Shippeitaro

Hear about Shippeitaro on Bonus Episode 1 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Shippeitaro
Depiction from Mrs. T. H. James’s Schippeitaro (1888), illustrated by Suzuki Munesaburo.

Shippeitaro

Shippeitaro (しっぺい太郎, 竹篦太郎, 悉平太郎, 執柄太郎) is the name of a dog from a Folktale of the same name.

In one version of the story, a warrior takes shelter for the night in an abandoned temple. Close to midnight he awakens to see many strange dancing cats, and over here’s them say that Shippeitaro is not to know of their antics here.

After the warrior wakes the next day he finds himself at a near by village where he learns that every year a young maiden is placed in a cage and taken to the abandoned temple he slept in the previous night where she is left as a human sacrifice for the Spirit of the Mountain.

Curious, he asks who Shippeitaro is after hearing the cats from the night before. The villagers say that it is the name of a local dog who is owned by the head man of the Prince who dwells here. The warrior asks to borrow the dog for a night and hatches a plan in the hope of saving the maiden.

Shippeitaro coming out of the box to attack. (Zōho Shippeitarō 1796).

He places Shippeitaro inside the cage, and carries the cage with the help of other men from the village to the temple. During the night when the cats reappear he sees that this time they are joined by a much larger tom-cat. This cat, excited to recieve this years sacrifice approaches the box, but when it draws close the warrior opens it to unleash Shippeitaro.

Shippeitaro catch the creature in its jaws allowing the warrior to then quickly attack and dispatch of it. The other cats in their confusion at what is happening are then all killed by Shippeitaro before they can flee.

And so the village is finally free, and no longer do they have to make a yearly human sacrifice.1

Footnotes

1. Davis, F. H. (1992) “Myths and Legends of Japan.” New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

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