Writing Politically Correct Japanese Fairy Tales

Mariko Fujita, Keio Shonan Fujisawa Junior and Senior High School


  • Key Words: Gender issues, reading, writing
  • Learner English Level: Intermediate and above
  • Learner Maturity Level: Junior High and above
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes
  • Activity Time: 15 minutes for Step 1, 20 minutes for Step 2, 20 minutes for Step 3, and 2-3 hours depending on the level of students for Step 4

Here are some activities to help teachers sensitize students to gender stereotyping in the text of books for young people and to write politically correct (PC) Japanese fairy tales. I start with value voting on gender roles and stereotypes to raise their awareness. Then I introduce a traditional version and a politically correct version of Little Red Riding Hood and ask them to come up with the differences between the two versions. Following this activity, students analyze gender stereotyping in Japanese fairy tales and rewrite them so that they are free of gender stereotyping. My returnee second year junior high students all enjoyed these activities and wrote PC versions of Japanese fairy tales with illustrations. The activities require reading comprehension and analytical skills.


Step 1 Value Voting

This activity is adopted from a book called Me, You, and Others by Elizabeth Callister, Davis, and Pope. A teacher or a student read out each statement while everyone else votes on whether they agree or disagree. Students can raise their hand if they agree or show thumbs down if they disagree. Here are some of the statements.

  • Boys will need more education than girls.
  • Women and men should share equally in bringing up their children.
  • Husbands need to earn more than their wives as they will be the main supporters of the family.
  • Women should be responsible for most of the housework.
  • Women are usually more emotional than men.
  • Men should never cry in public.
  • Nursing is usually a woman's job because they are generally more caring.
  • Men are not as capable of caring for small children as women are.

Believe it or not, my fourteen-year-old male students were very conservative. They all voted that women should be responsible for most of the housework. My female students were less conservative than the males and they argued that men should also be responsible for housework.

Step 2 Comparing a Traditional Version and a PC Version of Little Red Riding Hood

The teacher brings to the class a picture book of Little Red Riding Hood written in English in which there are typical illustrations of a young and cute girl, an old and weak grandmother, a vicious and greedy wolf, and a brave woodcutter. The teacher reads the story of Little Red Riding Hood and then right after that, introduces a PC version of Little Red Riding Hood from Politically Correct Bedtime Stories (Garner, 1994). Needless to say, my students were all surprised at the dramatic ending. In the PC version, Little Red Riding Hood kills the woodcutter who she believes was arrogant enough to think that he could settle the problem between the wolf and her, and finally Little Red Riding Hood feels a sense of communality with the wolf and they live together happily ever after. This activity is to help students notice gender stereotyping in books in which a girl is depicted as weak and helpless and her problem is almost always solved by a man.

Step 3 Book Analysis

Students are asked to bring Japanese fairy tales that they heard when they were small. Students can work in pairs or in groups of three or four. They read the book together, filling in the book analysis form below as they go along. This form is taken from Education for Development A Teacher's Resource for Global Learning by Susan Fountain (1994).


Book Analysis Form

Title of the book _________________________________________________


. Girls, women Boys, men
How many are there? . .
What do they do most often? . .
Who is the main character? . .
Describe any special concern, problem or issue that the main character has to resolve. . .
How is it resolved? . .
Who resolves it? . .


The aim of this activity is to help students notice that gender stereotyping exists in many Japanese fairy tales.

Step 4 Writing a PC Version of the Story

Now the students are ready to rewrite some part of the stories in a non-biased way. Here is an example of what my students produced.




Once upon a time, there was an old couple. One day, the husband (named Takeo) went to the bamboo shrub to cut some bamboos. The reason he did this was not because he was a man, but it was his turn to go. The wife (named Takeko) stayed home and cooked dinner. The reason she did this was not because it was her job, but because it was her turn to cook.

When Takeo was cutting the bamboos, he found a bright golden one. He decided to cut the bamboo. He swung his ax and cut the bamboo in half. Inside the bamboo, he found a baby girl. He decided to take her home, but before doing that, he took the baby to the town hall and got the permission to take care of her so that he won't be arrested for kidnapping her.

Takeo and Takeko named the girl Kaguya, and raised her. Kaguya grew up to be aesthetically appealing. A few years later, three men fell in love with her, because of her good personality. However, Kaguya did not marry any of them.

One day when Kaguya was sleeping, she had a dream of a woman from the moon (her real mother) telling Kaguya that she was born on the moon. The woman also said that Kaguya had to go back to the moon on the next full moon night. The people of the moon are looking forward to her coming back. Kaguya was very sad about parting from Takeo and Takeko who raised her.

The full moon night came. Kaguya was thinking what she should do at her front porch. Suddenly, the moon shone brightly and the people from moon came down to her.

"It is time for you to come back to your home country, Kaguya. We will take you with us today."

"No, I do not want to go! I want to stay on earth. Takeo and Takeko are not my real parents, but they raised me, so they are more important to me than my real parents." Kaguya cried.

"But you have to come back. This is a command from your father, king of the moon. If you say you are not coming by any means, then we will force you to come."

The people from the moon tried to grab her arm.

"Help!! Please help me father, mother!!"

Takeo heard Kaguya's scream, and came running from the house. Takeko came behind him.

"What are you people doing to my daughter? Let her go!" said Takeo. The people of moon looked at Takeo, and said,

"Are you the ones who raised Kaguya? We thank you for raising our princess, but she was born on the moon, and it is time for her to come back. You can not raise her anymore."

"What do you mean? Since I found her in the bamboo shrub, we have loved her as if she were our real daughter. You may not take her!"

"Kaguya is saying that she does not want to go, so it will be considered kidnapping. We can call the police and they can arrest you. Go back if you do not want that." Takeko said.

"She is right. You are violating human rights, and that is against the law!!" Takeo insisted. Suddenly the moon slowly came down and when it reached the ground it opened in half and the king of moon came out. He said to the people of the moon.

"Stop and let Kaguya go. I understand that she is happy with Takeo and Takeko. I'll give up and just watch her from the moon. I want her to be happy."

He smiled to Kaguya, Takeo, and Takeko, and the people of the moon let her go. The people of the moon went back into the moon, and the moon went back up.

The three people lived happily ever after.

It would be encouraging to students if their work could be published in a school magazine.



Callister, E., Davis, N. & Pope, B. (1990). Me , you, and others: Class and group activities for personal development. Singapore: The Jacaranda Press.

Fountain, s. (1995). Education for development: A teachers resource for global learning . UNICEF: Hodder & Stoughton.