Tag Archives: thesis life

While I was in Seattle, I got a chance to do a little research at the University of Washington. Their library is huge and intimidating, yet everyone was wonderfully accommodating. In their Special Collection area I was able to go through two volumes of Japanese school readers from 1908 and 1903. Near the end of my browsing, with unlimited enthusiasm but limited Japanese, I came across this scene (pictured above) from “Momotaro” in one of the katakana readers:


I reads (if I translated correctly):

The cart had treasure.
The dog pulled enyaraya.
The monkey pushed from behind enyaraya.
The pheasant pulled the rope enyaraya.

It’s a simple stanza that uses a familiar scene from a popular story to help children learn katakana (the syllabary used for foreign words or emphasis, as opposed to hiragana). And while I am a definite neophyte in translating, I came up against the phrase “enyaraya” and had no idea what to do with it. Was it an onomatopoeia? Was it an exclamation? What the heck (一体!)

Quick searching showed that it appears to be part of the Momotaro folk song, sort of a repetitive phrase at the end of the sentence. I liken it, in this instance, to a “heave ho” or “Let’s go.” Yet there’s still more research to do. Even in this four-sentence grade-school lesson, there is so much to learn. This story uses “enyaraya” in a way that I imagine is being depicted above in the illustration: “Upon the signal shout of “Enyaraya” by the float leader, the Naginata-hoko float, which is traditionally exempted from the ticket-drawing and fixed to the lead position of the parade, started from Shijo-dori Karasuma.

A good part of my thesis talks about this story, how it parallels events in history, how it was packaged specifically as children’s literature during the Meiji Restoration and how easily it was used as propaganda in an up-and-coming empire. I also discovered how “Momotaro” was one of the stories children had to rip out of their school readers during the Allied occupation after World War II.

As with many versions of the story, Momotaro, himself, doesn’t do much of the work here. With the help of his faithful dog, monkey, and pheasant pals, he is able to conquer the Island of Demons and return with all of their treasure. In some version the inhabitants are all killed, in others they merely promise to remain lawful. Sometimes the demons (oni) are cannibals, sometimes merely pillagers. Like all folk and fairy tales, their innocuous nature and proliferation allows for a myriad of reboots, each generation adding or subtracting what elements suit their current society. The details of Momotaro’s quest may change, but the Peach Boy persists.



I had started with good intentions, truly. But like all things that crash and burn, the flame of inspiration is the start. As I’m nearing the end of my time in the Masters program, I am beginning to look forward: to a PhD program, to the GREs, to the continued deferral of my undergrad student loans.

I have also decided to aggregate my class posts under this one blog. From Introduction to English Studies, Indigenous Rhetoric and Postcolonial Studies, these three classes were outside the core of what I want to specialize in–late Victorian, non-traditional literature and fairy tales. Yet they provided me with a breadth of experience and stories that inform all of my work.

They are sometimes rough and rushed, blogging as an assignment not necessarily high on my list of desirable activities, in the end I realized I was underestimating the medium. The only difference between the handed-in response paper and the response blog post is access to readers, and there is where I found my weakness. I am the type of writer that usually writes with one reader in mind–what Stephen King calls his “ideal reader”–and had to rework my thinking for a larger audience.

It’s an important lesson, one that I learned early on for social media, that the medium you pick determines the shape of the message. It took a couple of semesters to transfer that worldview to my academic writing, but I think I’ve got a handle on it now.

More or less.

I’ll promise to blog more, but I’ll be separating them by interest. I plan to aggregate them in this blog, so if you’re so inclined, you won’t have to follow all of them. Or feel free to ignore this completely. You may be better off that way.


%d bloggers like this: