A folktale of Fukushima

Tsukiko and Hoshiko
Japanese French Vietnamese chinese

A long, long time ago, a widowed father lived with his daughter, Tsukiko. His daughter was still only very small – about four or five years of age.

"I cannot raise her on my own," he said and he took a wife.

His second wife was a good woman and she took great care of the first wife's daughter.

However, in time, the second wife also gave birth to a baby girl. As her stepdaughter was named Tsukiko (child of the moon), she named her own daughter Hoshiko (child of the stars). Great pleasure was taken in the raising of Tsukiko and Hoshiko, but one day the father announced that he was leaving home to work and that he would be gone for a very long time. The second wife was left alone to look after Tsukiko and Hoshiko.

However, as the girls grew older, the second wife began to favor her own daughter more and began to feel that Tsukiko was in the way.

"If it wasn't for Tsukiko, I would be able to take greater care of my daughter. How can I get rid of her?" After much deliberation, she decided that the only way forward was for her to kill Tsukiko. She put poison into a sweet bun and planned to give it to her stepdaughter. Her daughter Hoshiko, however, was very fond of her big sister Tsukiko.

"Hoshiko. Tonight, I am going to give Tsukiko a sweet bun. You must not eat it," the second wife told her daughter.

Hoshiko realized her mother was planning to cause her big sister harm, so she warned Tsukiko.

"Tsukiko. Mother is going to give you a sweet bun tonight. Whatever you do, you must not eat it."
"Very well," replied Tsukiko and she refrained from eating the sweet bun.

The next morning, the stepmother was surprised when the two girls greeted her. "Good morning, mother."
"So, my plan was thwarted. What should I do next? I must split her head open with a spear in the middle of the night and kill Tsukiko," she thought.

Catching on to this, Hoshiko made a pillow out of adzuki beans and prepared for the worst. "You must sleep by my side tonight, in my futon," she told Tsukiko. So the two girls slept side by side in Hoshiko's futon.

Night came. The stepmother knew nothing of Hoshiko's plan and as it was pitch black, she was deceived. "This is Tsukiko's pillow. This is her head," she thought and she struck the pillow with her spear. As the pillow was stuffed with adzuki beans, the stepmother heard a squishing sound and was convinced she had killed Tsukiko. "I am so relieved," she said.

However, the next morning, the stepmother was surprised when once more the two girls greeted her. "Good morning, mother."
"I failed once more. What should I do next?"

This time, she came up with the idea of putting Tsukiko in a coffin and burying her. The second wife ordered the undertaker to make a coffin. Once again, Hoshiko guessed what her mother was planning.

"Mr. Undertaker, could you please open a hole in the coffin?" Hoshiko asked the undertaker in secret and indeed, he opened a tiny hole in a corner of the coffin.
Then Hoshiko spoke to her mother. "Mother, I would like to eat roasted soybeans."
"If that's what you want, I'll make as many roasted soybeans as you can eat," her mother replied, proceeding to roast some soybeans.
"Mother, I'd like to eat some dangos*."
"Oh, dangos? They're simple enough to make," said Hoshiko's mother, and she made lots and lots of dangos.

Once the coffin was made, the second wife went to the other villagers and said, "I went in to check on my stepdaughter Tsukiko this morning and she was dead. As my youngest daughter is too young to be close to a corpse, I would like to bury Tsukiko at the foot of the mountain."

Hoshiko was shocked. "My mother is a terrible person," she thought. After all, it wasn't Tsukiko's fault that she had lost her mother so early.

The second wife ordered Tsukiko to get into the coffin and she began to hammer nails into the lid of the coffin. The villagers, of course, had no idea what was going on and they were about to take the coffin to the foot of the hill to bury it when Hoshiko said, "Oh, please wait!" She moved over to the coffin and covertly stuffed sesame seeds into the hole she had asked the undertaker to open. Unaware of this, the villagers carried the coffin to the bottom of the mountain and buried it.

Hoshiko worried about Tsukiko every day. "Although my big sister may have eaten the soybeans and dangos that I packed inside the coffin, she may have died of starvation by now," she said. So, she followed the trail of sesame seeds that had fallen through the hole in the coffin and had started to sprout until she reached the spot where Tsukiko was buried. The earth was piled high where the grave had been dug and it was surrounded by lots of sprouting sesame plants. Hoshiko frantically started to dig. However it was impossible for her childlike hands to dig very deep.

A rifleman was passing by and he asked Hoshiko what she was doing.

"My big sister is buried alive here. My big sister is buried alive here," she replied.
"Oh, I see!" said the rifleman and hurriedly began to dig.

When they opened the lid of the coffin, Tsukiko was looking tired and drawn, but thanks to eating the soybeans and dangos that Hoshiko had stored in there, she was still alive.

"Oh, I'm so relieved! So relieved!" said Hoshiko happily. "Tsukiko, let's go home. I will talk to my mother about this, so let's go home."
"No, I will never go home. Not to that house," replied Tsukiko.
"But if we don't go home, what will you do?"
"Find a house somewhere around here where I can stay for a while. If we find somewhere, then that's where I will live. You must be worried about your mother, so please go home," said Tsukiko.
"If you're not going home, than neither am I," said Hoshiko.
So the two girls searched for a house and they found a creaky shack where they decided to live.

The girls' father returned at last after a long trip working away from home. "Where are Tsukiko and Hoshiko?" he asked.
"You stayed away so long the two girls left to search for you and they never came back. I don't know where they are, I'm so sorry," said the man's second wife.

The father wanted to find his daughters, so he picked up a gong and left, saying, "I'm going to search for them."
"Tsukiko, where are you? Hoshiko, where are you?" (Ding, ding, ding) Tsukiko, where are you? Hoshiko, where are you?" (Ding, ding, ding) The father hit the gong as he walked. But no matter how far he went, he could not find them. He cried so hard that he could not see a thing. With his tears blinding him, he was calling out his daughters' names and continued to strike the gong as he walked. By chance, he walked past the creaky shack where Tsukiko and Hoshiko were living.

The two sisters heard someone calling out their names and they flew out of their house saying, "It must be father. It must be father!"

"It's Tsukiko, father!" cried Tsukiko.
"It's Hoshiko, father!" cried Hoshiko.
"I was weeping so much I couldn't see a thing," he said. Tsukiko's tears fell into her father's left eye and Hoshiko's tears fell into her father's right eye. And lo and behold, their father's eyes healed and opened.
"Oh, that's so much better!" he said and the three of them talked about what had happened since their father had gone away.

"Do not worry, girls. I am here now. Please come home with me."
However, Tsukiko was adamant. "I will not go home!" she said.
"If you don't go home, then I won't either," added Hoshiko.
"But if you don't come home, what will you do?" the man asked his daughters.
"I will ascend into the sky and become a star," said Tsukiko.
"If Tsukiko is going to become a star, then I also will ascend into the sky and become a star," added Hoshiko.
"Well, if you are both ascending into the sky, I will follow you, my daughters. I will become the sun," said their father and on the count of three, they all ascended into the heavens. The father became the sun, and Tsukiko and Hoshiko became stars.

By the way, what do you think happened to the man's second wife? She became a mole. As you know, moles have bad eyesight. She was forced to live underground forever as a punishment for being nasty to her stepdaughter and she lost her eyesight in the process.

*dangos – rice cakes