Urashima Taro

This entry is part 2 of 11 in the series Japanese folk tales

Urashima Taro

Once upon a time, there was a kind fisherman named Urashima Taro. One day, while walking along the beach, he saw a group of children being mean to a small turtle. Urashima Taro felt sorry for the turtle and told the children to stop. He then gently picked up the turtle and released it back into the sea.

A few days later, while fishing, Urashima Taro saw a large turtle swimming towards his boat. To his surprise, the turtle spoke to him. It said that it was the small turtle he had saved and that it wanted to thank him by taking him to the Dragon Palace (Ryugu-jo), the palace of the Dragon King under the sea.

Urashima Taro agreed and rode on the turtle’s back. They dived deep into the sea and soon arrived at the beautiful Dragon Palace. There, Urashima Taro was welcomed by Princess Otohime, the daughter of the Dragon King. She thanked him for saving the turtle and invited him to stay at the palace. Urashima Taro enjoyed the wonderful hospitality, delicious food, and beautiful sights of the palace.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. Urashima Taro eventually felt homesick and wanted to return to his village. Princess Otohime was sad to see him go but understood. She gave him a mysterious box called a “tamatebako” as a parting gift. She told him not to open the box, no matter what happened.

Urashima Taro rode the turtle back to the surface and returned to his village. However, when he arrived, he was shocked. Everything had changed. His home was gone, and the people he knew were nowhere to be found. He asked around and learned that many years had passed since he had left, even though it felt like only a few months to him.

Confused and heartbroken, Urashima Taro remembered the box Princess Otohime had given him. Forgetting her warning, he opened the tamatebako. As soon as he did, a thick white smoke poured out and surrounded him. Suddenly, he aged rapidly and became an old man. The box contained his lost years.

Realizing his mistake, Urashima Taro understood that he could never go back to his old life. He sat down by the sea, looking out at the waves, and thought about the wonderful time he had spent at the Dragon Palace.

This story teaches us to appreciate and protect the kindness shown to us and to heed warnings given by those who care about us.

Series Navigation<< The Old Man Who Made the Dead Trees BlossomMomotaro (Peach Boy) >>
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