey, Momotaro offers “half of one of the best millet dumplings in Japan” in exchange for the monkey’s loyalty and camaraderie (Sazanami 28).  Similarly, Momotaro also presents the dog and the pheasant with half of a millet dumpling in order to join him in his quest to defeat the enemy. The offering of the millet dumpling symbolizes camaraderie between Momotaro and his animal comrades since Momotaro traded with the animals in order to accompany him through loyalty and companionship during this journey. Instead of using paper currency, the millet dumpling was a type of payment and allowance Momotaro’s father gave him. As a form of currency, Momotaro was able to use the millet dumplings to acquire whatever he desires. Also, the millet dumpling represents unity with a universal staple although Momotaro and the animals are from different backgrounds. No matter where someone comes from, food will always unite a community together since it is essential to life.

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A monkey hands the dog millet dumplings for army rations before his flight.

As a unique tactic to dramatize the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, Seo Mitsuyo directed a Japanese propaganda anime version of Momotaro called Momotaro’s Sea Eagles in 1943. Unlike Iwaya Sazanami’s version of Momotaro, Mitsuyo adds a twist on the traditional story and uses the folklore’s main ideas to create a foundation in order to focus on the aspects of war propaganda. On the standpoint of food, the millet dumpling also symbolizes the bonds within a community in this version of Momotaro. Before a dog takes off with his airplane, a monkey supplies him with a bag of millet dumplings, which embodies army rations. During World War II, soldiers were often given rations for food, energy, and nutrition while on the battlefield. The handing of millet dumplings from the monkey to the dog just right before the flight symbolizes care and friendship between the two animals. A caring friend will typically give a gift to a friend who is leaving on a long or dangerous journey. On the aspect of the nutritional value of the millet dumpling, the Japanese soldiers were chowing down a healthy treat during their mission while the Americans were drinking alcohol. This shows that the Japanese value their health during times of war in order to become successful in their attacks instead of just enjoying sinful practices, such as drinking alcohol.

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Momotaro shares his millet dumplings with a monkey, a dog, and a pheasant.

Goro Arai and Koyosha Shuppan’s children’s picture book adaptation of Momotaro provides a simplistic and artistic account of the traditional folktale.  Similar to Sazanami’s Momotaro =: The Story of Peach-Boy, Momotaro shared his millet dumplings with a monkey, a dog, and a pheasant in the picture book version. Unlike the traditional folklore version, the millet dumplings are not clearly connected to bribing the animals into helping Momotaro with his quest. On pages five and six of the picture book, the dog and the monkey eagerly wait for Momotaro to open his bag of millet dumplings while the pheasant’s yearning facial expression indicates that he wants to a share of millet dumplings from Momotaro. From the look of Momotaro’s facial expression, he seems upset over the fact that the animals wanted a portion of his millet dumplings, but Momotaro decides to share the millet dumplings anyway due to his heroic nature. The sharing of millet dumplings represents a formation of an alliance between Momotaro and the animals since the animals are willing to accompany Momotaro after they eat the millet dumplings. The presence of Momotaro’s bag of millet dumplings drew the animals to ask for a share of the treat and form a companionship with Momotaro.

Since the traditional folktale and Momotaro’s Sea Eagles focus on different settings and time periods, the characterization of Momotaro differs between the two versions of the story. In the traditional folktale of Momotaro, Momotaro is characterized as a traditional Japanese boy who was “sent down to [Japan] by the command of the god of Heaven” (Sazanaki 14). Due to his divine nature, the citizens of Japan were brought together as a community to praise Momotaro for his inherent leadership and heroic abilities in order to defeat the ogres. To receive help with fighting the ogres, Momotaro bribes his animal companions with half of a millet dumpling to obtain their loyalty and camaraderie. This denotes the authority and inherent dominance of Momotaro’s leadership amongst his community; his community must obey his commands.

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Momotaro prepares the animal soldiers for the attack on Ogre Island.

