An Analysis of Japan’s Momotaro (The Peach Boy)

Author: Valerie Yap (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Speaker: Valerie Yap
Topic: Linguistic Anthropology
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


This paper investigates the cultural significance and impact a well-known Japanese folktale Momotaro (lit. The Peach Boy) has had since it became widespread in the late 19th/early 20th century. Analysis and research of the story revealed that Momotaro, both the tale and the character, had been used to spread imperial war propaganda during World War 2. Not surprisingly, this metaphorical usage of a popular folktale incited various other political parties to rewrite the tale of Momotaro to reflect their own beliefs and ideologies. Yet, even the native Japanese speaker whose narration of Momotaro recorded for the paper no longer knows how or why Momotaro came to be so popular, nor the role of the tale in Japan’s wars. At the same time, existing scholarly literature on this topic is scarce. Through discussion of the various ways in which Japan has capitalised on the fame of Momotaro, this paper seeks to document the contribution of Momotaro as a linguistic and literary form to Japanese anthropology.

Keywords: Linguistic Anthropology, linguistics, Japan, folktale