Year 1 Language and Literature

Issun Boshi: One-Inch Boy

issun boshi

'Issun Boshi' [IH-soon BOH-she] is a folktale from Japan. Look on a world map or globe to locate Japan with your child. Like 'Tom Thumb', which is also covered in What Your Year 2 Child Needs to Know, this story is about the adventures of a very little person.

Long ago in a village in Japan, there lived an old man and his wife who more than anything wanted a child. They hoped and they wished and they prayed. 'May we be blessed with a child,' they said, 'even if it is no larger than a fingertip.'

And then their wishes were answered. A fine baby boy was born to the old couple. They called him Issun Boshi, which means 'One-Inch Boy,' for he was no taller than his father's thumb. Issun Boshi grew up strong, smart and helpful, though he grew no bigger. When twelve years had passed, Issun Boshi came to his parents and said: 'Father and Mother, please give me your permission to go to the capital city, for I wish to see the world, and learn many things, and make a name for myself.'

His parents were worried, but they knew their boy was smart and strong, so they agreed to let him go. They made him a tiny sword out of a sewing needle and gave him a rice bowl and some chopsticks.

In the rice bowl he floated down the river, using one of the chopsticks as a paddle. In a few days he arrived at the city of Kyoto. 'My, what a busy city this is!' he thought. 'So many feet and legs!' He walked carefully through the streets, dodging feet and cart wheels. He kept walking until he came to a beautiful house, the largest in the city. At the foot of the steps sat a pair of shiny black wooden shoes. They belonged to the owner of the house, who was the wealthiest lord in the city.

The door of the great house opened. Out walked a man who slipped on the shiny black shoes. Issun Boshi called out: 'Hello! Hello there!' The man looked around and, seeing no one, began to go back in. But Issun Boshi called out: 'Down here, I'm down here, near your shoes! Please be careful you don't step on me.' The man, who was the lord of the house, leaned down and was very surprised when he saw Issun Boshi. Issun Boshi bowed, politely introduced himself and said: 'I am new here and I would like to work for you.'

The lord picked up Issun Boshi in the palm of his hand. In a friendly voice he asked: 'But what can a little fellow like you do?'

A fly was buzzing around and bothering the lord, so Issun Boshi drew out a sewing -needle that he used as a sword. With a quick swit-swat, down went the fly. Then Issun Boshi did an energetic little dance on the lord's hand.

'You are quite an amazing little fellow,' laughed the lord. 'Come, you may work for me and live in my house.'

Read more about Issun Boshi's adventures in What Your Year 2 Child Needs to Know. This activity is adapted from pages 65 - 67 of this resource book, which can be purchased here.