A Tale of Muchi


January 27th was December 8th in Chinese calendar. It was Day of Muchi (rice cake) in Okinawa. On this day, Okinawans eat muchi wrapped with alpinia zerumbet leaves for wishing perfect health.

今年の1月27日は、旧暦の12月8日にあたり、沖縄では「鬼餅(ムーチー)の日」と呼び、月桃の葉などで包んだ餅を食べる習慣があり、県内のスーパーなどにもムーチーがたくさん並ぶ。


But, why December 8th is called Day of Muchi?

So the story goes like this…

Once upon a time in Shuri’s Kanagusuku, there were a bother and a sister. Because they lost their parents when they were still little, they lived a hard life.

One day, the brother left home for Ozato.

After a while, the sister heard a rumour that her brother is eating not just cows and horses, but even humans. She was in shock and went to Ozato to see if it was true.

She arrived the cave, her brother supposed to be living. Nobody was there, but there was a huge pot that something was being cooked. Around the pot, there were bones looked like humans’.

“It was true! He turned to be Oni (devil)!” she almost fainted.

“Long time no see, young lady!”

When she was about to leave, her brother came back.

“I’m making a dinner, let’s eat together!”

She was afraid that she would get eaten and told her brother,

“I’m going to a bathroom.”

“You cannot leave!” he said and tied her wrist with rope to prevent her from escaping.

As she went to a bathroom, she untied the rope and quietly left the place.

After coming back home, she started making two kinds of muchi; a regular one for herself and the other one with rocks and irons for her Oni brother.

Soon her Oni brother came to her home.

“Hey young sister! Why did you run away?” he asked upsetingly.

“I’m very sorry, but I forgot to bring muchi. You love muchi right?”

“How nice of you, my dear! You remember that I love muchi!” Oni looked happy now.

“Let’s eat together over the hill! It has a great view.” She pointed at the hill.

“Okay, let’s go.”

They sit on the grass on the top of the hill and started eating muchi. Oni tried to eat one, but he couldn’t chew it no matter how hard he tried. However, his sister looked to enjoy having her muchi. He was gazing her with amazement and then noticed that her kimono became loose and something was showing between her legs. It was dyed in red.

“What is the mouth down there?” he asked in surprise.

As she stood up, she pulled her kimono up and opened her legs wide.

“The upper mouth is to eat muchi. The down mouth is to eat Oni!”

Oni got so shocked and fell off from the cliff. He was dead.

Later, the day, Oni was slain, became Day of Muchi.

「鬼餅(ムーチー)の日」にまつわる民話については、ネットを検索すると出てくるが、ラジオ沖縄の「赤瓦ちょーびんのぐぶりーさびら」で紹介されているので、1月25日放送分のポッドキャストを聞いてみるのも面白いと思う。

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