My Lord Bag of Rice

In Japan there is a tale known as Towara Toda monogatari which tells the story of the hero Fujiwara no Hidesato. One day Hidesato decided to set off in search of adventure. He was heading towards Lake Biwa and on the path ahead of him near the lake, he saw a serpent-like creature blocking the path. Although he hesitated at first, he was a brave man and decided to carry on regardless. As he came to the serpent, he simply stepped over it and continued walking. 

'Towara Toda Hidesato with Bow and Dragon' - Utagawa Kuniyoshi, ca. 1843.

Suddenly, he heard a voice calling out and when he turned around he saw a beautiful regal woman on the path. There was no sign of the serpent at all. She explained that she was in fact a Dragon Princess (in some versions a Dragon King) and her home was under the water beneath the bridge. She continued to explain that she had transformed herself into a serpent to test the bravery of passers-by, and that Hidesato was the first not to run away.

'Towara Toda Hidesato and the Dragon Woman' - Ochiai Yoshiiku, 1864.

At this point she began to beg for his help. She explained that a monstrous centipede lived in the mountains and would come down to the lake and steal away members of her family. Over time she feared they would all be gone and she would also be consumed by this ghastly creature. Hidesato agreed to help her. She took him beneath the waves to the Dragon King's Palace where he was fed and entertained in lavish style. He had never experienced such delights and was enjoying himself so much that he had almost forgotten why he had come. 

From the Tokaido Road Series - Utagawa Kuniyoshi, ca. 1845

Suddenly there was a great stomping and he was informed that the centipede was approaching. He grabbed his bow and arrows and looked out across the lake. In the dark he could see two glowing orbs of light, which were the creatures eyes. He aimed his bow and fired the arrow towards the centipede. It hit right between its eyes, but unfortunately just bounced right off. A second attempt met the same fate and Hidesato now had only one arrow remaining. He remembered that he had once heard that human saliva was poisonous to centipedes, and so he placed the next arrow in his mouth before sending it flying towards the monster. This time when it struck the centipede it went straight through and entered its brain.

'The Warrior Fujiwara Hidesato Battling the Giant Centipede' - Katsukawa Shuntei, ca. 1818.

The creature began to shudder and shake. The sky went black and there were crashes of thunder as the enormous centipede fell to its death. As the first light of dawn appeared, Hidesato called to the Dragon Princess and her retainers and advised them that the monster was dead. Filled with gratitude they offered him a selection of gifts including a large bronze bell, a roll of silk, a cooking pot and a bag of rice. The dragon princess accompanied him as far as the bridge and then he headed home with his gifts.

'Dragon God Rewarding Hidesato With Three Gifts' - Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1858.

On arriving home, he decided to donate the bell to a local temple. He then discovered that the other gifts were not what they had first seemed. In fact, the roll of silk never ran out no matter what you cut from it, the cooking pot would cook delicious food even without heat, and the bag of rice could never be emptied no matter how much was used. His magical gifts made him very prosperous and news of his heroic deeds spread throughout the land. Thereafter he was known as 'My Lord Bag-o-Rice.'

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1880.

'Tawara Toda Hidesato' - Utagawa Kunisada

The Dragon King's Palace, from the children's Book by B. H. Chamberlain, 1888.

'Tawara Toda Hidesato and the Dragon Woman of Seta' - Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1865.

'Fujiwara no Hidesato Shooting the Centipede at the Dragon King's Palace' - Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1890

The Centipede from the children's book by B. H. Chamberlain, 1888.

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