One of the most famous myths of ancient Japan is that of Issun Boshi, or "Little One Inch," as the name translates.
Boshi's parents had been married for several years without being able to conceive, and after many years of frustration, they prayed at a local shrine for divine assistance. They would be happy with any child, they said in their prayer, even if the child was only the size of a finger. The gods were satisfied with their humility and decided to grant their wish.
Although Boshi is the subject of several legends, he is mostly associated with a story that took place at the age of fifteen. Wanting to visit Kyoto, the capital of Japan, he left with his sword (actually a needle), a bowl of rice, and a set of chopsticks. These items soon came in handy - when he encountered a river, he sat down in his bowl of rice and, using his chopsticks as a pair of oars, quickly crossed the river.
Arriving in the city, Boshi was lucky enough to find a job in the house of a wealthy family. He was a devoted caretaker and servant and became a family favorite. One day, accompanying the girl to a prayer shrine, two oni (ogres) attacked the couple. Despite his size, Boshi bravely jumped in front of the girl to protect her, and one of the oni swallowed him whole. From inside the monster's stomach, Boshi pulled out his needle and stabbed the ogre's intestine. The monster spat it out in disgust, and Boshi climbed into the other oni's face. Boshi stabbed the eye of the beast, and the two oni fled in panic, leaving behind a magical mallet they had stolen from a previous victim.
The girl picked up the mallet and hit it on the ground. Instantly, the God of Luck appeared, ready to make his wish come true. Always impressed by the bravery of her defender, she wanted Boshi restored to his full size. Satisfied with the altruism of his wish, the god of luck clapped his hands and vanished into thin air.
Boshi, now of normal height, brought the girl home, and they were soon married, with the blessing of her parents. He enlisted as a soldier and, due to his bravery and cunning, became a famous samurai. Although he is the subject of many other legends, he is best known as the one-inch man who hunted two oni with only one needle!