Monday, August 11, 2008

The Legend of the Cowfrog

When I first came to Japan I was teaching in a few different schools for the same company. Every Tuesday, I would catch the train for an hour to get to the head office for classes there. I finished at 9.30pm and would walk home in the dark to the train station.

Just before the station was a small river. Often at night, I would hear a sound like that of a cow moo-ing. I found this quite strange as during the day I never saw any cows or any places a cow might be nearby, but yet the sound was very much like a cow.

That year I had a student who was a special ed. teacher. She was telling me a story of how she'd taken her students out to catch tadpoles. These weren't your normal size tadpoles, but actually rather large. She told me that they were the babies of an "ushi kaeru". Ushi kaeru she told me made a sound much like a cow.

Wow! I thought as I translated the animal name "ushi" = cow "kaeru" = frog. In Japan they have an amphibian called a "cowfrog". That's what I'd been hearing on these dark nights.

For about a year, whenever I heard the sound as I crossed over the river I thought of this mythical like creature, the "cowfrog". I imagined it the size of a cat, with tadpoles the size of mice. What an amazing country this is to have a "cowfrog".

Fast forward to a night much later at a karaoki bar to me singing the Three Dog Night song "Joy to the World".

"Jeremiah was a bullfrog..."

Hang on a second - "ushi" = cow, "ushi" also = bull....

In Japan, they have BULLFROGS!

Ahh... I much preferred my cowfrog image.


Guzzisue said...

love the image cowfrogs conjures up, sort of feminine :-)

lina said...

cowfrog seems cuter than a bullfrog. :-)

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Thanks for the comments guys! It does seem cuter and more feminine doesn't it :)

Fuji Mama said...

I like your translation much better!

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Thanks Fujimama :) Personally, so do I!