Google and a Story from Japan

Kittens from Japan

kitsune_korinWhen I am doing research on a story Google is my best friend. I search for alternate versions, history and original sources of the story.

Once I have found out what I can about the story I then start to research parts of the story. I try gather as much information on the stories until I have an idea of the environment and characters of the story. This can often be a rabbit hole of information and it takes some effort to not get distracted by all the pretties that I come across.

An example of this is when I was preparing the story about the Young Monk and the Kitsune (magic fox from Japan)…..I knew I had read a version of it somewhere, and I knew that at one point in the story the Buddha statue had stuck out his tongue…..

Google Search: monk fox buddha tongue

Result: Asian-Pacific Folktales and Legends, By Jeannette Faurot, pages 53

There it was! I read through it and then dove into research:

Google Search: How do Japanese start their stories?

Result: Mukashi, mukashi. Roughly translated to “long, long ago”, though I would prefer to speak to a Japanese storyteller about this….

“Long ago there was an acolyte called Zuiten at a mountain temple.”

Google Search: mountain trees in japan

Result: cedar, maple and beech trees

When ever the priest went away and left Zuiten to take care of the temple alone, a fox would come to the entrance of the priests living quarters and call,  “Zuiten, Zuiten!”

Google Search: talking foxes japan

Result: History – Magic fox in Japan is called the Kitsune (keyt – su- ne), and the more magical they were the more tails they had, up to nine.  They make the sound of kon kon or gon gon. 

(this was an absolutely lovely rabbit hole of information. I am now completely in love with this creature)

This back and forth between me and Google continued until I had worked and added details that I wanted and the story came to life below.


 Young Monk and the Kitsune

Mukashi, mukashi, a young monk name Zuiten lived in Japan at a mountain temple on the rocky crags near a forest of  cedar, maple and beech trees. Zuiten was training to become a monk, and when all the other monks went into the forest to meditate and study he stayed at the temple to do chores.
He had to sweep the temple,
shine the golden statue of Buddha, 
and cook the rice the meals and for the other priests.
Often when he was alone he would hear someone calling his name at the front of the temple.
All Softly : Zui- ten! 3x (ding dong melody)
Zuiten opened the sliding door at the front of the temple and looked out, but there was nothing to be seen. He went back to his work and then heard the sound again.
All Softly : Zui- ten! 3x (ding dong melody)
Now Ziuten was a clever boy, so he closed the door and then watched from the window.
He saw from the edges of the forest a small red fox with a big fat tail sneaking around at the edge of the forest.
It looked this way, and that. It crept towards the temple and then disappeared! In its place was a beautiful red bird singing its heart out.
Then the bird became the fox again. The fox crept forward towards the temple and then disappeared! There instead was a shiny red jasper rock, laying in the green grass. It rolled around a bit and then became a fox again.
The fox crept closer and closer, then disappeared! Standing in its place was a little girl with black hair and a red dress, whistling a soft tune.
Zuiten knew what he was looking at. He knew this was a kitsune, a magic fox who wanted to trick him.
The little girl became a fox once again and crept close to the big door at the temple. Then, as Zuiten watched, the fox slid his big fat tail across the door making a “Zui” sound. It then knocked his head against the door making a “ten” sound and if he did it quickly enough it began to sound like
All Softly : Zui- ten! 3x (ding dong melody)
That is who had been calling him! But, Zuiten was a clever boy and had an idea how to catch the fox. He came close to the door and heard the fox brush is tail making the “Zui” sound and as the fox leaned forward to make the “tan”sound Zuiten opened the door and the fox came tumbling in!
Well, the fox looked at Zuiten and Zuiten looked at the fox and the great chase began. Round and round the shrine room until the fox was just a red blur and then – the fox disappeared!
Zuitan looked around and could not see the fox, but saw that instead of one Buddha sitting on the shrine there were two!
One was a fox- buddha and one was the real Buddha statue. How would Zuiten figure out which was which? And how would he explain it to the senior monks if they came back and found the two Buddhas?
But, Zuiten was a clever boy and he walked over to the shrine, but his hands together and said loudly, “The fox can’t fool me! The real Buddha statue sticks out his tongue when there is chanting, so the fox can’t fool me.”
He began to beat the drum and chant – Nam-myoho-renge-kyo”
All:  Children beat on their legs and chant along
And slowly the fox-Buddha stuck out his tongue!
(Stick out tongue, really the children find it hilarious)
Zuiten put the drum away and said loudly, “And then the real Buddha follows me down the hall to the kitchen for his bath!”
The fox-buddha got off the shrine and boldly followed Zuiten to the kitchen.
Zuiten got out a big pot and filled it with water. “I must give the real buddha a bath!”
Fox-buddha climbed in.
Zuiten put the lid on tight and put it over the fire.
The little fox-Buddha got hotter and hotter. He did not like the water and and he began to until began to scratch and tried to get out.
Now Zuiten was a clever boy, but he was also a kind boy, and just when the water was almost too hot he took the pot over to the door and took off the lid. Out popped the fox who ran into the forest of cedar, maple and beech trees and never bothered that clever boy again.
 Now in the original version the young monk cooks and eats the fox. But since I was creating the story for young American audience I thought it best to leave him alive. That is the way of stories though, they change over time and I hope I have done this one justice.
Please feel free to tell this version yourself, and let me know how it goes!



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