August is National Peach Month; and if you really love peaches, August 24th is National Peach Pie Day, and August 22nd is National Eat a Peach Day. But in Japan, the most famous peach is MOMOTARO, the Peach Boy! So in honor of Peach Month in the USA and Peach Boy in Japan, I want to take some liberties and retell the legend of MOMOTARO from a slightly peachier perspective…
Many, many years ago, there lived an elderly couple in the rural lands of Japan known as Okayama. They were childless but were content to live a simple, uncluttered life. One day, as the old woman washed their clothes by the clear, crisp water of the river, to her utter amazement she saw the biggest, juiciest looking peach come floating downstream. Elated with her good fortune, she quickly scooped it up and took it back home.
One thing the old lady was good at, was her skill in the kitchen. And her specialty just happened to be Peach Pie. Her pies were so delicious, just the smell of one of her freshly baked pies was enough to bring her husband home, even when he was deep in the woods gathering firewood. In fact, during those days, it worked better than a cell phone ever could.
But just as she made her first shallow cut into the peach, a baby boy sprang out from inside and nearly gave both the old woman and old man a heart attack. They recovered quickly though, when they saw what a cute little boy he was. And so the legend of MOMOTARO was born. The bonus was that the rest of the peach was still good, so the elderly couple was still able to have their peach pie.
In time, MOMOTARO grew up to become a healthy and noble young man, having been raised by old fashioned parents who loved old fashioned peach pie. So when he learned of a band of delinquent Ogres terrorizing the townspeople of Onigashima, he couldn’t stand idly by and watch the injustice. He decided to clean up the village.
Reluctantly, his parents sent him on his mission with nothing more than a handful of homemade kibidango (millet dumplings). Of course, these kibidango were about as delicious as his mother’s peach pies, so he had no trouble recruiting allies on his way to Onigashima, just by offering them the soft chewy desserts in exchange for their fighting spirits. And so it was that this motley crew of a brave boy, a pheasant, a dog and a monkey, approached the great gate to the lair of the Ogres.
The plan was simple. Pheasant flies over the gate and starts the attack on the Ogres, distracting them long enough for MOMOTARO, Dog and Monkey to sneak through a secret passage and launch a full scale offensive. It worked to perfection–after a lot of snarling, biting and yelling, the Ogres just gave up. In a symbolic gesture of surrender, the Ogres had to cut off their horns so they could never threaten the townspeople again, and all the treasures they had stolen were given to MOMOTARO to be returned to the people.
Thus it was that MOMOTARO and his brave band of unlikely soldiers returned home triumphant, heroes with great tales to tell. And since that great adventure, the region of Okayama has been known to grow the best peaches in all of Japan.
Happy National Peach Month everybody!