Friday, July 12, 2013

Gegege No Kitaro inspiration?

 I was reading through a book that is a large collection of Japanese folk tales. This short one caught my interest and reminded me of Gegege no Kitaro's origin. Here is a link to a modernized version of Kiaro's origin.

The Ghost that Cared for her Child

A woman came every night around midnight to buy ame (a sweet) at a little candy store in the village. She always put her hand through the door and she bought with the same coin. The owner of the shop thought it strange and followed her. After she went as far as the garden, she turned into a flame which went out beside a grave. The shopkeeper was sure she was a ghost. The next day when he went around to where the flame had vanished, he found a hole open in a new grave. He dug and found a baby boy with wide-open eyes sitting by a woman's corpse. The child had been born after the woman had died, and she was taking care of him with the ame she bought each night for him to eat. It is said that the child became a famous priest later.


The Yanagita Kunio Guide to the Japanese Folk Tale: Edited and Translated by Fanny Hagin Mayer (Indiana University Press, 1986)

Sometime after the above book was published, it's editor and translator Fanny Hagin Mayer published another version of many of the tales.  Here is the revised version to this tale.

6. The Ghost That Cared For Her Child

Once upon a time a woman died in childbirth. The family pitied her and buried her instead of cremating her. They put a one mon coin in her coffin, according to the custom at her village, and carried her out to the edge of the moor.

From that time, somebody came every evening at about the same hour to buy ame. A hand would be thrust between the same doors and the same coin was always used to pay. The storekeeper thought this strange, and he sent his clerk to follow the customer. She went as far as the garden patch, but there she turned into a flame and leaped off. The flame went out at the grave. The clerk was sure it was a specter and ran home astonished.

The next day two or three people went to the grave where the flame had gone out to investigate. They found a hole in the new grave. This seemed strange to everyone. When they dug to see, they found a wide-eyed baby boy sitting there. He had been born after the woman had died, and he was being nourished by the ame.

It seems that this child became a famous Buddhist priest later.

Seki Keigo
Shimabara, Nagasaki

Ancient Tales in Japan
An Anthology of Japanese Folk Tales
Selected and Translated
Bloomington, Indiana

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