Kamishibai Stories

Stories from Japan

The Grateful Crane / つるのおんがえし

The Grateful Crane

This is a Japanese folktale about a crane tangled in a net and rescued by an old man. The story touches on the themes of interdependence between humans and animals and the consequences of breaking a promise.

The Party of the Demons / おにのせつぶん


This is a Japanese folktale about Setsubun—a bean-throwing festival that the Japanese observe on the first day of spring in the old Japanese calendar. A lonely old man without family accidentally invites the demons to his house when his sadness makes him cry out. The demons don’t miss a beat. They come right to the old man’s house. The old man finds the will to live, or the meaning in life through his newly found friends.

Hats for the Jizos / かさじぞう


Once there was a very kind but very poor couple. They did not have food to celebrate the New Year, so they decide to make some straw hats to sell in the city. The old man tries to sell the hats but to no avail. On his way home, he sees stone statues of Jizos (traditional Japanese deities) covered with snow. The kind man covers each jizo with his hats. A heart-warming story that shows how an act of genuine kindness can bring unexpected rewards.

The Rolling Rice Balls / おむすびころりん


An old man goes to chop some wood on the mountain. When he sits down to eat his lunch, one of his rice balls slips from his hand and rolls down the mountain. The old man runs after it, which triggers an unexpected chain of events and encounters. A humorous Japanese folktale that shows the value of generosity.

Tanabata: The Story of Two Stars / たなばた


This is a folktale known as Tanabata in Japan, but originally from China. The story is about two stars that fall in love. One of the stars is a weaver. The other is a cow herder. Both are skillful in their professions. When the two stars fall in love and forget about their work, the god of the sky becomes angry and separates them. Will they ever see each other again?

Stories from Brazil

The Story of the Sunflower /  A Lenda do Girassol


A Brazilian legend about how sunflowers came to be. A little star in love with the sun, but unable to be with the sun all the time, seeks the help of the god of the wind. When the god of the wind tells the star to leave the sky and the star follows the god’s advice, the star goes through an extraordinary transformation.

The Legend of the Night / A Lenda da Noite


When the earth was still young, there was no night on earth. People were always tired because they could not rest. The color of the plants faded because of too much sunshine. Will there ever be night on earth? This story tells how the night came to be. A story about the importance of keeping a promise.

The Boy and the Jaguar / O Menino e a Onça


This is an adaptation of Goethe’s fable—Novella. The story takes place near a small town in rural Brazil. When there is a forest fire, the animals end up wandering into the streets of the town. The townspeople manage to get all the animals back to the forest except the jaguar. Who will take the jaguar back to the forest? A story that shows the power of music and love over threats of violence and fear.

Stories from Other Countries

The Wise Crow


This is a South African folktale about a couple who longed to have children. When they feed the birds with the only seeds they had left, the crow grants their innermost wish. This is a tale that shows how humans and animals can live in harmony when they form a relationship of reciprocity.

The Drum


It’s a folktale from India about a boy who loves music and dreams to have his own drum. His mother, however, cannot afford to buy her son the instrument he most wanted. When his mother gives the boy two branches in place of the drum, the boy accepts his gift with gratitude and leaves the house with it. The boy meets different people in need along his walk. His kindness ultimately leads to attaining his dream.

The Empty Pot


This is a Chinese folktale about an emperor who does not have any successor. He loves plants and decides to have the flowers choose who the next emperor will be. Children are called to the palace to fulfill a task. Which child will be chosen the next emperor? A story about the importance of being honest.

The Emperor's New Clothes


It's a Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale about a very vain emperor being tricked by two scoundrels. The scoundrels promise to make the emperor the most beautiful clothes ever made but in reality they don’t make anything. The two pretend to help the emperor “wear” the beautiful clothes. They claim only the wise can see the garment. How will the emperor react when he sees nothing? A story about the danger of vanity.

Original Stories

Leticia's Garden Discovery


This is an original story about bees and pollination. Leticia and her grandpa visit their new plot at the community garden. When a bee flies close to Leticia, she gets frightened and she and her grandpa start a conversation about bees. Leticia gradually changes her mind as she learns from her elder about different bees and their role in the growth of her favorite vegetables. The final message about the interdependence of living beings in nature leads to the two heading to the ice cream store.

A Monarch Finds Her Home


This is an original story about a snail that one day finds an egg. The snail waits for the egg to hatch. A caterpillar pops out from the egg and the two become best friends. When the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, the snail encourages her to leave the familiar field and explore new places. As the butterfly encounters different creatures and hears them talk about their “homes,” she starts to wonder, where is her home?

When the Butterfly Flew Away


This is an original story about a butterfly that flew away to see the world. When the earth was still young, butterflies lived only in one small corner of a forest and their wings were all transparent. A newly-born butterfly caterpillar develops a friendship with a snail. The two dream about one day exploring the outside world. When the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, the snail urges her to go see the world. While the butterfly travels around the world, she goes through a transformation. Her wings become colorful by the time she is back to her friend, the snail. Something extraordinary happens to the snail when she listens eagerly to the butterfly’s adventure.