Examines Japanese Folklore


It’s Japanese folktales. I came to Japan. Of course
I want to learn how to speak Japanese. I want

to learn how to read. I want to learn how to be
a better person. I want to be able to interact.

When I was learning how to read it first, I wanted
some heated gamma books. I got really interested in

them. I really enjoyed them. This is how I started
learning some Japanese vocabulary that I didn’t know.

I thought folktales would give me a
little insight into the culture. I wish I

hadn’t done that because the insight
into the culture was absolutely terrifying.

Japanese folktales are just off the chain. They are
just insane. The kid’s folktales traditionally are.

If you get the old original versions are always
horrendous stuff. It’s always people getting torn in half.

I would say in the European tradition, the Western tradition that they are
generally trying to teach you something. So, Hansel and Gretel is like, “Oh,

be your parents. Don’t go into the forest. Be careful of strangers.” A
little red riding hood is like be cautious of strangers, that kind of stuff.

There is, despite the horror of
the story itself, a lesson you’re

trying to impart upon children.
Japanese fairy tales or folktales.

They go hard and I spent years trying to
figure out what the actual moral of a lot of

these was. It turns out the moral of most
of these seems to be revenge as in get some.

The first story I read was the crab in the
monkey. I’m going to tell you the bridged

version of this. I started doing research
on these, trying to learn more about these.

It turns out, you know, this is an oral tradition, so
there’s multiple versions of the story. The interesting

one on this is what gets used in the final revenge
plot, kind of changes depending on where you are.

I bet it’s actually just local
stuff gets used so it’s more

familiar to the people who
are actually hearing the story.

I’m going to tell you the story
and then we can do a little

bit of analysis. I got three
stories to tell you today.

If you find a rice ball, don’t eat
that rice ball, that’s not good for you.

The monkey comes along and
sees the crab with the rice ball.

Don’t eat the rice ball.
Give me the rice ball and I’ll

give you this persimency,
persimines are a fruit in Asia.

The crab’s like, that’s a bad deal. I
got this one in the hand right now.

I can eat it and I’ll be satisfied. I
don’t know if crab’s eat rice. Sure.

I’ll go with that crab’s eat rice. I
think everything needs rice. If you have

a rice ball, I don’t use any animal
that would actually refuse to eat it.

Okay. I got a knot tangent. This might be
the hardest part for me. Discipline-wise.

The monkey convinces the crab
says, I’m going to give you the seed.

You can grow the seed
into a persimine tree.

The persimine tree, therefore, will provide
you with persimines for a very long time.

It’s a much better deal. It does take
patience and the crab’s like, you know what?

The crab’s just, you know, inherently patient animals. I will do the
exchange. So gives him the rice ball, gives the monkey the rice ball,

takes the persimine seed, goes off and plants at the monkey’s like,
aha, I got a rice ball, eats it right away, you know, disappears.

X amount of years later, I assume, they dose
kind of just jump, cut, smash, cut to the

next part. The crab plants and grows the tree.
It produces a lot of fruit, but it’s crab.

The crabs don’t have famously long arms and
they’re not particularly good at climbing.

Don’t tangent. I can’t. I’ve seen videos
online of giant crabs climbing up walls.

Okay. That’s not what’s happening here.
This crab cannot climb. God, I’m going

to ruin this. It’s not like I was going
to make it good in the first place.

This crab cannot climb the tree to get the persimines and the monkey is in the tree and he’s
like, aha, he takes a persimine, he starts eating it and the crabs like, hey, dude, those

are my persimines. You can’t have them without my permission. You need to like, at least give
me the persimines. You shouldn’t be eating my persimines. There’s a lot of argument there.

The monkey, being a little bit of
prick, takes an unripe and persimines so

very hard and throws it down and
kills the crab. This is straight up murder.

Now, there’s a couple of verses in this story. One is
very graphic rate like cracks its carapace and then

the thing suffers for a long time and dies and then
others is just throws it down and just kills the crab.

Now, this crab had babies.
Again, they grew this tree for years.

I don’t know how old these babies
are but I don’t know how long crabs live.

