A long time ago in a small village in Japan there lived a poor old man and his wife. One day, as New Year's drew near, the wife looked in her rice chest and found that there was hardly any rice left. And with the snow so deep that they could not gather the leaves needed for weaving kasa (sedge hats) to sell, there was nothing else she could do but prepare hot water for cooking what was left of the rice.
Just then, a baby mouse appeared from a hole in the wall, crying, "Oh, I'm so hungry." The mother and father mice scolded their son, "This house is so poor that there are seldom any food scraps left to eat, so you'll just have to bear with it."
"Poor baby mouse," said the old man. "We are so bad off that even the mice are hungry." Feeling sorry for them, he gave the mice a small portion of the last of their rice, which they used to make rice cakes, and together they dined.