Bunbuku Chagama

Hear this tale on Episode 53 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.


Bunbuku chagama
Bunbuku chagama performing tightrope. ―Mrs. T. H. James, “The Wonderful Tea Kettle” (1886)

Bunbuku Chagama

Bunbuku Chagama (分福茶釜 or 文福茶釜) is a Japanese Folktale about a Tanuki who rewards the man who rescued him.

Synopsis

A Buddhist Priest comes across an old battered tea kettle amongst a pile of lumber. He takes the kettle and proceeds to clean it, and began to use it. Once on the fire, it grew a head, tail and legs and so tried to escape out of the Priests house.

The Priest with the help of an acolyte beat the tanuki with a broom and caught it in a box.  He took the kettle to a dealer who saw no animal inside the box, merely a kettle and would only pay a small amount for the item. The Priest eventually agreeing to the megre sum so he could be rid of the kettle.

That night the dealer heard movement in his house, and moving to see that cause found a tanuki dancing in his home. The dealer talking to a friend the next day was told about a bewitched tea kettle that did exist, and that this one must be it.

Bunbuku chagama
Bunbuku chagama, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi,

His friend tells him he should allow the tanuki to perform as it could bring fortune to him. And so a temprorary building was made for the tanuki to perform and many people came to watch. It would start off as a kettle and slowly transform before peoples eyes before performing.

The man grew rich and gave some of the money to the Priests to pray for him, as he feared invoking the wraith of a Buddhist deity.

The old priest who had once beaten the tanuki used the money to build himself a fine temple. And the kettle was canonized as the ‘Great Enlightened Spirit of Bumbuku.’1

Translations

One translation was made in 1878 by C. Pfoundes and was published in The Folk-Lore Record, here the story was named ‘The Bewitched Tea-Kettle.’1

Footnotes

1. Pfoundes, C. (1878) “The Bewitched Tea-Kettle”. The Folk Lore Record, Vol.1, pp.118-119.

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