Kintaro, the Golden Boy

Kintarō (金太郎, "Golden Boy") is a popular figure in Japanese folklore and was the childhood name of Sakata no Kintoki (坂田金時), one of the four trusted followers of the famous warrior Minamoto no Yorimitsu (源 頼光, 948-1021). Although Sakata seems to have been a historical figure from the Heian Period who appeared in the 11th-century anthology Konjaku Monogatari (今昔物語), he is later depicted as the son of a yamauba (山姥 or 山うば, mountain witch) born on Mount Ashigara (modern-day Kanagawa Prefecture). Being of Herculean strength, he said to have wrestled with bears and other beasts.

Oniwakamaru and the Giant Carp fight underwater (Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1835)

Kintarō is a typical character in 17th- and 18th-century ballads (浄瑠璃 jōruri) and kabuki play, often appearing under the name Kaidōmaru. Many of his traits, such as his supernatural strength, his red complexion, his possession of an axe said to be the thunder god's hatchet, are connected with the belief in the thunder god, a warrantor of a plentiful harvest, that may have been indigenous to the Ashigara area. Kintarō may therefore well be a combination of the historical figure Sakata and a local fertility god.

Kintarō and the Yama-uba (Kitagawa Utamaro 喜多川歌麿; 1796)

The Moon of Kintokisan (by Tsukioka Yoshihiro)

Kintarō, ukiyo-e by Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞), 1818-28