One of the most popular Japanese tales is that of the Urashima Taro [浦島太郎]. There is even a statue of this character in Mitoyo City, Kagawa Prefecture. This is the story of a kind young fisherman, who disappeared one day, and when he returned, nothing was as before. So, it feels like there comes history.
The Story of Urashima Taro
A long time ago, there lived on the coast of Japan in a small fishing village a young man named Urashima Taro. He came from a family of fishermen, and was considered the best in the region. But in addition to being a good fisherman, he was also known to be a very kind person.
Urashima Taro in all his life had never hurt anyone. He also lived and cared for his elderly mother with great care and attention. But one day, while walking along the beach, he saw some children beating and tormenting a turtle.
Promptly, Taro asked for the children to seem to mistreat that poor turtle. After this intervention, the boys left. Taro picked up the turtle, petted it, and took it back to the sea.
The next day, Taro was back to his fishing routine. But while out at sea fishing, he hears a voice calling his name. Frightened 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 tortoise thanked the young man very much for saving him, and so he invited him to see the Palace of the Sea Dragon King. Taro had heard of this place, but he had never seen such a palace. Even though it was a tempting invitation, the young man was a little reluctant to go, as he didn't want to leave his mother for too long.
But the turtle assured him that it wouldn't take long and that he would be back soon. Taro was excited and very happy and soon accepted the turtle's invitation. He then rides on the turtle's back and together they head towards the palace.
THE PALACE and Princess OTOHIME
After some time traveling across the sea, they came in sight of the Dragon Palace, and it shone like gold and silver. When they arrived, they were attended by fish. In this, from inside the palace emerges a beautiful princess named Otohime. She was more beautiful than anyone else the young man had seen. Her voice was like a beautiful song on the sea.
The princess thanked Taro for saving her, as she was that turtle. Therefore, she invites him to enjoy all the perks of the palace as much as he wants. Upon entering, the young man was attracted by 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 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 underwater palace called the Ryūgū-jō, where the tidal jewels called kanju, used to control the tides, were found.
A DIFFICULT DECISION
There were so many wonders in that place that Taro forgot his life, his village and his family. Only after three days did he come to his senses, and remember who he really was and all he had left behind.
Even living a wonderful life in the palace, young Taro knew that the most important thing was his family, so he decided to go back to his normal life. The princess, knowing this decision, begged him to stay.
Noting that the young man would not change his decision, she presented him with a beautiful box, tamate-bako (jewel box), tied with a silk cord.
Before leaving, 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. So, after saying goodbye, the young fisherman left in a big turtle.
Urashima Taro Back home
After some time of travel, Urashima Taro arrives at the shores of the beach he knew so much. When stepping on the sand, the turtle that will take you immediately comes back. But something was different. The people who passed him were totally different from the ones he knew.
Even confused, he runs towards his old house. But upon arriving, a totally strange man comes out of 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 a certain Urashima Taro and the former residents of that house. But, that these stories were from more than 300 years ago.
Taro is totally confused and not knowing what to do. He realizes that the few days he spent in the palace were hundreds of years in the "real world". His parents had already died and so had everyone else he knew.
The only thing he has left is the box the princess gave him as a gift. 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 him.
Urashima Taro, who until then was a young man, suddenly starts to get old. Your back bends, your hair turns white and your body fills with wrinkles. Soon, Taro drops 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 frivolous things like entertainment. Another lesson is to live every moment of life giving due value to our family.
Because Taro was disobedient to the princess' request, the story also shows the importance of being obedient to the wisest. For disobedience is the beginning of all kinds of sorrow and miseries in life.
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