On the other hand, Momotaro in Momotaro’s Sea Eagles embodies a determined captain of the Japanese animal soldiers during the period of World War II. In contrast to the traditional folklore Momotaro actually fighting against the enemy himself, the war captain Momotaro advises his soldiers to attack Ogre Island, which represents Pearl Harbor and the Americans. Instead of actually participating in the attacks, Momotaro distances himself from the lower-ranked soldiers and thrives in his hierarchy as a war captain. However, his leadership and commands bring the militants together to successfully defeat the enemy at Ogre Island.

Retaining the theme of the representation of food and leadership within the community, the three different versions Momotaro maintain the foundation of the story within their compositions. The three variations of the legend of Momotaro represent the power of food in establishing and strengthening bonds with one another. Although food may be viewed as just a common everyday staple, the power and worth of food is ideal in uniting the community through strong bonds and companionships.

Momotarō: The Story of the Unification Against Injustice

The plight of the unseen and unheard masses sometimes grows to be so large, so as to stir up an uproar and wave of discontent, one of which that consists of the righteous and good conquering the evils and perils of the world.  In the Japanese folktale story Momotarō, which arose in Japan as early as the Edo Period (1603-1867), a righteous and honorable character by the name of Momotarō (桃太郎 Momotarou , “Peach Boy”) conquers the evil Oni (鬼, “Demon,” “Ogres”) of Oni Island. Momotarō conquers such Oni through the help of several animal companions who he awards millet dumplings to. The food of the traditional millet dumplings essentially unites Momotarō and the animals that he meets along the way, giving rise to the victory over the Oni which comes up in all forms of the Momotarō reiteration. Momotarō, being an upright and versatile character, is able to withstand the test of time through its popularity as a figure of unification against evil.

The Name Momotarō itself is derived from the Japanese word of “momo,” meaning “peach tree” and “tarō” meaning “big boy;” which is also a name that is often traditionally given to the first son of a Japanese family. Across both literature and text, the symbol of the peach which gives rise to Momotarō, represents much more than the fruit itself. The peach fruit aspect of the folktale embodies ideals of prosperity and longevity, which Japan very much seeks for itself. With the peach’s large proportion that of which has never been seen before, as told in the Iwaya Sazanami’s 1938 publication of Momotarō, the peach can be seen as a reflection of the type of nation that Japan sought to be displayed as. On a historical standpoint, Japan was growing as an industrial nation and military power in both the 18th and 19th century, paralleling the enormous growth of the peach. The peach while symbolizing a long life, also referred to the youthful generation of Japan, making it an ideal tool to target children as well. Through Momotarō, Japanese children grow up with values of bravery, selflessness for one’s country, and resolve in dire situations.

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The Birth of Momotarō from the Peach

Within the Momotarō tales, not only does the food of the peach appear, but also the cuisine of Japanese millet dumplings which Momotarō utilizes to essentially seal the companionship with the animals (typically of which consists of the dog, monkey, and pheasant). The millet dumpling, also known as the kibi dango (団子), is a delicious and simple Japanese snack which serves to provide for comfort and nourishment to Momotarō and his comrades in their battle against the evil Oni. In Mitsuyo Seo’s film, Momotarō’s Sea Eagle, the millet dumpling is handed out to the enlisted soldiers under Momotarō. In such scene, the millet dumpling provides sustenance and assurance to the animals before they set off to battle the Oni, who coincidently resemble American cartoon characters such as Bluto, Popeye, and Betty Boop. The Iwaya Sazanami 1938 textual treatment of Momotarō, in contrast to the film, portrays only half of the millet dumpling being given to the animals. In such way, a hierarchical system is established through the millet dumpling; a system of which consists of the god-sent Momotarō above his animal comrades. This subtle aspect incorporated into the textual version of Momotarō reflects the traditionalist view of Japan in hierarchy to the rest of the world (where Japan is above other countries). The millet dumpling, native to only Japan, across all platforms of Momotarō, prepare the animal soldiers for a battle for the basic rights of the villagers who suffer harassment and devastation from the demons, who have frequently pillaged the local villages. 

