Once upon a time, there was an extremely lazy young man. All he did was eat and sleep. His mother begged him to work even a little, but his only reply was his continued snoring.
Her son didn’t work at all, and so they were extremely poor. All the villagers called her son “Netarō” (ne means “sleep,” tarō is a common male name ending). After sleeping for three years, Netarō awoke from his slumber and peeked next door at his wealthy neighbors. He heard the wealthy man explaining to his daughter that it was time to to find her suitable husband.
Netarō quickly got out of bed. He ran to a relative’s house in a neighboring village and borrowed some pigeons. He went to the local shrine and borrowed a white kimono and black hat (烏帽子) from the priest. When it became dark, he climbed a tree outside the wealthy man’s house.
He lit two small paper lanterns and tied the pigeons to them. He beat a taiko drum and shouted, “The master of this house must listen! I am a god from Izumo, the god of marriage. I couldn’t stand to watch any longer and came myself.” The wealthy man and his family looked out and could only see the lanterns in the darkness that had, “god of Izumo”written on them and someone that looked like a god in a white kimono and black hat.
Netarō continued, “Next door, there lives a man named Netarō. He is a little lazy, but he is very lucky. Make Netarō your son-in-law. If you don’t make him your son-in-law, within seven days your crops will wither and your house will fall into ruin.”
As he finished his speech, Netarō pulled off the white kimono and released the lanterns tied to the pigeons. The pigeons flew back to their home which was also the direction of the Grand Shrine Izumo Taisha.
The wealthy man and his family could only see the lanterns flying towards Izumo and no trace of the god in the white kimono. They believed they had seen a god. Not wanting his house to fall into ruin, the wealthy man decided he must marry his daughter to Netarō.
Netarō hurried back to his house and climbed under the blankets.
The wealthy man came to his house and explained what had happened to Netarō‘s mother. She called to Netarō. The man explained the situation to Netarō.
But Netarō hesitated, “I am extremely lazy. If I go to your house, you will surely throw me out for sleeping all the time.”
Afraid of the gods’ wrath, the wealthy man replied, “I assure you that will not happen. I don’t care if you sleep forever.”
And so Netarō agreed to marry the wealthy man’s daughter.