Alan G. Chalk Guides to Japanese Films
Lesson 1: The Moon Princess
Reading: "The Bamboo Cutter and the Moon Child," 8th-9th c., anon
Film: The Princess from the Moon (1987 Ichikawa) or Big Bird in Japan (Stone).
Suggested grades: 6-12
Themes: Early Japanese folktales and cultural motifs of the moon, beauty, sadness, and the ephemeral nature of life.
The full-length film version may be difficult to find. However, the Sesame Street version should be readily available. Although one might hesitate to use a video starring Big Bird with older students, I have used excerpts effectively with high school students and even adults. The Moon Princess story is updated to today's Japan and the princess must help Big Bird and Barkley, who have been left behind on a tour, to get to Kyoto in time to catch their flight home. Kyoto is also the destination of the modern Moon Princess who must on that date return to the Moon World. If the students have read the story, they can enjoy the irony of Big Bird's failure to make the connection between his guide and the Moon Princess. Bonuses are: a delightful introduction to modern urban and rural traditional Japan, also visits to a shrine and a temple, and a classroom of elementary students putting on their own production of the ancient tale. If an edited version is to be shown, the opening to the meeting with the young woman and the ending from where the princess begins her return to the Moon World will present a memorable image sequence to reinforce the reading of the tale.
copyright Alan G. Chalk 2000