Kaguya-hime, “radiant night princess”

02Mar07

Recently I stumbled across the legend of Kaguya-hime, a princess from the moon, born out of a bamboo shoot. From Wikipedia:

The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter primarily details the life of the mysterious Kaguya-hime, princess of the Young Bamboo. The main characters in this legend are Taketori-no Okina (竹取翁, the Old Man who Harvests Bamboo), Kaguya-hime (かぐや姫, Princess Kaguya, “radiant night princess”), five princes, and the reigning Emperor of Japan (Tennō). Kaguya-hime is a mysterious girl, discovered inside the stalk of a great bamboo plant by Taketori-no Okina when she was a tiny baby, who is said to be from Tsuki-no Miyako (月都, “The Capital of the Moon”) and who has unusual hair that “shines like gold”.

You can’t get much more terribly mythic than that, and the story certainly seems to fall in line with the host of tales of foundlings who eventually turn out to be secret princesses/heroes/deities: Athena springs fully formed from her father’s head, Momotaro is found inside a giant peach, Moses among the reeds, and we probably shouldn’t forget Little Orphan Annie either. There’s something about this that reminds me of why I like eating at sushi-boat restaurants so much — the beautiful sushi-object on the boat, gleaming in all its finished completeness, manages to erase (in its brightness) the entire history of its production. It’s like a kind of fantastic harvest where you simply pluck your food straight from the source, as if it were boat-fruit or something. This is a doubly strange effect since usually you’re sitting directly in front of the sushi chefs who are making what you’re eating right in front of your eyes, but somehow the magic of the boat manages to supersede the literal.

And here’s the full story of Kaguya-hime at Wikepedia.



2 Responses to “Kaguya-hime, “radiant night princess””

  1. 1 Jacqui Cain

    In Monterey there is a place where the sushi boats are shaped like Sea Otters. The illusion that each morsel is brought up fresh by the impish diver just for your pleasure is very hard to resist!

  2. 2 Trane DeVore

    If I lived in Monterey I don’t think there’s any way that I could resist such a place. The idea of sea otters emerging from the ocean with fresh and tasty morsels that they’ve collected just for me is almost too much to bear.


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