Dark '70s animation of Japanese fairy tale on tsunamis and death: "The Guiding Jizo"

Matt Alt points ot to a beautiful clip from the 1970s animated show Manga Nippon Mukashibanashi (Animated Japanese Fairy Tales). The legend upon which this particular clip is based is hundreds of years old. Matt writes:

In it, a young mother and child from the island of Kessenuma Oshima happen across a statue called the michibiki jizo -- the guiding bodhisattva. According to local legend, the soul of a person that is about to die appears before this particular jizo the day before they pass away. The mother and child are shocked to see a whole parade of spirits appear before the statue -- male and female, old and young. 

When they return home, the father laughs it off as a figment of their imaginations. But the very next day, when the family is fishing at the seashore, the tide pulls out and doesn't come back in. Minutes later, a massive tsunami wipes out the entire town as the mother, son, and father watch escape to a hilltop. They are the only survivors. 

Given the fact that Kessenuma is in the headlines today for the very same reason, there is no doubt that this "fairy tale" is based on a true story. It's particularly haunting in light of the ancient stone markers that dot the Japanese coastline warning of tsunami from times of old, a literal message to future generations from ancestors long since shuffled off this mortal coil.

[Video Link, 10:42] and Matt Alt's blog.



  1. If I’m not mistaken, right at the beginning it says they are in Miyagi-ken, Kesennuma. Right where the recent devastation happened.

    1. No you’re not mistaken. That’s what I heard right after the traditional fairy tale opening of “Mukashi” (it’s equivalent to “A long time ago” in Western fairy tales).

  2. Mukashi means literally ‘long ago’ and mukashibanashi means ‘tales of long ago’. Calling this a fairy tale is misleading, imho a better translation of this would be ‘Cartoon Tales of Long Ago Japan’, or ‘Japanese Folktale Cartoons’.

    -“there is no doubt that this “fairy tale” is based on a true story”

    Japanese folktales are much more likely to be based on a true story than your average western fairy tale, that’s pretty much the best reason why you shouldn’t translate mukashibanashi as ‘fairy tale’.

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