The Little Peach Boy (Momotaro)

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Momotaro Statue in San Jose, USA (photo: Patrick Lydon)
Momotaro Statue in San Jose, USA (photo: Patrick Lydon)
Momotaro Statue in San Jose, USA (photo: Patrick Lydon)

Several years ago in my hometown of San Jose, California, I came upon a curious statue along the Guadalupe Creek, behind a huge performing arts center, and further tucked away under a maple tree. This statue was one of my first encounters with any kind of Japanese culture in my hometown, before my first trip there with friend Kohei Mizushima, and before my interactions with our city’s San Jose / Okayama Sister Cityorganization.

The curious statue – a young boy, a dog, a pheasant, and a monkey – was donated by the city of Okayama, our ‘sister city’ in Japan, and was fronted with a plaque explaining the legend behind the boy, who was named Momotaro, or ‘Little Peach Boy.’As the story goes, Momotaro was born to childless parents from inside a peach – yup, that’s how Japanese fairy tales roll, the woman opens a peach and bam, there’s a kid inside.

As he grows older, Momotaro is tasked with a mission to rid an island of some ogres who are, you know, doing the kinds of bad mean things that ogres tend to do. So he sets off with his sword – a Hattori Hanzo, perhaps – and three animal friends: a dog, a phesant, and a monkey.

The four head for the island, some epic city-boy-quest-to-island type events ensue, and eventually they do away with the ogres and head back to Okayama.

So what on earth does this have to do with me beside the fact that it is a neat story?

Stills from The Final Straw documentary project by Patrick Lydon and Suhee Kang
Stills from The Final Straw documentary project by Patrick Lydon and Suhee Kang

I’ve recently been speaking with a few wonderful artists and professors from Aichi Prefectural University of Art and Music in Japan about having the Final Straw documentary premiere at the Setouchi Triennale this summer – a festival which takes place on several islands near Okayama.

Nothing is certain yet, but the really interesting thing if it all works out, is that the island we would be exhibiting on is none other than Megijima, the island that Momotaro traveled to battle the ogres on.

On a personal level, it is a really interesting coincidence which goes back to the very root of my first encounter with Japanese culture in my hometown… and now links to an amazing project which I’ve dedicated much of my time to in the past year.

For more on the project, visit the Final Straw Mini-site.

5 Replies to “The Little Peach Boy (Momotaro)”

  1. Actually, they’re oni, not “ogres”. Ogres are French monsters. Oni are Japanese. It loses a little cultural flavor when you Westernize the monsters.

    1. Nice observation Adam. For clarification, the Japanese indeed call them “oni,” which is what we westerners more generally know as an ogre. Getting any deeper than that however, might require a new blog post!

  2. I discovered your site because I had exactly the same experience in my hometown of Plovdiv, Bulgaria (Eastern Europe) and I was trying to find any information about that unusual samurai statue I stumbled upon one day in a secret corner of our central garden. It turned out Okayama is our sister city as well. Thanks to you I learned about Momotaro and his adventures. Here is our Momotaro

    1. Great! Glad to know there are other Momotaro statues. Thanks for sharing Ivan. If you’re ever in Japan, pay a visit to Megijima, the ‘ogre’ island 🙂

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