Crabs one of those animals that just lives
forever until it dies, which I guess is

every animal. What I mean is there are like
animals that have sort of a finite lifespan.

There are people who think that like lobsters
are immortal, like something has to kill them

but basically they never get sick or anything.
I don’t know if crabs are the same as that.

I know a couple people listen
to this, it’s like double speed.

This might be very
confusing for you. I’m sorry.

The earliest version of this is when
the persimine hits the crab to kill it.

It actually gives birth in
that moment and then dies.

So it was carrying
babies inside or something

but all the versions
the crab has babies.

Then the baby crabs are
like let’s get some help and

they don’t really explain
what the help is for yet.

It’s almost like a question of
is there inherent knowledge that

the babies are going to go get
revenge or is this like a reveal?

It’s actually something I should
ask some Japanese people.

After learning every one of these stories,
when I read these stories initially,

I went to some Japanese co-workers
and I asked them questions about it.

They were always very befuddled
because they couldn’t answer

any of my questions because
they were like too nitpicky I guess.

So they go and they want to get to the
Japanese folktale version of the A team.

We’re like we’re going to
go get the best of the best.

So they get a chestnut, a B, and an Usu.

Now an Usu is usually a tree stump
that’s been hollowed out and what they do

is they put rice in there and they get
a big hammer and they pound the rice.

So you probably if you’ve watched any video
on Japan, seen the guys, the guy hits it

with a giant hammer and then the other guy
mixes it and then he hits it with a hammer.

And there’s a rhythm to it.
So they want to go fast without

actually hitting the guy’s
hands with a giant hammer.

So there is a rhythm kind of
thing you can see if you want.

That’s not important.
You got to know what it is.

It’s really, it looks like a giant heavy
pestle. Heavy is the important word.

And a cow poop. So as a person listening to this
story, I did have issue with the anthropomorphization

because before we were dealing with monkey and
crap, both animals, they could talk to each other.

I’m accepting that. Okay, now it seems like the
author, the creator of this folk tale, is just like,

well, what do I want in this story? I’ll anthropomorphize
those, but not necessarily everything else.

Got to take a little deep break.
See how many spins he does.

Three. Four. Come
on, buddy. Five. Six.

Holy is a lot. Oh, he on the
seventh one. He’s down. Okay. Good.

So I take a little Dave break
there. Everyone enjoys a little Dave.

So my problem was, yeah,
anthropomorphizing cow poop.

So the B makes sense. It’s in the animal
kingdom, just like the crab in the monkey.

I’ll accept that. The
chestnut, that’s pretty tough.

How do we have a single sentient chestnut? The Usoo is
something carved from a tree. It seems like if you’re

going to anthropomorphize trees, when it’s an Usoo,
the tree had to be cut down. It would be dead by now.

But we’re just going magic, but
the poop was a bit of a stretch.

I was like, why do
you have to do a poop?

And I’m like, oh, it’s Japan.
Japan loves putting poop in stories.

Japan is, I believe, the culture that
popularized the ice cream swirl poop.

And so now if you draw that, people think
it’s poop and not necessarily ice cream.

So this group gets
together. You have the crabs,

the chestnut, the B,
the Usoo, and the poop.

And they’ve teamed up and
they’re going to get that monkey.

They go to the monkey’s house.
The chestnut gets in the fire.

The B hangs out around the
water pail. The cow poop hides in the

dirt floor outside the building
and the Usoo gets on the roof.

Now I explanation to how anything’s
happened. The Usoo, since it’s

sentient somehow, could get on
the roof, we’re just accepting it.

You can see what they’ve set up
is a root Goldberg machine of death.

They’re creating a elaborate
way to torture and kill the monkey.

Which, again, this is dark.
Like when you actually

think about what’s happening,
this is very, very dark.

So the monkey comes
home and he goes to the fire

to warm himself after a
hard day of monkeying.

And then the chestnut pops and
the pop, you know, that little bit

of fire jumps out and hits him
in the arm and it burns his arm.

So he runs outside and he
puts his arm in the water bucket,

which is not sentient, which
actually I just thought of just now.

He puts his arm in the water bucket and
then the B stings him. And then he runs and

he slips in the dirt on the cow poop,
which essentially would kill the cow poop.

I don’t know. I don’t know. They
could have just had the crabs

bring the cow poop over. It didn’t
have to be sentient, but it was.

It’s a character in the story.
He slips on the cow poop and he

falls down and then the Usoo
falls down on him and kills him.

So this is like home
alone. This is like full on

construction of A to B to C
to D to death. Now home alone.

I don’t believe they
killed anybody, but that’s

because it was a kids
movie. This is a kid’s story.

The imagine the large trunk
of a tree falling and crushing

if not the whole monkey, at
least enough of him to kill him.

I don’t really like how
complicated the plan is.

I don’t think you should
do overly complicated plans.

If you’re going to do murder
and stuff, you’re going to do that.

It has to be simple and direct so
you know it’s going to be effective.

This relies on lock if you
hadn’t fallen in the right place.

If the burn hadn’t been strong
enough, the plan fell apart right there.

So the plan was overly complicated.

I think this is supposed to
be the entertaining aspect of

the story for the kids, the
complicated nature of the plan.

But then if you’re going to do that, make it way longer.
Maybe that’s some of the other stories that I didn’t

read is that it is way longer and that is actually the
entertainment is how stupidly complicated the plan is.

But every element of the
plan furthers torture the monkey

before his death. That’s
something to keep in mind.

So I, when I read this story
the first time, went to my

Japanese coworkers and I said
what is the moral of this story?

And most of them could not really
explain it because it’s not forgiveness.

It is clearly and exclusively, you killed my
parents, I’m going to kill you and I’m not just

going to kill you, I’m going to make it painful
and maybe even last as long as possible.

Now, someone else in Japanese society kind
of came to a similar realization as me.

There was a guy named Ryunosuke Akutakawa.

He rewrote the end of
the story so that the crab

children were all arrested
and given the death penalty.

So this guy thought ah,
there is a moral lacking in this

story where the baby crabs
get revenge for their parents.

They need to be punished by the law
because they’ve committed a murder.

So I’m going to give them all the
death penalty so no one survives.

I mean, they actually make
it sound in that way that the

poop and the Usu and the bee
are irrelevant in the chestnut.

Maybe the chestnut, because it’s in
the fire, like it would be dead, right?

The bee, one of bee’s things, you hit dies.

The Usu is the only thing that
technically could have survived

this whole process because
the poop, you slip in the poop.

Yeah, anthropomorphizing those
was a bad idea because you have to

hurt them or kill them to get
them to participate in this plan.

And somehow they agreed to it.

No Japanese person I met could ever
explain to me the actual moral of that.

It was like don’t do bad things.
Like the monkey did a bad thing.

And that’s why revenge
wasn’t acted upon him

so the monkey shouldn’t
have done bad things.

So don’t be bad.

But I was like, is not a
complicated murder also a bad thing?

And that’s where they ran into
problems because it is hard to

deny that the murder torture
saw a movie at the end of this story.

This story is an acceptable way to behave.

I do like that the guy
who rewrote the end

actually also gave
everyone the death penalty.

Like that’s not actually better.
There’s no reconciliation.

There’s no anyone becoming a
better person out of this story.

It’s just death and murder.

Which brings us to our second story,
which is the rabbit and the Tanuki.

The Tanuki is a raccoon
style animal in Japan.

You probably know that.
I don’t want to make any

assumptions about what
people do and don’t know.

But Tanuki’s are famous
in Japan as shapeshifters.

There’s the War of the Tanuki, which
is like humans are encroaching on.

It’s like a jibbly movie or something.

Humans are encroaching on their land.

There’s one scene where
they use their testicle sacks

as they stretch them out
and use them as parachutes.

Other cultures are wonderful
and exciting to learn about.

I did enjoy that. It was very funny. It was
very funny to me because it was so weird.

This is apparently just
part of the Tanuki mythology.

Anyways, let’s get into it.

There was a Tanuki
stealing food from a farmer.

Pretty normal thing for an animal to do.

The farmer caught him and
tied him to a tree, the Tanuki.

