The legend of Momotarō

The island of oni 鬼

By arnaud In Stopovers

Croisière sur l'ile des Ogres dans la mer de SétoDuring your cruise, you will call in Megi-jima.

Megi-jima (女 木 島) is a small island in the Sea of Seto, It covers an area of 2.66 square kilometers, a coastline of 8.9 kilometers and a population of about 200 inhabitants.

The island is associated to the mythical island of Onigashima (“Island of the Ogres”) visited by the folklore character Momotarō. A pleasant walk takes you to the top of the island where you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the Inland Sea of Seto. This is where there are the caves that are home to the ogres of the legend.


The legend of Momotarō

According to the version of the legend, dating back to the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), Momotarō came to Earth in a peach that went down a river. It was discovered by an old woman who was washing her clothes there. He was adopted and raised by her husband. Momotarō explains that he was sent by heaven to be their son.

Momotarō came to earth in a peach

Momotarō came to earth in a peach

However, Momotarō was lazy and found excuses for not working. When he decided to go gather “a little” wood, he came back with a huge tree. This attracted the attention of the lord, which asked him to leave his parents to fight demons on the island of Onigashima.

Along the way Momotarō met a dog, a monkey and a pheasant, whom he befriended. They would vanquish the demons and their leader, Ura. He will return to his parents with his friends and the demons’ treasure. He and his family spent a good life together.

Momotarō is associated with the city of Okayama, where history was invented. Some historians believe that its origins Is in antiquity, when the deified prince Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto would have been sent by his father, the Emperor Kōrei, to conquer the province of Kibi. As the saying goes “only the victors write history” and as was often the case in the history of Japan, the enemies were demonized and associated with Yokai, who in turn joined the popular folklore.


The island of the Ogres

The Oni (鬼) are creatures of the Japanese folklore popular in the arts, literature and the Japanese theater


Oni chased away by jets of beans (detail), Hokusai

Their appearance differs from one source to another, but they usually have: a humanoid form, a gigantic size, sharp claws, two protruding horns growing on their foreheads, disheveled hair and a hideous appearance. However, as their form is not fully defined, some details of their anatomy varies greatly such as the number of eyes, fingers or toes they have, or the color of their skin, which is usually red or blue. Anyway, they maintain similarities with trolls and ogres; In English, their name is translated by “demons” or “devils”.

The oni are commonly depicted wearing tiger skin loincloths and wielding an iron club called kanabō (金 棒). This representation comes from the phrase “oni-ni-kanabō” (鬼 に 金 棒, oni with an iron club), that is to say invincible or unbeatable. It can also be used to mean “strong beyond strong” or that of seeing one or more of its natural abilities improved through the use of a tool.