Kintaro (金太郎)

Kintoki is the childhood name of SAKATA no Kintoki (his name is sometimes written as "公時"instead of "金時." Also, Kintaro is the title of legendary literature and stories for children for which Kintaro is the hero.

History and legend

There are many legends about Kintaro. According to a record in Kintoki-jinja Shrine (shrine in which Kintaro is enshrined) in Oyama-cho, Sunto-gun, Shizuoka Prefecture, he was born in May, 956. It is said that Yaegiri, a daughter of the carver Jubei, conceived Kintaro when she visited Kyoto and met Kurando SAKATA who served in the Imperial Court. Yaegiri returned to her hometown and gave birth to Kintaro, upon the death of Sakata, she decided not go back to Kyoto, but raised Kintaro in her hometown.

Kintaro grew into a healthy, dutiful and gentle child whom it is said practiced sumo wrestling with a bear on Mt. Ashigara.

On April 28, 976, he met MINAMOTO no Yorimitsu, who happened to pass along the Ashigara-toge road and was impressed by the strength of Kintaro, and engaged him as a retainer. He changed his name to Kintoki SAKATA and went Kyoto and became a member of Yorimitsu Shitenno (four loyal retainers of Yorimitsu). The other members of the Yorimitsu's Shitenno were Tsuna WATANABE, Suetake URABE and Sadamitsu USUI.

On April 28, 990, they vanquished Shuten Doji (the leader of a group of bandits that roamed the region around Kyoto) who lived on Mt. Oe (currently Fukuchiyama City, Kyoto Prefecture). Shuten Doji terrorized Kyoto with his evil acts. MINAMOTO no Yorimitsu and the members of Shitenno dressed as yamabushi (mountain priest) and got rid of Shuten Doji using an alcoholic drink containing a sleeping drug.

On January 17, 1012, when he was on his way to Tsukushi (present Kitakyushu City) to overthrow bandits in Kyushu, Kintoki SAKATA contracted a serious fever and died in Mimasaka Katsutaso on Sakushu road (present Shoo Town in Okayama Prefecture). He was fifty-five years old when he died.

People in Katsuta adored Kintoki and established Kurigara (meaning adamantine courage)-jinja Shrine to mourn him. The shrine is presently called Kurikira-jinja Shrine.

The above describes the legend of Kintaro as recorded in the Kintoki-jinja Shrine. However, some say his existence is doubtful. According to historical materials at that time such as FUJIWARA no Michinaga's diary, "Mido Kanpakuki," an excellent guardsman named SHIMOTSUKENU no Kintoki served Michinaga. It seems that this Kintoki was gradually modified into Kintaro. In "Konjaku monogatari shu" (collection of tales of present and past) that were recorded approximately 100 years after the time of Yorimitsu and Michinaga, it is recorded that Kintoki served as a retainer of Yorimitsu. The present legend of Kintaro was perfected in the Edo period, and the image of a boy with immense physical strength among Yorimitsu's Shitenno became fixed in popular culture through Joruri (dramatic narrative chanted to a shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese banjo) accompaniment) and Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors).

He became the model of dolls for the Boys' Festival in May as an active boy wearing a diamond shaped bib with a battle-ax on his shoulder riding on the back of a bear.
Based on this figure, rhombic bibs used for babies and toddlers all over Japan were also called 'Kintaro.'

With respect to legends of his birth, one legend has it that his mother was a mountain witch and his father was the god of lightning and another where he was a baby that was given to Yaegiri by a red dragon on the top of Mt. Kintoki.

The 'Kintoki bean' is named after him, and the 'Kinpira' style of cooking is named after his son Kinpira SAKATA.

In both Minamiashigara City neighboring Oyama town, there are many legends about Kintaro and there are many differences in the contents of the legends of the two cities.

Other than those, there are legends associated with Kintaro in various locations such as at the grave in the Mangan-ji Temple (Kawanishi City), Kawanishi City, Hyogo Prefecture and Nagahama City in Shiga Prefecture.

In the Kintoki-jinja Shrine, Oyama town, Sunto-gun, Shizuoka Prefecture, there are legends associated with Kintaro surrounding the Chorori nanataki waterfall and the Dairokutensha shrine.

It is said that water of Chorori nanataki waterfall was used for Kintaro's first bath when he was born and it is located in the back of his residence which is now the site of Kintoki-jinja Shrine. Because Kintaro grew up healthy and became an excellent commander, people in the neighborhood used water of this waterfall for their first born. In Minamiashigara City, however, there is a waterfall called Yuhi no taki, and legend there has it that Kintaro was born in the residence of Shimanchoja and water from this waterfall was used for this first bath.

Kintaro and his mother had great faith in the Dairokutensha shrine and while his mother, Yaegiri, dedicated steamed rice with red beans, or fish, Kintaro caught killifishes and put the live fish in a bowl in front of the shrine as an offering.

Nagahama and Maibara Cities in Shiga Prefecture were previously part of Sakata County and it is said that SAKATA no Kintoki was from Sakata County. Even now, there are several Ashigara-jinja Shrines (足柄神社 and 芦柄神社) and children's sumo competitions are still held in Nagahama City. The region was the base of the ancient and powerful Okinaga clan and Kintoki was a member of the clan. It says that the character 王 (king) is a hieroglyphic character representing a war ax and the figure with a bib symbolizes a blacksmith and, therefore, it was a powerful clan that was among the first to introduce the use of iron forging.

Children's song
The children's song 'Kintaro,' that begins with 'masakari katsuide' (having a war ax on the shoulder), was published in 'Yonen Shoka' (children's songs) in 1900. (For your reference, this is not 'masakari katsuida' as it is often sung erroneously.)
Lyrics by Kazusaburo ISHIHARA, music by Torazo TAMURA

[Original Japanese]