He says, “I’m going to come
back later and I’m going to kill you.

” The Tanuki starts to
cry, so we all feel bad.

The farmer’s wife comes
back and she feels bad.

And the Tanuki apologizes
and says, “I won’t do it again.

I’m not going to
steal anymore foods.

” So the old lady in her
kindness unties the Tanuki.

So what does the Tanuki do?

If you haven’t already gotten sort of
the theme of what’s been going on so far,

the Tanuki then murders the
old lady and shapeshifts into her.

So when people come
back, they’re going to see

the old lady, but it’s
actually the Tanuki.

The Tanuki takes the
old lady and brings her

into the house so no
one can see the body.

He then cuts her up and prepares her in
a meal for the farmer when he comes back.

I’m just going to let
that one sit for a bit.

Everyone makes a big deal
about the South Park episode

where he feeds the kid his
own parents or something.

This way, way back.

Hundreds of years ago, the Japanese were
like, “Yep, this is what’s going to happen.

We’re going to have a man
do unknown cannibalism

as part of our folk tale
to teach kids morals.

” Again, it’s just a
revenge story, bud.

So the farmer comes back
and he sits down and eats

dinner and they don’t say
whether he enjoys it or not,

but I’m going to go ahead
and assume he thinks this

is a great dinner because
that just makes it worse.

Then the Tanuki sort of does
the big reveal and says, “Haha,

you’ve just eaten your own wife
and then books it out of there.

” Man, yeah, I don’t know
where to go from there.

There was forced
cannibalism as part of this

story if you really
stop down thinking it.

The farmer is understandably upset.

His friend, the rabbit comes by and
goes, “Hey buddy, what happened?

” He goes, “Well,
I just ate my wife.

” The rabbit vows revenge
on the farmer’s behalf.

There’s a few versions of this story,
but I’ll share the common element.

So I’m only going to use
the common elements

of this story when I
am telling it to you now.

Like the previous story, the
different versions, really all

they do is add more elements
of torture to lengthen the story.

So I’m going to give you the base version and
understand that every other version you could

hear has more aspects or elements of torture
in it before the actual death at the end.

The rabbit befriends the Tanuki.

Then, while they’re one
day while they’re out in the

forest, the rabbit drops a
beehive on the Tanuki’s head.

And then the Tanuki, of course,
gets stings all over his head.

So the rabbit treats the stings
with pepper to make it hurt more.

The Tanuki is carrying kindling,
so this must be on another day.

He’s carrying kindling on the
way back, and they’re walking by.

This story is actually called kachi
kachi yama, which is kachi kachi mountain.

And he’s carrying kindling, and he’s
walking along, and the rabbit’s behind

me and lights the kindling on fire,
setting the Tanuki on fire from behind.

And as soon as he’s like,
“Hey, do you hear that sound?

” Sounds like kachi kachi
kachi kachi is the sound of fire.

And then the rabbit looks
and goes, “Yes, that is

because we are walking
close to kachi kachi yama.

Kachi kachi yama is kachi
kachi kachi mountain, I guess.

” And that’s why you —
famously, you can hear the kachi

kachi sound of fire when
you are close to this mountain.

Of course, it burns his back. It burns
the Tanuki’s back, but it doesn’t kill him.

But that’s when the Tanuki realizes
the rabbit isn’t really his friend.

So then, he challenges
the rabbit to a contest.

I don’t really get this part.

He says, “Let’s race across the lake,
so we’re going to build our own boats.

We’re going to
race across the lake.

” The rabbit carves a boat
out of a tree trunk, so would.

The Tanuki makes his boat out of mud.

I think you can see a
flaw in the Tanuki’s plan.

As they start going across the lake,
the Tanuki’s boat starts to dissolve.

He starts to drown, and the rabbit
hits him on the head with an ore.

This is the weird part of this revenge,
because the revenge part of this —

if you had just left the Tanuki to his
own devices, he would have killed himself.

Like, he wouldn’t — you wouldn’t
actually have to commit murder.

Like, some of the other attempts could
have been considered murder attempts.

This one, he challenged you to a race.

He built an inferior boat.

That inferior boat started to sink.

He went down with it.

He couldn’t swim very well.

You could just let him drown, and
then claim a certain amount of innocence.

But, the rabbit takes it
always that step further.

Like, this is it, the
protagonist, or the hero.

These stories always
takes it that step further

to make sure that they
actually kill the thing.

So the killing blow is the — or
hitting the Tanuki in the head.

Then the rabbit goes back
to the farmer and tells the

tale of his revenge, and I
guess everyone satisfied.

And this is not an eye for an eye.

So, like, you killed my
wife, I’m going to kill you.

That would be an eye for an eye, I think.

This is always —
there’s another element of

I’m going to torture
you before I murder you.

So, it’s an eye for an eye, plus more.

It’s almost like your enemies must suffer.

And then I asked some
Japanese people about this story,

and their version of the
moral was don’t do bad things.

And then when you come
back to them and say,

“Well, is not torturing
someone also a bad thing.

” They’re like, “But that’s
as a result of your actions.

” So, if you hadn’t
committed those actions, you

wouldn’t have been
tortured in the second place.

So, that’s one of the weird
issues of these stories.

We have one more story.

Now, this one is not
about torture and murder.

Those two shared a theme.

And I read them very
close to each other, and

when I asked my Japanese
friends about them,

I never got a satisfactory
moral to this story.

Essentially, they would just
say, “Don’t do bad things.

” But I’m like, “But the
result of you doing a bad

thing was a very complicated,
awful, evil revenge.

” The last story I’m going to do,
though, is called the Boy and the Turtle.

And it’s just — it’s like someone did some
— found some LSD way, way back in the day.

So, there’s a little boy on the beach.

And he’s walking around
and he sees some other boys.

And they’re bullying a turtle.

I don’t know what that means.

I think I guess that just means they’re
playing with a turtle in an unkind way.

Maybe hitting it or
turning it out on the back.

Doing bad things to a turtle.

And I think at that point,
everyone is on the turtle’s sides.

Like, “Don’t do
bad things to turtles.

” Turtles are cool.

This is why the straw
industry suffered so

much when the straw
went up that turtle’s nose,

because when you heard a
turtle, the world unites against you.

So, you know, I don’t use straws.

I legit don’t use straws anymore.

I will only use paper straws.

And it’s because of that turtle.

Because turtles don’t hurt anybody.

Don’t hurt turtles.


So, he chases the boys off.

He says, “Don’t
bully the turtle.

” I don’t know if he’s
a scary person, but

anyway, he gets the
kids to leave them alone.

And then she goes, “Thank you.

Come with me under
the sea to a magical world.

” That’s a great invitation.

It’s almost like Disney should make a
song that sounds very similar to that.

So, they go.

So, the boy in the turtle
go together under the sea

and they go down to this
like undersea castle world.

Somehow the boy can breathe,
not asking any questions.

It’s magic.

This is magic.

The undersea kingdom is magic.

So, I’m perfectly skeptical
of what’s going on here.

The boy attends a
three-day party and he eats

food and he does like
what Japanese people do.

They talk to fish.

He eats.

The thing is, if his Japanese
kid was probably eating fish

and talking to fish, that’s
got to be very uncomfortable.

It’s not exactly the
cannibalism from the previous

story, but there is like
an uncomfortable element

if you’re eating like a similar species
while having a conversation with someone.

But he’s having a good time.

He’s having a party or maybe
they’re just eating a lot of seaweed.

It’s been three days.

It’s time to go.

You can only party for so long.

So, the queen says come here.

I want to thank you for
helping our turtle friend.

Here’s a box.

Don’t open the fucking box.

Already that’s a bit weird.

It’s weird as a present.

Like, don’t open the box.

Here’s a box.

Don’t open the box.

That’s it.

Now, get out.

There’s no explanation as to
why you should open the box.

That is to me the biggest
problem with the story so far.

So the weird present is given to
the boy without any explanation.

It’s just the only thing
that said is here’s a box.

Don’t open the box.

I’m assuming it’s a very nice box.

This is a gift from the queen.

He goes back to the beach
and he’s like, I think it’s different.