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The Monkey Distributing the Millet Dumplings Before Battle (Mitsuyo Seo’s Momotarō’s Sea Eagle

In further analyzing Iwaya Sazanami’s 1938 publication of Momotarō, ironic aspects revolving around the millet dumpling appear. The millet dumping is incorporated into the quarrel between the animals and significantly defuses the situation. In such scenario, the millet dumpling serves to end fighting and quarrel through its appeal as delicious nourishment. However, through the unity and camaraderie of the animals caused by the millet dumplings, war against the Oni is essentially made possible. In this case, the millet dumpling serves as a mechanism in initiating and sustaining war, rather than defusing war. Through ironic incitation and destruction, greater peace is achieved for the people of Momotarō, paralleling what many countries seek with war, including Japan. The simple millet dumpling of simple ingredients is made out to be not so simple with its utilization throughout the Momotarō renditions within Japan. 

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Momotarō and His Animal Comrades Enjoying Millet Dumplings in a Textual Rendition of the Folktale

In the traditional folktale version of Momotarō such as in Iwaya Sazanami and the National Diet Library Newsletter publications, The Peach Boy is portrayed as a righteous and virtuous character sent from the heavens, worthy of much respect and worthy of being followed after by the various animals of the forest. More recent displays of Momotarō, such as in  Mitsuyo Seo’s Momotarō Sea Eagle, establish a standpoint where Momotarō is a Japanese citizen in the Navy. In such sense, Seo alludes to the idea that Japan as a country is worthy of respect from all others, and is on a level and standard close to that of the gods. Seo transgresses the boundary between man and god, giving rise to a distinction between Japan and other foreign countries. Japan with its rising as a political power and growing militaristic agenda benefitted greatly from the numerous effects of the steadfast figure of Momotarō in film.

Initially, the folktale was used as a sort of children’s story so as to instill righteous values and character upon young Japanese children, but with the progression of time Momotarō came to represent many platforms and fulfilled several agendas, some of which included war propaganda and human rights campaigns. In the period both preceding and during World War II, Momotarō would be the popular choice as a type of central figure in militaristic and nationalistic propaganda. Momotarō propaganda such as with Mitsuyo Seo’s Momotarō Sea Eagle was created in hopes of instilling the “Japanese Spirit” into the Japanese populous, so as to push the war effort in Japan’s favor against demons such as the Americans. Just as in the animation where the various cute animals unite to fight off the Oni, eventually defeating the demons, Japan too sought for a Japanese unification amongst its citizens in the war effort against America. 

Even after World War II, Momotarō would still be used as a figure head in times of crisis such as with the discovery of the Minimata Disease in 1956 in Minimata City of the Kuramoto Prefecture within Japan. As the disease grew in number and prevalence, Noriaki Tsuchimoto sought some sort of greater awareness and justification, which came in the form of his film, Minamata: The Victims and Their World. Such documentary put to light the social injustices of the large corporations, and called for the unity of the Japanese citizens against the evil big industry which poisoned Japanese waters and produce (in particular fish) with their mercury-enriched fertilizers. This very much paralleled the plights and struggle within the Momotarō folktale, making Momotarō an ideal figure to head the campaign against the evil demon’s of Japanese big industry. A Minimata community began to form in the periods following the the outbreak of the disease, as a result of the all the suffering and pain the villagers endured. Minimata, being heavily dependent upon the fish produce, suffered in silence whilst the big corporations, ignorant to their pains as they could afford food of higher quality and purity. This new community with its newly-found resolve and unification would at the very least have its voice heard, while gradually obtaining their goals of social justice with regards to the poisoning of Japanese waters.

Japan throughout its history of both prosperity and devastation would require a figure to unite its citizens in a holistic community, capable of uplifting any disaster. The tale of Momotarō fulfilled such role for the Japanese people with its aspects of camaraderie and resistance through the unification under the millet dumpling and symbolism of the peach. Time and time again, whether it be through literature or film, Momotarō and its food displays the greater power of a community as a opposed to an individual. Even the simplest of objects such as the food of millet dumplings can unify an entity that would otherwise be powerless while segmented. A war may be waged by a single entity, but it must be fought by the masses to be considered even possible. The importance of the Momotarō and food to Japan’s constant plight is undeniable, and will likely be prevalent for generations to come, whether it be as a result of the instillation of values, war of powers, or devastating disease, as is evident in Japan’s extensive history.