Regarding Alice Gordenker’s March 20 column, “So what the heck is that?” — about “gold poop” good-luck charms sold at Narita Airport souvenir shops: Kunio Yanagita relates some folk stories about a black cat that defecates gold. For example, in his “Momotaro no Tanjou” (pp. 61-62), visiting the Dragon Palace, the poor firewood seller gets a gift from the black cat that makes her rich.

These stories are related to the very famous visit to the Dragon Palace under the sea (Urashimataro), and on the other hand to the well-known story of Hyoutoku, the silly-looking lad who produces gold pieces through his navel.

Through other variations, Yanagita manages to deal with stories such as “Onara o shita Okugata” (pp. 193-203), also known as the Golden Melon (or eggplant) — about a noblewoman who farted and was sent away, though pregnant, in a boat to an island where she bore her son. When the boy grew up and heard of the incident, he returned to his father’s land, claiming to sell seeds of a golden melon/eggplant to anyone . . . who had never farted.

These stories have a lot of symbolism dealing with containers and their contents (farting signifies incontinence). The gold contents, emerging from the front or the behind, are virtual positions in this complicated, kaleidoscopic field of imaginary permutations. Therefore, we can enjoy stories such as the magical cat that defecates gold in Japanese folk tales. This lucky image must also be somehow indirectly related to the good-luck charm.

scott davis

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