Japanese myths, folklore & legends online

Updated: May 21, 2013

Keep the great oral tradition passed down from generation to generation with some of these readings:

Japanese Creation Myth (The Beginning of the World) Background: What is the Kojiki?

At Japanese Folktales (by  D. L. Ashliman), you can find these tales
The Two Frogs
The Mirror of Matsuyama
Visu the Woodsman and the Old Priest
Little Peachling
The Tongue-Cut Sparrow
A Woman and the Bell of Miidera
The Stonecutter
Danzayémon, Chief of the Etas

See these very short 8-liner tales:
Ikkyu and the Syrup
The Monkey and the Crab
Urashima Taro

Kaguya Hime (alternative version Kaguya-hime)or The Bamboo Cutter’s Tale (A Moon Maiden Takes Flight – Princess Kaguya)

The White Hare of Inaba (Sacred Texts) (of Inaba) The White Hare of Inaba and Crocodiles vs. Sharks (Wild in Japan)

If you liked those, try these titles also from Tales of Wonder
The Tongue-Cut Sparrow
Tiny Finger
Urashima Taro
The Farmer and the Badger
My Lord Bag Of Rice
The Bamboo Cutter and the Moon-Child
The Old Man Who Made Withered Trees Flower
The White Hare and the Crocodiles
Momotaro, or the Story of the Son of a Peach

Take your pick of these household staples from Webjapan

Nezumi no Yomeiri
Sannen Netar
Shitakiri Suzume
Bunbuku Chagama
Sanmai no Ofuda
Warashibe Choja
Hanasaka Jiisan
Tengu no Kakuremino
Sarukani Kassen
Kaguya Hime

The Tale of Hanasaka Jiisan (with illustrations and music)
Hana-saku Jii-san is the name of the grandfather who made withered trees bloom again in a
Japanese fairy tale

The Mirror of Matsuyama – this story is often told during Hinamatsuri festivals

A Woman and the Bell of Miidera – a tale of vanity and a huge bronze bell

Izanami & Izanagi

Tanabata (or see this version from an astronomy site Tanabata Festival)
An excellent article is Orihime, Kengyuu, and Tanabata, see also Tanabata festival photos and a background history at Kids Web Japan

Tongue-cut Sparrow / Shitakiri Suzume

The Two Frogs

The Bell of Dojoji

The Stone-Cutter’s  Tale with a moral about gaining contentment See also Storywise’s version

The Slaying of the Tanuki (Sacred Texts) a tale of revenge

The Story of Princess Hase, a story about the good and lovely princess, set in the ancient capital city of Nara. See  another version by Yei Theodora Ozaki

The Adventures of Kintaro, the Golden Boy

The Story of the Old Man Who Made Withered Trees to Flower

The Accomplished and Lucky Teakettle | A. B. Mitford’s Tales of Old Japan version The Very Accomplished and Lucky Teakettle(p. 103) |

Moonflower (or how Moonhorses came to Japan)

Ten Jugs of Wine

The Strawberry A Zen Tale from Japan – a  zen tale about a man being chased by a tiger and his last words.

The Story of Prince Yamato Take –  Legend about how Grass-Cleaving sword of Ise saves the prince’s life under dire circumstances in the grasslands. (note in the same story, the theme of Kin Jin Dragon King of the Sea Rin Jin God of the Sea wife is human sacrifice see page 134 of Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki)

The following tales are foxtales
The Death Stone of Nasu Moor
Come and Sleep and On a Contest between Women of Extraordinary Strength
Foxtales / kitsune tales For more foxtales, see Japanese Fox Stories (Kitsune, Kumiho, Huli Jing, Fox)

Heikegani (Kabuki version by Okamoto Kido) | Heikegani-the Samurai Crab |  Samurai Crabs

Inari: In Japanese Mythology, the god of rice is often protrayed as a bearded old man sitting on a sack of rice, flanked on either side by a fox.
Inari is one of the most mysterious deities of Japan. He is both male and female. Each year he/she descends from a mountain to the rice fields. The
fox is Inari’s messenger and it is believed that he/she can assume a fox’s shape. The deity may also assume the shape of a spider in order to teach
wicked men a lesson. The foxes are his messengers, The fox is Inari’s messenger and it is believed that he/she can assume a fox’s shape. An
Inari-shrine can be found in many Japanese towns and in many households he/she is venerated as a symbol of prosperity and friendship. These shrines
are guarded by statues of foxes, divine messengers. Inari’s central temple is Fushimi-Inara in south-east Kyoto city, built around 700 AD. (see the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine website).

Inara the rice-goddess is celebrated in a festival held during the first days of spring when cultivation begins. She may be identified with the Indian Lakshmi and the Javanese Dewi Sri. Inari is also sometimes identified with Uga-no-Mitama, the goddess of agriculture. Aburage, fried bean-curd, is an offering relished by Inari. Rice wrapped in aburage is called Inari-sushi or o-Inari-san. Kodomo-no-Inari:The children’s fox deity of Japanese myth. ).
Some sources say there are more than 20,000 shrines nationwide devoted to Inari. Inari is celebrated in a Shinto festival during the first days of
spring when cultivation starts.

Units that use Japanese myths & folktales:

The Wise Old Woman

The Terrible Leak

Tsunami tale about The Wave

Explore on the Web, websites that feature Japanese myths & folktales, among

Japanese Starlore and Astronomical History

Folktales from Around the World 

Folklore and Mythology Electronic texts

Folk tales from Around the World

Folklore for young readers

Folk Tales From Many Lands, Retold by Lilian Gask (1865-), Illustrations by

Willy Pogany (1882-1955).
New York, T.Y. Crowell & Company [1910].

Christopher B. Siren’s annotated Myths and Legends Web Index

Japanese Mythology studies, explores and compares as many as possible themes of myth and legend, as well as the cultural ritual practices  that might in some way be connected to, that may have been the origin of the ancient myths and legends of Japan.

For a background on Japan’s ancient culture intertwined with beliefs of cosmology, see article “A Short Description of Ancient Japanese Culture and

Cosmology” by Mitch Stolz (Multicultural Cosmology Educational Resource Center, Pomona College ; (don’t miss their article/map of Japan)

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