In the tale, she learns of a lonely old couple who want a child and so disguises herself as a child, hiding in a bamboo grove for them to find her. She brings them happiness and they watch her grow. Eventually as a woman she marries a man who falls in love with her.
After, the old couple die, she reveals who she really is to her husband telling him she has to return to the summit of Mount Fuji where she once lived. Her husband didn’t wish her to leave, and so she said he could see her if he climbed to the summit. And failing that he could look at her using a box of incense which she left him as a parting gift. And so she returned to the mountain, leaving her husband alone.
He used the box but could only see an indistinct shadowy form and so he endeavoured to climb the mountain. At the summit he found a lake, with an island in its centre, and upon it the palace of Kaguya-hime. But, the vapour which rose from the lake only gave him the most fleeting glimpses of his wife, and so disappointed and alone, he clutched the box to his heart and jump from the precipice of the mountain to his death.1
1. Tyler, R. (1987) “Japanese Tales.” New York: Pantheon Books.
Check out Japan Archives, our Japanese History Podcast