Horafuki Challenge (ほらくらべ)

The story below was translated from this website and features the Tsugaru region. But a similar horafuki story featuring the Tohoku region was collected by the Japanese folklorist Toshio Ozawa. If you search “ほらくらべ” you can find a few more versions. The differences are largely regional, but also differ in character gender and the number of characters.


Once upon a time in Kizukuri in Tsugaru, there lived a great horafuki (storyteller of magnificent lies). Another horafuki living in Akita heard about the horafuki in Tsugaru and decided to challenge him to a horafuki competition.

He went to the house of the horafuki. “Excuse me, is the Tsugaru horafuki here?” he called. A twelve-year-old boy came out and asked, “Who are you?”
(In the Tohoku version, it is a young girl.)

“I am the Akita horafuki. I have come to challenge the Tsugaru horafuki. Where is your father?”

The boy replied casually, “My father is out. Yesterday there was a typhoon and it seemed Mount Iwaki would  fall down. So he left with three chopsticks to prop it up.” (In the Tohoku version, the mountain is Mount Hiyachine, and the father is propping it up with three straws of wheat.)

The Akita horafuki was surprised at the child’s brazenness, “And where is your mother?”

“Yesterday there was so much rain. It seemed as though Lake Towada would overflow and cause a flood. My mother took a bucket and ladle down to remove the extra water.” (In the Tohoku version, the mother is taking a lid to place over the ocean’s high tide.)

The Akita horafuki asked further, “And where is your sister?”

“There was a great thunderstorm yesterday and the sky ripped in two. My sister has taken a needle and thread to sew up the sky,” the child answered quite calmly (In the Tohoku version there is no sister.)

He is just a child, but I shouldn’t have let my guard down, thought the Akita horafuki, I will try something else. “Actually, the other night, there was a typhoon and the great Akita Temple bell was blown away. We’re looking for it. Do you know anything about it?”

The child replied unperturbed, “Now that you mention it, something did get stuck in the spider web in our outhouse the other night and made quite a ruckus with its ringing. We couldn’t sleep until morning. That must have been your bell from Akita.”

The Akita horafuki thought, “If this mere child can tell such magnificent lies, who knows what his parents are capable of?” and he ran away back to Akita without completing his challenge.

The End.

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