Blog, Challenge

Let’s read 「かぐやひめ」

Are you interested in reading Japanese fairy tales?

“Princess Kaguya” or “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” tells the story of an otherwordly beautiful young woman, who was found inside bamboo as a baby. It is said to be the oldest fairy tale romance in Japan (about 900 AD).

Let’s read this story together! Whether you have just remembered hiragana or are already well accustomed to classical Japanese literature – there is an appropriate text for every level of reading ability linked here.

Learners with abilities about JLPT N5:

This is a simple retelling without any kanji. Cute handmade origami figures will help you understand the main plot points of this fairy tale.

Read it here:

Learners with abilities about JLPT N4-N3:

This retelling of Princess Kaguya is just right for learners inbetween the JLPT N4 and N3. It was published by ask books and you can order it as part of a graded reader physical book set through Amazon Japan.

An ebook/pdf of this story is purchasable here.

Learners with abilities about JLPT N3-N2:

Note: All following texts are written with native speakers in mind.

Short version of the story for fairy tale database hukumusume. Some difficult kanji and difficult words, but compatible with a reader extension, like rikaikun or 10ten (collection of browser addons).

A picture book version of Princess Kaguya. The illustrations for every page are cute and provide context. Mostly hiragana, but written in a small and unusual handwritten font.

Learners with abilities about N2:

Retelling of the story of Princess Kaguya for NHK’s children program おはなしのくに as a PDF. Mostly hiragana, but featuring some unusual words.

Read the fairy tale in classic Japanese (N1+):

Feeling up to the challenge of reading the story how it was published in 1928? The website aozora collects these kinds of older literature and provides them to read on their site. You will need some experience in reading older Japanese to fully understand everything, but even just comparing the sentences to those of the easy retellings can be a fun practice!

A full classical Japanese version can be found at the Japanese Text Initiative by the University of Virginia. (Thanks to redditor honkoku for sharing this link with me!)

So, how was it?

Did you finish reading かぐや(ひめ) for your level of Japanese? How was it? Did you learn new words? What part did you enjoy the most? Post a comment below or share your thoughts with me on twitter or instagram! #letsreadkaguyahime!

Reading time: February 21st until February 28th

5 thoughts on “Let’s read 「かぐやひめ」”

  1. Never read this before so it was fun. The way Kaguya is found in a bamboo shoot reminds me of Momotaro.

    The N5 version was interesting. The ふし meaning 不死 was clever.


    1. Momotaro is also a fun fairy tale! I’ll look out for texts learners at multiple levels will enjoy. I’m so glad you enjoyed your text and that you could derive a kanji meaning from a book without any kanji – good job!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s