This is a story from Chizu, Yazu County, in Tottori Prefecture.

A long time ago, there was an old man and an old lady who struggled through a very meager life. Everyday the old man went out to collect firewood and sell it and then use the money to buy rice. He wasn’t always able to sell it, though. When he had anything leftover, he would take it to the Chizu bridge. There, he’d say, “I offer this to Otohime, the Princess of the Dragon Palace under the sea” and then ceremoniously chuck the wood into the river before going home.

One day as the old man was about to head home, someone called out to him. “Excuse me, sir!” the stranger said. “I am a servant of Otohime in the Dragon Palace, and she has sent me here today. We had been having terrible problems getting wood for the castle, so you constant gifts of firewood helped us quite a bit. As thanks, Otohime told me to give this to you.” So saying, he pulled a gavel from his sleeve.

“A gavel?”

“Yes. Say what you want, then strike the gavel, and it will make anything for you. However, it has its limits–you can only use it three times.” The stranger then handed it to the old man, and immediately disappeared.

As the old man was taking the gavel home, he tripped and broke his sandal. Sighing, he decided to give the gavel a try. “One sandal,” he said, then struck the ground with the gavel, and immediately a wonderful sandal appeared. Wow! This really does work! he thought as he excitedly put on the sandal. But I can only use it three times. What should the other two things be?

On his way home, he noticed how dull and hard to use his axe had become, so he decided to try the gavel again. “One axe,” he said and struck the gavel, and there appeared a golden axe. Once again quite impressed, he took the golden axe home.

Upon his return, he asked his wife, “Old Lady, what’s the one thing we need?”

The old lady replied, “Old Man, we don’t have any rice to eat!”

“Then we should ask for rice!” he exclaimed, and raising the gavel he said, “Rice, a ton of it, Old Lady!” and then struck the ground.

Once he did so, a rather beautiful old woman appeared in front of them.

Oh no, thought the old man. There’s not even enough rice for my own Old Lady and I to eat, let alone to let this woman eat! Now what have I done?

At that moment, the beautiful lady sat straight up, and a couple grains of rice dripped out of her nose. Just as the old man and the old lady pondered how strange that was, another grain dripped out of the woman’s nose. Then another. And another. And another. And another.

Quite soon the grains of rice were spilling all across the floor and filling up the room. When it looked like it had accumulated to about a ton, the beautiful woman seemed to melt into the pile of rice, and disappeared. Given the wording of the old man’s request, she might have originally been rice herself.