Sumiyaki-choja - Japanese perfection
In popular Japanese folktale Sumiyaki-choja, rich woman marries poor charcoal burner. Sumiyaki-choja illustrates the ideal of Japanese mental perfection in many ways. It is also very interesting example because in it the woman takes the initiative. The man refuses to marry considering himself too poor, but the woman keeps coming back to him until he says yes.
He is honest but simple man who doesn't require too much from life. The woman guides him to make his life better and teaches him the ways of the world. Afterall he has been just burning coal his whole life and he wouldn't know much about the things happening or about women. (Isn't this what happens always when man and woman is together? -note from editor)
In Sumiyaki-choja the woman doesn't marry the man because of pitying him. On the contrary, she simply marries the man because of her love. She is portrayed as an intelligent and very able woman - an ideal figure, or like a goddess.
This story's intelligence exceeds the most modern stories. In Japan there have been long time old fashioned thinking about statuses and about men and women. I feel the storyteller wanted to portray more healthy alternative. The woman in Sumiyaki-choja challenges the feudal values without worrying what other people might think.
Sumiyaki-choja is a happy story. When woman gives man a gold coin koban, man askes "Hey what's all this? I've seen stuff like this lying around around here". Together the man and woman discover that around the charcoal kiln there is actually gold.
The roles of man and women are changing in today's Japan. Many women long to become more independent and make choices like the woman did in Sumiyaki-choja. Men perhaps long to show their sensitivity more and realize that afterall they are not so powerfull. Perhaps, the equality portrayed in Sumiyaki-choja is an ideal case of this.