An old story from Yonago, which takes place around Daisen, the San’in region’s highest mountain.

An elderly couple lived in an old hut at the foot of Daisen and kept horses. They were exceedingly pleased when one horse gave birth to a handsome foal. As they were settling down to the bed that rainy night, they were unaware of the thief who waited in the rafters for a chance to steal the foal, and the wolf that waited in the hay to eat the foal.

Lying down in bed, the old man said to his wife, “The most fearsome thing in the world, dear, is Koya-no-Mori.”

“That’s right. Koya-no-Mori is more dreadful than even thieves or wolves. When the sky turns such a dark color, I start to worry about it coming at night.”

“It certainly is terrible. When the Koya-no-Mori comes, we won’t be left with much of a place to live in.”

Unbeknownst to the wolf, Koya-no-Mori means ‘leaks in the old hut.’ As the wolf listened, he became indignant. “What is this Koya-no-Mori, and how could it possibly be more fearsome than me?” he thought.

Then, the old man felt something against his back. “Oh no, the Koya-no-Mori is here!” he cried, and he and his wife sprang to their feet.

“Oh! It’s here!” thought the wolf, and he ran outside to meet whatever foe this was.

The thief, waiting in the rafters, noticed something dash out and thought, “the foal is running out of the hut—now is my chance!” Without a second thought, he leapt out and grabbed onto the wolf’s back and clung on.

The wolf was thoroughly startled, and tried to run away as fast as he could, thinking, “The Koya-no-Mori! It’s got me! It’s got me!”

Trying to take shelter elsewhere, the terrified wolf ran up the mountain with the thief clinging to his back, and as it increased its speed, the thief held on tighter. Once daylight finally came, the thief noticed how thick it’s hair was, and saw that it was not a foal he was riding, but a wolf. Himself terrified and unsure of how to get off, he noticed a hole in the ground near the base of a tree, and at once he let go and was flung down the hole.

Relieved but still terrified, the wolf ran to find his animal friends in the mountains and tell them about the dreaded Koya-no-Mori. They were all filled with fear as they listened to his account of his encounter with and narrow escape from the monster, and at last the wisest among them, the monkey, spoke. “You said you flung it down a hole. You should show us where this hole is so we can investigate.”

The animals all cautiously followed the wolf to the hole, from which came the sound of horrendous moaning. “Wh-wh-what should we do?” the animals shuttered and asked the monkey.

Trying to hide his own fear, the monkey bravely put forth an idea. “I’ll lower this long tail of mine down into the hole and grab it, and when I bring it up here, we’ll all gang up on it and beat it up.” (Back then, Japanese monkeys had very long tails.) The other animals agreed, but remained nervous. However, when the monkey felt that there was indeed something down there, he yelped and all the other animals screamed and ran away.

As the thief felt the monkey’s tail, he mistook it for a rope and thought he was saved. He grabbed it tightly and yanked.

“The Koya-no-Mori! It’s going to eat me!” the monkey screamed, and with a swift yank he ran away, leaving his tail behind with the thief.

Since then, Japanese monkeys have not had long tails.

EDIT: Some photos of modern day Yonago (with Daisen in the background).


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