JAPANESE FOLKTALE : URASHIMA TARO

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Urashima Taro is one of the most famous Japanese folktales you would ever read. This Japanese folk legend is very popular and there is a statue of Urashima Taro located in Mitoyo, Kagawa. Let’s read the story together and enjoy it!

Once upon a time there was a young and kind fisherman named Urashima Taro who lived with his old mother. He was well known for his modesty to the villagers. One day, he went down to the sea shore in the early morning. While taking a walk along the beach he suddenly found some children were tormenting a turtle with heavy sticks. Seeing that he asked them to get away from the turtle and stop hurting it. The children ran away from the spot and then Taro released it back into the sea. 

The next day, when Taro was fishing the turtle appeared near him from the sea and said “I am the same turtle you saved yesterday, I owe you my life and I want to thank you for saving my life. I am inviting you to come with me to see the beautiful Dragon Palace.” Taro indeed was amused knowing that offer that there was a Dragon Palace deep into the sea. He knew he had an old mother alone at home, so he said to the turtle “I don’t want to leave my mother alone so I can’t stay for long.” Hearing that the turtle answered “We won’t be for long there, you will return here again very soon.” Taro was very happy to know it and accepted the invitation gladly that was offered by the turtle. 

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Taro then climbed on the turtle’s back and then the turtle dived deep into the sea to reach to the desired destination. After travelling for a while they reached to the Palace and Taro saw the Dragon Palace which was glittering with gold and silver. When he arrived, Palace attendants welcomed him; all those attended were fishes. Then a beautiful and gorgeous princess named Otohime arrived and said “Yesterday you saved a turtle’s life and it was me, please enjoy your time here and stay here as long as you wish.” Then she took him inside the main palace where Taro enjoyed by eating and drinking so many things.

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The life of Taro inside the palace was very luxurious and joyful. He forgot the life he had before arriving to the palace. A few days later he suddenly remembered his old mother and his village, then he decided to return home from the Palace. The princess gave him a Tamate-Bako (jeweled hand box) as a souvenir saying that this precious box will help him from harm and open it when he was in trouble. He said goodbye to princess and then he climbed on a turtle’s back and returned to the beach.

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All things were very strange to him when he arrived in his village. Villagers were staring at him as no one could recognize him. He headed towards his home to find his old mother. When he arrived he saw his mother was nowhere. A house owner came and asked him who was he, then he replied that “I am Taro, I am here to find my mother and this is our house.” Listening to this the house owner said “I heard that there was a fisherman who used to live here with his mother hundreds years ago, it is impossible that you are Urashima Taro.” Then the house owner left.

Urashima Taro was confused and had no idea of what to do, he felt alone and sad. He went back to the beach carrying the box. He thought “I lost everything I had before and now I have nowhere to go, my mother has already passed away” then he remembered the words the princess said to him. He then decided to open the box to get relief from his troubles. He was surprised to see, it was empty. Then suddenly white smoke came out of it and he immediately became an old man with long white beard and his face wrinkled.

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Moral of the story : The story teaches us that helping others does not necessarily bring you good fortune. This may rather sound quite dark, but it is arguably a much more realistic life lesson than “justice always prevails.”

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