Folktale: Kintaro at Ashigara mountain

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Once upon a time, there lived at Jizodo (a place name) a rich person called "Shiman-choja". He had a daughter. She was very beautiful, and a woman of great strength of character. At that time there also lived in today's Kaisei Town a powerful and influential Samurai (warrior) called Mr. Sakata. Mr. Sakata loved the daughter and decided to get married with her. Since her family was very rich, her wedding parade was luxurious and gorgeous, carrying trousseaus and gifts to her new family.

Unfortunately, for certain reasons, she was forced to go back to her native house at Jizodo, when she was pregnant. Soon after she got home, she had a rotund and bouncing baby boy. She named him "Kintaro". "Shiman-choja" family took very good care of "Kintaro". "Kintaro" was a good, charming boy with clear eyes and rosy-cheeks. Strong and active boy from the beginning, Kintaro played as jumping up and down "Kabuto-ishi" rock and "Taiko-ishi" rock in the nearby rice field. As he grew up, he became a bossy boy among children around and played all day long in the steep mountains such as Mt. Ashigara and Mt. Kintoki. As he trained himself in the mountains, he became so strong that he could throw a bear, the strongest in the mountain forests, in "Sumo" wrestling.

Kintaro changed his name to "Kintoki" after grown up into a man. He became a big, strong and handsome young man, having a good reputation among surrounding villages. Around that time, there lived in Kyoto, the capital, the strongest chief "Samurai" (warrior) called Yorimitsu Minamoto. He happened to come across to Ashigara pass area on his way back from eastern countries. When he and his troop of retainers came to Jizodo, they took a rest, and were surprised to find out Kintaro, a strong and good-looking young man in such a countryside. Yorimitsu thought, "It must be by God's providence that I have met with this boy." and recommend him to become his retainer. Kintoki was extremely happy and, no doubt, accepted Yorimitsu's offer to become a retainer of the most famous Samurai in Kyoto. Mr. Kintoki Sakata went up to Kyoto, studied harder, and trained himself in martial arts to become one of the four Yorimitsu's strongest retainers.

Even now, when a boy is born, parents decorate his room with "Kintaro" doll on May 5 (Boy's day: By the way, March 3 is Girl's day), expecting that he will have similar good luck to become "strong and gentle" Kintaro.

Explanation: Historical background

  1. Kintaro: "Kintaro" is a boyhood name of Mr. Kintoki Sakata, who actually lived in the middle of the "Heian" period (10th century), when Fujiwara family was at the height of their power & prosperity. A famous episode is that Mr. Michinaga Fujiwara wrote a famous Japanese poem: "The world is running as my life desires: it is perfect just like the full moon." Kintoki was an expert in archery, and one of the four strongest retainers of Mr. yorimitsu Minamoto, who achieved fame for his prowess in the capital, Kyoto. This story of Mr. Kintoki Sakata is recorded in Japanese classical literature "Kon-jyaku Monogatari".

  2. Mr. Yorimitsu Minamoto: Yorimitsu was born in 948 (Tenreki 2nd year of the "Murakami" Emperor) as an eldest son of Mr. Mitsunaka Minamoto, who was the Chinjyu-fu Shogun (a kind of Defence Force General). He moved up the promotional success ladder with Mr. Michinaga Fujiwara's prosperity by keeping a close relationship with Fujiwara family as his father did. Time was the heyday of the "Heian" period. It was the aristocracy society with gorgeous court as was written in Japanese classical literature such as "makura-no-sosi" and "Genji-monogatari".

