The Okinawan folktale “Tora ga ki nobori no dekinai riyū” (Why tigers can’t climb trees) can be found on the Hukumusume website (http://hukumusume.com/). We translated and present it below with the authorization of Hukumusume. Go there to listen to the original Japanese narration.

Audio file:



Why tigers can’t climb trees

 Once upon a time, a tiger expert in Chinese martial arts came to Okinawa as he heard that Okinawa’s karate was powerful.

 Arriving in an Okinawan town, the tiger spoke in an arrogant manner.

 “I am a master of Chinese martial arts. It is a match between Chinese martial arts and karate to see which one is stronger!”


 “What’s wrong? Are you fearing my Chinese martial arts?!”


 Having never seen such a big tiger before, the Okinawan animals are scared and no one tries to compete.

 “If no one competes, Okinawa will be mine!”

 At that moment, a small wildcat stepped forward in front of the tiger.

 “Okay, I will take you on.”

 This wildcat is an Okinawa karate master.

 Looking at the wildcat less than his size, the tiger cackled.

 “Gahahahaha. A little dwarf like you, challenging me? Okay, for you, just one throw. YAAHH!”

 The tiger jumped at the wildcat, but as the wildcat dodges lightly the tiger’s attack, he completely beat the large tiger.

 “What? … Not yet, it’s just the start!”

 The tiger again aimed at a bout, but no matter how many times it tries, he is no match for the wildcat.

 Admitting his loss, the tiger asked the wildcat joining both hands together.

 “Master! Please, teach me your Okinawa karate!”

 “Okay. Training is hard, but do your best.”

 And so, the tiger was allowed to become a disciple of the wildcat and began to practice karate.

 Having started karate, the tiger, who originally had a talent for martial arts, improved very fast.

 Now that a year has passed, the tiger is the second karate expert after the wildcat.

 Understanding the situation, the wildcat thought,

 “At this pace, the tiger will become stronger than me. If it happens, one day, he may defeat me and rule Okinawa.”

 And so, he didn’t teach one of the many lethal techniques of karate.

 One day, the bad premonition of the wildcat came true, and the tiger challenged the wildcat.

 “Master. I became stronger than you. Now is the time to defeat you and rule Okinawa!”

 “All right. I will do my best to defeat you and send you back to China.”

 The karate skills of the tiger and the wildcat were equal, but as the tiger was originally advantaged as he excelled in Chinese martial arts, he gradually dominated the bout.

 “Not good, if this goes on, I will lose…”

 As he thought so, the wildcat used the special karate move that he did not teach the tiger.

 That is, tree climbing.

 As the wildcat lightly climbed the tree, he waited for the tiger from above.

 “Hey master, are you escaping to such a place and surrender?”

 The tiger chased the wildcat and also aimed at climbing the tree, but the tiger, who was not taught to climb trees, has a hard time to even cling to the tree.

 “There is the chance!

 The wildcat slammed the immobile tiger clinging to the tree and sent him back to China.

 And so it is. The tiger is a very strong animal who excels in Chinese martial arts and Okinawa karate, but as the wildcat didn’t teach him to climb trees, he is said that he is still not good at climbing trees.

 The end.