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8 — The Rabbit in the Moon, a Japanese folktale

Folktales can be viewed as the origins of all stories. They are part of the oral tradition held by many cultures; they are the tales of the people of specific regions and, as such, bring together a shared history and identity. They are used to share cultural values, to teach communal traditions and beliefs, and to explain the natural world to children. Several folktales from around the world will be used in the following sequences and where possible it is recommended that books be used to share these tales. However, the text or associated websites have been included for use where this is not possible.

Collect a selection of folktales related to the topic that students can read during independent reading sessions.

Activity 1: How the rabbit came to be in the moon, a Japanese folktale

Resources: Maps of the world and of Japan

Sharing the story

This story can either be read to the students or shared through a podcast from the Metropolitan Museum. Allow the students to respond to the meanings of the folktale. Lead a class discussion about the structure of the story, identifying the characters, the main events and the resolution. The story of the rabbit in the moon is also shared as part of the O-tsukimi Festival, which honours the Autumn Moon. The students should engage in activities and guided whole-group research to gain some understanding of Japan and its cultural heritage.

O-tsukimi is a festival held in Japan in autumn. It celebrates the beauty of the full moon and gives thanks for a good harvest. People gather to view the moon and consider its beauty. They typically decorate their homes with pampas grass and display seasonal produce. Special rice dumplings are prepared and eaten as part of the festivities.

The following web versions of the story are all suitable for reading to the students:

Where is Japan?

Using maps of the world, globes or web-based mapping systems such as Google Earth, identify where Japan is located on a map of the world. Using factual texts and reliable websites, research information on Japan and its people. This research can be used to highlight aspects of Japanese culture and geography. Useful websites and pages include:

As a whole class or a small group activity, compile a set of facts about Japan and the O-tsukimi Festival. This information can be used to assist student understanding and interpretation of the text.

Activity 2: Qualities and characteristics

Revisit the story of how the rabbit came to be in the moon from Activity 1. Discuss the message that the story conveyed about putting others first. Explain that this is referred to as the ‘theme’. Tell the students that authors let their readers learn about the characters through their actions and the qualities they are given. Have the students identify the actions and qualities of each of the characters in the text as in the table below. The students should refer to evidence in the text to justify their decisions. ACELT1594

Character Actions Personal qualities


Stole food

Found food for the visitor


Kind, caring


Found food for the visitor

Kind, caring


Spoke little

Looked for food for the visitor and was prepared to sacrifice himself


Kind, brave, honourable

Old Moon Man/God

Saved the Rabbit and rewarded him

Benevolent, generous

Discuss other stories the students are familiar with that have an underlying message or theme about how we should treat others. The students will complete a similar activity with the story they identified, using the Character actions and qualities worksheet.