Tafero’s Lesson Plan of the Day – Japanese Mythology – Mystics and Heroes

Lesson 13 – Japanese Mystics

  1. Matsuo Basho, a 17th century classical haiku poet, was said to possess mystic powers.
  1. Yosa Buson, also known as Saicho, was another classical haiku poet from the 18th century, who was also able to perform magic feats.
  1. Ikkyu Sojun, a 15th century Zen Master, was said to possess magical abilities with clouds as well as being a master poet.
  1. Yataro Kobayashi, also known for the poem “Issa” (Cup of Tea), was a 18th century mystic who was said to be able to turn melons into frogs.
  1. Masaoka Tsunenuri Shiki, a later 19th century Haiku master, was said to possess the ability to transport himself in space.
  1. Although many of these claims are sure to be folktales, it is interesting to note that every major mystic in Japanese folklore has been a poet.

Critical Questions

  1. Why did Japanese poets appear to have direct contact to the mystical world?
  1. Why would a magician appear to possess mystical powers to a peasant?
  1. How could moving on the clouds have mistakenly been interpreted as magic rather than picturesque speech?
  1. How could the same mistake be made for a poet who always spoke of transporting himself through space and time?
  1. Why do you think ancient peoples gave attributed special powers to storytellers and poets?

Additional Internet Research Links For This Lesson:


Matsuo Basho


Ikkyu Sojun


Lesson 14 – Japanese Heroes and Heroines

  1. Japanese heroes include Zatoichi, a blind musician who is now popularized in modern Japanese Martial Arts Cinema.
  1. Yegara No Heida, the slayer of a giant serpent, is comparable to the West’s St. George, the dragon-slayer.
  1. A tiny hero, called Issun Boshi, which means “Little One Inch”; his opposite was Kintaro.
  1. Raiko was a legendary killer of Oni (giant devils) who rescued maidens in distress.
  1. Yamuba was the nurse for Kintaro and brought him up among the animals in the forest.
  1. Tawara Toda was a brave and honorable magician at Lake Biwa, a popular setting for Japanese myth.
  1. A great Japanese sailor and warrior was Yoshitsune; an adventurer comparable in the West to Jason and the Argonauts.

Critical Questions

  1. Why do you think Hoichi was, and still is, such a popular Japanese hero?
  1. Why would Yegara No Heida be comparable to Saint George, the dragon-slayer of the West?
  1. Why do you think Issun Boshi is popular?
  1. Why did small Japanese boys idolize Raiko?
  1. Why do you think Yamuba brought Kintaro up in the forest among animals?
  1. Why would a figure like Yoshitsune be popular in any culture?

Additional Internet Research Links For This Lesson: