Long, long ago in a village far from thecapital,
a baby boy was born. Now there was nothing unusual about that, except
that this child was no bigger than your little finger. His parents
didn't care how tiny he was, though. They were delighted to be blessed
with such a beautiful son, and they showered him with love.
They named him "Issun Boshi," which means "Inch-High Priestling."
Issun Boshi never did get very much taller. Even after several years had passed, he was still about as big as your little finger. It certainly wasn't that he didn't eat enough-his appetite was the same as any normal, healthy boy's. And he was cheerful full of energy, and very strong for his size.
One day while Issun Boshi was playing outside, he climbed to the top of a tall tree. "Wow!" he cried. "What a big world it is!" He could see a great river winding and winding away into the distance.
That night, Issun Boshi asked his father, "Pa, where does that river flow to?
"Why, to the other side of the mountains, son."
"What's on the other side of the mountains?"
"Well, that's where the capital, Kyoto, is. And in the capital, there are lots and lots of people. And big temples and mansions, and estates where the samurai warriors live. . . Oh, it´s a very exciting place."
From that moment on, Hoshi, as his parents called him, could think of nothing but the capital. One day he went to his
parents and told them he'd made a decision.
"I'm going to the capital."
"I'm going to the capital to become a
His mother and father tried desperately to make him change his mind, but in vain. At last, seeing how determined he was, they gave in. His father found a needle and straw to serve as a sword and scabbard, and his mother gave him a rice bowl to use as a boat and a chopstick to paddle it with. The next day they all walked to the river.
"Pa. . . Ma. . . Take care of yourselves."
"You too, son." '
"Be careful, Hoshi."
The inch,high youngster began paddling downstream toward the capital.
"Goodbye!" Hoshi took a fond last look at his old hometown as the swift current of the river carried him off. Along the way, his rice-bowl boat slammed into rocks, dropped over waterfalls, bounced through rapids, and was tossed about in raging storm. But Issun Boshi never gave up . Tiny as he was,his dream only grew bigger, his ambition greater, as he overcame each new peril.
Many weeks went by before Hoshi at last caught sight of his destination. "The capital!
There's the capital! I made it!" Tired as he was, Issun Boshi paddled for all he was worth.
The capital was even larger and more beautiful than he had imagined. There were more grand estates than you could count,
and Hoshi stopped before the grandest of them all. "This is the place for me," he declared, knocking on the gate.
The estate belonged to the famous samurai, Lord Sanjo. When Hoshi was brought before him, the great man was astounded to see how tiny his visitor was. But could tell that the little fellow was full of spirit.
"Enterprising chap, aren't you?" said Lord Sanjo after he'd heard Hoshi's story. "All right, why don't you stay here and serve
me? I'm sure we can find a place for you."
Hoshi was given a job as guard and plaumate to Lord Sanjo´s only daughter, Haruhime. Soon he and the lovely maiden became the best of friends. Together they read books, practiced writing, and played music-Hoshi beating a tiny hand drum while Haruhime plucked at her koto.
Issun Boshi also trained every day at swordsmanship. His heart was still set on becoming a great samurai. And while he
passed his time in this way, chasing his dream, the years went quickly by. . .
It was spring in the capital-the beautiful season. One day when the cherry trees were all in full bloom, Haruhime decided to visit Kiyomizu Temple to worship beneat the famous blossoms there.
Now, at that time there were rumors of hideous demons who would come out at night abd kidnap lovely young girls. To
guard against this, Lord Sanjo selected seven of his strongest warriors to accom, pany Haruhime on her visit to the temple. Issun Boshi also volunteered to go along.
They arrived at Kiyomizu Temple safely. It was after praying there, as they walked it home on the dark, winding mountain road, that a ferocious demon suddenly stepped out of the brush in front of them.
"Eeek!" The women in the group fell trembling to the ground.
"A d-d-demon!" The supposedly brave and strong warriors ran for their lives at the sight of the huge red monster whit horns, long claws, and sharp fangs.
"I'll take that juicy-looking girl right there," growled the demon, pointing at Haruhime.
"Oh no you won't, you ugly devil," said Issun Boshi, standing in front of the creature. But he was so small that the demon only looked around bewildered wondering where the voice had come from.
"Down here, right in front of your big fat nose! It is I, the samurai Issun Boshi, who'll make you wish you'd never been born!"
"What's this?" grunted the demon. "Ah, ha,ha,ha! Plesky little insect!" The monster picked Hoshi up and tossed him into its
foul-smelling mouth. Gulp!
"Hoshi-I-I!" cried Haruhime as her courageous bodyguard disappeared down the demon's throat.
"The little pest is gone, my sweet. Ha, ha! Now it's just you and me." No sooner had the demon said this than it doubled over,clutching its stomach and shriekin , "Ow! Stop it! That hurts!"
Inside the monster's belly, Issun Boshi had drawn is needle,sword and was slashing and jabbing.
"Please stop! I'll be good, I promise!" screamed the demon.
"All right, then," came Hoshi's muffled voice. "Open your mouth and stick out your tongue."
The demon did as it was told, and out popped Issun Boshi, waving his needle. "Haruhime!" he called. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, Hoshi. Thanks to you."
Issun Boshi looked up at the enormous demon and shouted, "Don't you ever show your face around here again!
"Yes, sir. Ow!
Whatever you say Wa-a-ah!" The demon fled in tears, holding its stomach.
When it had gone, Haruhime spotted something the monster had left behind. "It's a magic hammer!" she exclaimed. "This will
grant any wish you make. Hoshi, my hero, what would you like?"
"I. . . I'd like to be bigger. . ."
Haruhime smiled and sat in front of him. Shaking the magic hammer, she chanted "Grow tall, Issun Boshi. Six feet tall, Issun Boshi!" And with every shake of the hammer, Hoshi grew taller and taller. Finally before the far maiden stood a handsome. long-legged, broad-shoulered young man.
Thus it was that only a few short years after leaving his country home, Issun Boshi realized his dream. He became a renowned samurai, as famous in the capital for his fine looks and manly appearance as for his skill in conquering demons. He married the beautiful Haruhime, and Lord Sanjo gave them a splendid new estate of their own. Hoshi sent for his mother and father, who came to stay with him and his bride, and they all lived happily ever after.