Long, long ago there lived a sweet old couple. Having no children but desiring one very much, they went to the shrine and prayed, "Please, please let us have a child, no matter how small." Eventually, a son was born to them. But small indeed was the child - no larger than a grown man's fingertip.
The couple raised the child tenderly, and though he became a bright and well-respected young man, he grew not at all. As a result, he became known as Issun-boshi (issun is a unit measuring about 3 centimeters).
One day, Issun-boshi told his parents that he wanted to seek his fortune in the city. His parents were worried about their son but, trusting him, they sent him off with a sword made of a sewing needle, a sheath made of straw, and a boat made from a rice bowl with a chopstick for an oar. Issun-boshi walked along until he came upon the river that flowed towards the town. There he set his rice bowl in the water and paddled with the chopstick for days on end, until at last he reached the town.