A folktale of Fukushima

The Giants of Mount Bandai
Japanese French Vietnamese chinese

This is a story of long ago, in the days when Mount Bandai was known as Mount Byouno. A married couple, called Long-Arms and Long-Legs, lived on the mountain.

The legs of Long Legs were unusually long – so long that whenever he straightened his back, he could touch the clouds; so long that he could stride over to Mount Hakase in Takada.

The arms of Long Arms were so long, that she was able to sit on top of Mount Bandai, reach over to the lake at Inawashiro and wash her face by splashing it with water from the lake.

Now, this married couple would often quarrel. And what quarrels there were! Long-Legs would pull on the dark clouds, making the sky black and the long arms of the wife would scoop up water out of Lake Inawashiro and make it rain.

Although Mount Bandai is now a tourist area, full of beautiful buildings, it was originally deserted with a sparse scattering of houses.

One day, a long, long time ago, an old lady was hanging out the bed linen. "My, my. My grandson Taro wet the bed last night. Thankfully, it is sunny today, so I shall hang the bedding out to dry."

Long-Arms was watching this from the top of the mountain. "Grandma is putting the bed linen out to dry. Quickly, you must make it rain," she told her husband. And indeed, Long-Legs did make the rain fall, but in doing so he also struck his wife. This made her so angry that lightning flew from her eyes, which she used to fight back. All the rain and lightning was troubling to the villagers. They were unable to harvest their crops because of the lack of sunshine.

"If only Long-Arms and Long-Legs would disappear," the villagers exclaimed whenever they met together. In fact, it was the only thing they talked about.

One day, a priest visited the area. "I heard talk of monsters called Long-Arms and Long-Legs living on the mountain. I came to get rid of them," he said.

"But priest, how can you get rid of those giants with that small body of yours? They will eat you. Turn back, please turn back."
"Don't worry. I will be fine," the priest said. He paid no heed to the concern of the villagers and climbed up the mountain. And he shouted out in a voice that seemed too loud to come from a slightly built man. "Anyone here called Long-Arms and Long-Legs? If you two can squeeze your huge bodies into this tiny pot that I'm carrying, you will be the victors and I will leave this mountain. If you cannot squeeze into the pot, then you must leave this mountain and I will take up residence inside the pot."

As the priest spoke, the two giants squeezed themselves into the pot the priest was holding.

"Hey, priest. We've squeezed ourselves into this pot. It's our victory, so you must leave this mountain as quickly as possible," they said.

"Oh, you're right. But wait, wait!" said the priest. He was carrying the lid of the pot in his breast pocket. He pulled it out and quickly tightened it around the top. He tore off some material from his sleeve and wrapped it around and around the pot. Then he took the pot to the foothills of Mount Bandai, buried it and created a small shrine there.

After this, in order to make sure that Long-Arms and Long-Legs never got out, the priest diligently chanted a sutra and finally left the shrine, satisfied that the giants would no longer bother Mount Bandai and its inhabitants.

And indeed from that day on, Long-Arms and Long-Legs were never seen again.

And the true identity of that little priest? It is said that it was the great priest Kukai*.

*Kūkai, also known posthumously as Kōbō-Daishi (The Grand Master Who Propagated the Buddhist Teaching), 774–835, was a Japanese monk, civil servant, scholar, poet, and artist, founder of the Shingon or "True Word" school of Buddhism.