The Oni Who Sank to the Bottom of the Sea

The hurricane season is upon us. From August, the Japanese archipelago is visited by typhoons, which are similar to hurricanes but originate in the China Sea or western Pacific Ocean. The large, outlying islands of Okinawa, Kyushu and Shikoku are often hit first and the hardest by these violent storms. The legend of The Oni Who Sank to the Bottom of the Sea comes from Kure, a seaside town on the island of Shikoku, which is naturally protected by three, unusually shaped boulders at the entrance to its harbor. As in many other parts of the world, it is said that supernatural giants - called oni in Japanese - placed the boulders there.

Oni are popular characters in Japanese folktales and legends and are distinguished by their tremendous size, strength and fearful appearance - horns on their heads, sharp teeth and tiger skin pants attire. While the oni in this tale are not identified by their color, oni are often classified as being red or blue. And unlike the oni in other tales, our protagonist has an interesting mix of human and superhuman qualities and like nature itself, is both fearful and benevolent. The dramatic text written by Miyoko Matsutani, a master Japanese storyteller and writer, and the rustic simplicity of the illustrations by the award-winning Eigoro Futamata combine to make an unforgettable telling of how an oni saved an old man, his grandson and the village of Kure from a deadly typhoon.

The Oni Who Sank to the Bottom of the Sea performed by Tara McGowan

The Oni Who Sank to the Bottom of the Sea performed in Japanese by Kazuko Ute

 

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