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Japanese fairy tales    Oni     Tengu     Kitsune     Tanuki     Kami

The Mountain Kami and the Ugly Fish

In ancient times there was a village of prosperous people. They were prosperous because the peasants of the village were friends with the very kami of the mountain. So he helped them to grow good crops, to drive away both pests and the evil influences. Every autumn the kami would return to the mountains and up to the peak as the villagers watched. In the spring we would come down out of the mountain and into the village where the peasants would wait. For they were never without a kami when they planted their rice and so they called him the kami of the rice fields in spring. He was a shy kami of the mountains, whose face would blush with modesty as if he were a young girl.
But something happened in the spring of this story. As always the kami of the mountain came to the country and the farmers planted their rice. They greeted him as they should, with honors as they presented him with gifts and arranged for refreshments. The kami of the mountain waked around the houses, and through the fields and even to the creek where he sat down on the shore to rest. As he sat on the shore of the mountain stream he looked down at his reflection and wailed at what he saw.
“Oh, oh! That’s terrible, terrible. I never knew I was such a freak!” he cried. “What a face. How embarrassing and shameful.”
The Mountain Kami wept bitter tears, picked up his belongings and ran headlong up to the mountains leaving the bewildered peasants behind.
Wait,” they screamed. “We love you and honor you!”
The mountain kami ran to the mountains without looking back and didn’t hear their cries.
“What will we do if he never comes back?” the frightened peasants asked themselves.
The kami hid himself in the mountain forest, leaving the village in dire trouble. Seedlings became stunted, the flooded fields began to dry and the trees in the mountain forest began to stop growing all together. Not knowing what to do the farmers went to a wise old woman and told her about their misfortune.
“As old as I am, as long as I’ve lived in this world, I don’t remember anything like this mountain kami,” she began. “He really is ugly.”
“Yes, really,” the peasants sighed. “But that doesn’t matter.” He’s our friend and we need him.”
“Certainly,” the wise woman agreed. “But he is very shy, and all that time he visited among you he never knew that his face was ugly. And now he is ashamed of it. That is why he fled from you. So you must find someone who is more ugly then the kami of the mountain,” the old woman advised. “Search for the ugliest one in the world.”
“Who else is so ugly as the kami of the mountains? The peasants wondered. But they could not think of anyone.
“Okay, I will give you advice,” the old woman told them. “Go up to the creak and catch a mountain fish. Look at it carefully for nobody in the world is so ugly as it with its eyes bugged out.”
“The mountain fish, of course no one is so ugly as that!” the peasants exclaimed happily.
So they went up to the creek and caught the fish, then started laughing.
“Ha, ha, ha, oh what a mug!.” They laughed. “Hilarious.”
“Ah yes so ugly!”
They put the fish in a large bucket and ran up to the mountain, where they soon found the entrance to the kami’s home. They knocked on the door.
“Open the door for us kami of the mountain,” they called. “Come and look what we brought you.”
The Kami opened the door of the mountain and looked into the bucket with the fish sitting there, its eyes bugged out, jaws moving up and down.
“Wow!” the kami said with surprise. “There is something even uglier in this world then me. Look at her eyes rotating!” the kami laughed.
So the mountain kami laughed with the peasants, and they returned with the mountain kami full of good humor. So once more the village was able to continue to be prosperous and the rice fields grew plentiful, and the trees matured with plenty of fruit. And the peasants lived with the kami of the mountains in peace and harmony forever more.