The Monkey's Age Contest

(Miyako Island)

A long time ago, three monkeys chanced upon a rather tasty looking rice ball.

One of them said, "What a delicious rice ball it looks! Shall we divide it into three?"

But it was obvious that the rice ball was too small to be shared between the three of them.

Then one of the monkeys suggested, "How about deferring to seniority? There is a saying which goes, the oldest eats first."

They all agreed to this.

Then one monkey impatiently began, "When I was born, the sea was much smaller than it is now. It was not bigger than the size of a rice cup. I'm a witness to the time when the sea was in its childhood. So I'm sure that I'm the oldest.

Then an another monkey countered this by saying, "When I was born, the spiral of the snail's shell was only just beginning, and look how big its home has now grown. Remembering this distant time must make me the oldest."

Then the third monkey suddenly cried out with tears of grief. The other two monkeys thought that he was crying because he was younger than they were. Taking pity, they consoled him by saying, "Next time we come across a good meal we promise to share it with you, so take heart."

The weeping monkey replied, "I'm crying because you two remind me of my beloved grandson, who was just your age, if only he could have lived longer." It was this monkey who ate the rice ball.

Note: This story has been handed all over Japan. In Okinawa, the similar story is one in which an old dove and a wise crow compete over their age, but end up sharing the tasty morsel they jointly chanced upon.

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