This is feel different.

The beach looks different.

Maybe some of the buildings in
the background kind of changed.

That’s weird.

And he figures out
that time in the undersea

kingdom and time in
the world he comes from.

Past differently.

It’s almost like
interstellar black hole kind

of like time, fractioning
gravity situation.

I’m not going to explain it.

We’ll just, again, it’s magic.

But he understands that now
three days under the water in

the underwater party kingdom
equals 300 years in the world.

Which means everyone he
knows, his family, his friends,

everyone he’s ever, you
know, everyone’s ever existed.

They’re all dead now.

Like 200 years ago at least.

They’re dead.

And so he has no home.

He has no life.

He has no sort of world to support him.

Because again, this is not
an adult who made this choice.

This is a child.

And that’s another element that
I think gets forgotten very quickly.

This is a child whose entire support system
in the world is now gone 200 years ago.

He sits down on the
beach and starts to cry.

And then he decides to
do the only logical thing.

Maybe there’s something
in the box that can help me

in this dire situation
that I have been put into.

So he opens the box.

And when he opens the box, he
immediately ages 300 years and dies.

What is going on?

So the box was somehow
holding the difference

in time between the
real world and the boy.

So once the box was open,
that whatever magic was released.

And so his aging, it must have been
incredibly painful for a few seconds.

Like he aged 300 years,
and they don’t give a

time frame, but I’m
going to say very quickly.

But that aging process
must have been incredibly

painful and then just
in a sudden death.

The only thing I can
come up with is you have

a short-term reward,
but at a massive cost.

But the moral of the story actually
seems to be don’t help people.

Because if he hadn’t helped the turtle and
left the boy to just bully the turtle more,

he wouldn’t have gone
under seas, he wouldn’t

have spent those three
days ergo 300 years.

Which means his family
wouldn’t have died and

he would have been
able to live a normal life.

He would have, he lost
his life for helping this turtle.

And I cannot for the life of
me figure out any aspect of this,

of having any sort of moral
that makes any sort of sense.

And then the other question
that I have more than anything

else is why didn’t the queen
give him any sort of explanation?

If she had said, “Hey, look,
time passes differently here.

” So if you go back home and
you open this box, you’re going to

age in the difference the 300
years and you’re going to die.

So don’t open the box.

Then he would know
what was going to happen.

She could have explained that to him.

But then he would have had the question
of, “Well, why did you keep me here for

so long knowing that everything in my
world was going to change and disappear?

And all my family was going to
die, and I’m not going to have a life.”

And then it would have made more sense for
him to just stay in the underwater kingdom.

Like there’s no, all the questions lead
to you helped a turtle and lost everything.

The queen maliciously?

Because I don’t think
there was any ignorance.

She knew, she knew to
say, “Don’t open that box.

” So she knew what was going
to happen if you opened that box.

She didn’t give him any
way to go back to the

real world and actually
have some sort of life.

She just dumped him
and left him on his own.

So is that punishment for
coming to the undersea kingdom?

Was that punishment for helping the turtle?

Was this whole thing
some kind of weird strategy?

But that seems like mental torture
for the kid as he sits there and realizes.

300 years ago, everything
I know is no longer existed.

I don’t have anything
in this world anymore.

I have no life.

My world has ended.

I went and asked some
Japanese people what this means.

Like what is this story about?

And they said, “Well,
it teaches you nothing.

It’s just a fanciful story.

” And it’s like it’s a
fanciful story with one

of the most horrendous
endings to his story.

For someone who has tried to
be a good person, the whole time.

Doing good things
might have short-term

benefits but lead to
the loss in the long-term.

I spent months and months and months trying
to figure out some kind of lesson or story

or moral or point to this
boy in the turtle story.

And I’ve never been able to do it.

If you have an idea, please
post it in the comments.

Please send me a message.

ChunkmyVHS.gmail.com or something.

Because I got nothing.

I’ve asked Japanese
people, “They got nothing.

” They’re just like, “Oh,
it’s just like a fun, weird story.

” I’m like, “No, it’s not.

It’s horrible.

” And it makes me question everything
I understand about Japanese culture.