One of the most popular Japanese tales is that of Urashima Taro [浦島太郎]. There is even a statue of this character in the city of Mitoyo, Kagawa Prefecture. This is the story of a kindly young fisherman, who one day disappeared, and when he returned, nothing was as before. So, one feels that history comes.
The Story of Urashima Taro
A long time ago, a young man named Urashima Taro lived on the coast of Japan in a small fishing village. He came from a fishing family, and was considered the best in the region. But besides being a good fisherman, he was also known as a very kind person.
Urashima Taro in his life had never hurt anyone. He also lived and cared for his elderly mother with great affection and attention. But, on a certain day, while walking on the beach, he observed some children beating and tormenting a turtle.
Promptly, Taro asked that the children seem to mistreat that poor turtle. After this intervention, the boys left. Taro took the turtle, stroked it and took it back to the sea.
The next day, Taro was back to his fishing routine. But, while fishing at sea, he hears a voice calling his name. Startled and not knowing whose voice it was, he looked in all directions. To his surprise, the voice was that of the turtle he had saved the other day.
The turtle thanked the young man very much for the rescue, and so he invited him to see the Sea Dragon King's Palace. Taro had heard of this place before, but he had never seen such a palace. Despite being a tempting invitation, the young man was a little reluctant to go, as he did not want to leave his mother for long.
But the turtle assured him that they would not be long and that he would be back soon. Taro got excited and was very happy and soon accepted the turtle's invitation. He then rides on the turtle's back and together they head towards that palace.
THE PALACE and the princess OTOHIME
After some time traveling by the sea, they see the Dragon Palace, and it shone like gold and silver. When they arrived, they were attended to by fish. In this, a beautiful princess appears inside the palace Otohime. She was more beautiful than anyone else the young man had seen. Her voice sounded like a beautiful song at sea.
The princess thanked Taro for saving her, as she was that turtle. Therefore, she invites you to enjoy all the perks of the palace as much as you want. Upon entering, the young man was attracted to such a variety of food and drink that he could enjoy. Taro even heard from the princess that she would be his bride if he wanted to.
Otohime [乙姫] is one of the most beautiful daughters of the Dragon God Ryujin. She is also the grandmother of Jimmu, the first emperor of Japan. Ryujin [龍神] is a dragon god who lives in the ocean and appears in several Japanese myths.
This tale took place in the submarine palace called Ryūgū-jō, where the tidal jewels called kanju were used to control the tides.
A DIFFICULT decision
There were so many wonders in that place that Taro forgot about his life, his village and his family. Only after three days did he come to his senses, and remember who he really was and everything he had left behind.
Even though he lived a wonderful life in the palace, young Taro knew that the most important thing was his family, so he decided to return to his normal life. The princess, knowing this decision, begged him to stay.
Observing that the young man would not change his decision, she presented him with a beautiful box, Tamate-Bako (jewelry box), tied with a silk cord.
Before going, the princess said that even though it was a very precious gift, Taro could not open that box under any circumstances. The young man promised never to open it. Then, after saying goodbye, the young fisherman left on a large turtle.
Urashima Taro Back home
After some time traveling, Urashima Taro reaches the shores of the beach he knew so much. When stepping on the sand, the turtle that will immediately take you back. But, something was different. The people who passed him were totally different from the ones he knew.
Although confused, he runs towards his old home. But when he arrives, a totally strange man leaves the house. Upon questioning the man, Taro discovers that he owned the house.
The young man introduces himself and tries to explain that he lived in that house until days ago. The man says he had heard stories about one Urashima Taro and the former residents of that house. But, that these stories were more than 300 years ago.
Taro is totally confused and doesn't know what to do. He realizes that the few days he spent in the palace, were hundreds of years in the "real world". His parents were already dead and so were all the people he knew.
There is only one thing he has left is the box that the princess gave him. As he had already lost everything he needed, he decides to open the box. Upon opening it, he notices that there is nothing inside it, only smoke rises over it.
Urashima Taro, who until then was a young man, suddenly starts to get old. His back is bent, his hair is matted and his body is filled with wrinkles. Soon, Taro falls dead on the beach.
Lessons from the history of URASHIMA TARO
The Japanese tell this story to demonstrate the importance of not wasting time on futile things, such as entertainment. Another lesson is to live each moment of life giving due value to our family.
Because Taro was disobedient to the princess's request, the story also shows the importance of being obedient to the wisest. For disobedience is the beginning of all kinds of sadness and miseries in life.
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