  3. Public peace at the capital Kyoto and the Samurai: Yorimitsu was not of noble birth. He rather belongs to the Samurai class, which originally came from the land-owning landed classes. His real value was military power. The capital Kyoto was not peaceful at that time. For example, Mitsunaka's house was robbed by a burglar; Michinaga's house was set fire by an arsonist. Therefore, the noble people such as Fujiwara family considered the Samurai people such as Yorimitsu and his party, (that is , his four strongest retainers: Tsuna Watanabe, Sadamitsu Usui, Hidetake Urabe and Kintoki Sakata) to be a powerful and useful men. The legend that Yorimitsu and his four retainers conquered a thief "Shuten-doji" at Ooeyama is the story at Tanba near Kyoto. Even at the height of prosperity in "Heian" period, once you are out of the gorgeous court, you will see in the people's life, the poverty and the disturbance of public peace.

  4. Development of "Sho-en"(Private land): By the political reformation in 645 (Taika-no-kaisin), centralised government was established. For example, private land was prohibited, that is, all the land was owned by the government and the people were all directly controlled by the government. The people were all equal, got the same size of land and paid tax. Unfortunately, with this system, people did not get an incentive to work harder, therefore the system broke down quickly. As quickly as one hundred years after the reformation, the right to own private land started to be granted. The private land is called "Sho-en".

  5. Appearance of the Samurai: "Sho-en" was in all its glory kin its prime in the late "Heian" period. Even in Kanagawa prefecture (where today's Minami-ashigara is located), there were many "Sho-en"s. For example, Ooba family had a big power around Unuma area in today's Fujisawa city. The family name is staying as a place name now. Since Kanto (today's Tokyo) districts including Kanagawa prefecture were the eastern border districts for the Japanese government at that time, "Sho-en" people in those districts, who were basically farmers, needed military power to protect their lands and properties. This is the origin of the real Samurai. They trained professional military power and eventually became to play the leading part in the history when Kamakura government was established in 12th century. ( Kamakura is located in Kanagawa prefecture near today's Tokyo.)

  6. Mr. Yosi-ie Sakata: In the middle of the "Heian" period (10th century), there lived at (today's) Sakata, Kaisei-town, Ashigarakami-gun, Kanagawa, Mr. Yosi-ie Sakata, who was a powerful local Samurai and controlled even noble people's "Sho-en" in Kyoto. Although he was one of the strong local family members in this area, conflicts among the family broke down as the family grew bigger. Yosi-ie's enemy was his real uncle, and was killed by him one day when he went out carelessly alone without retainers. Yosi-ie had a new born baby. This was "Kintaro". Kintaro's mother, knowing this tragedy, run away carrying him on her back into the deep forests of the Kintoki mountain (one of the Hakone mountains). The uncle searched "Kintaro" for all directions to kill him in order to avoid future revenge, but he did not find "Kintaro". This is the background why and how "Kintaro" grew up with bears and rabbits as his friends in the deep mountains.

  7. Encounter of Mr. Yorimitsu Minamoto and Kintaro: Kintaro eventually learned from his mother the detail of his father 's death, and swore to revenge the death of his father by becoming a strong Samurai. Fortunately, Mr. Yorimitsu Minamoto and his party came to Ashigara pass on his way back from an expedition to conquer the Ezo people living in the eastern area beyond Kanto districts. He wished to become a Yorimitsu's retainer.

  8. Legend/Conception by Thunder God: In Japanese classic literature called "Zen-taihei-ki", Kintaro's mother is a "Mountain woman (sorceress)". Kintaro was born to the mountain woman and a red dragon lived in the Ashigara mountain. In answering to Yorimitsu, she said, "When one day I was sleeping in a mountain-top, a red dragon came into me in the dream. Then a peal kroll lof thunder was so strong that I woke up with surprise. I realised I was pregnant." This must be "Conception by Thunder God" Legend.

Why does Kintaro carry a hatchet? A hatchet is a weapon and a symbol for "thunder god" as Chinese thunder gods are described with figures carrying hatchets.

Texten är framställd av Tayo Kato som har ännu mer att visa på sin hemsida om "Kintaro Village - Minami Ashigara homepage."

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     Skapad: 1996-09-29 av Per och Helena  (helbob@helbob.com). Uppdaterad: 1996-09-30