Yotaro and the Tanuki 狸と与太郎

Another story featuring the mischievous Tanuki and its shape-shifting powers. A classic tale by author Yumeno Kyūsaku, who was known for his wildly imaginative works in the early Shōwa period of Japan.

By Yumeno Kyūsaku
Translated by Richard Medhurst


A “tanuki” is a Japanese animal that is something like a raccoon and often portrayed as having magical powers, as in this story by Yumeno Kyūsaku.

*   *   *

Every day Yotaro went to the next village to play and he always came back through the forest before the sun set.
This was because his mum had told him, “There’s a tanuki in the forest that can transform into all kinds of monsters, so if you don’t come back before sunset, who knows what terrible thing will happen.”
But one day, Yotaro was having so much fun he lost track of time and it was dark when he started making his way back through the trees. Before he had got a few paces, a Cyclops, around three meters high, suddenly stepped into the path.
“Hey. That’s a big man come out of nowhere. And he’s only got one eye. That’s funny. Say, do you want to come along to my house?”
Right in front of his eyes, the giant became a rubberneck demon.
“Oh. You’re a woman now, with a lovely long neck. That’s odd. Why is it so very long? Try stretching it even more.”
Next, the creature turned into an ogre.
“And now you’re an ogre. Just like the ogre dolls you get. How amusing! Can you try turning into lots of other things?”
But finding that Yotaro was not at all scared of any of its transformations, the ogre in the path got bored and turned back into a tanuki.
On seeing this, Yotaro went very pale.
“Yikes, it’s the tanuki. If it transforms into a monster, I’ll be in real trouble. Help! Help!” he cried, running away as fast as he could.

English translation © 2015 Richard Medhurst. All rights reserved.

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