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For more details on the character in the legend, please refer to article Urashima Tarō on Wikipedia.

This article is about a Japanese legend; for the character in Ōkami, see Urashima.

Taro

Urashima Taro Returning from the Dragon King's palace by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, 1886.

Urashima Tarō (「浦島 太郎」?) is a Japanese legend about a fisherman who rescues a turtle and is rewarded for this with a visit to Ryūgū-jō, the palace of Ryūjin, the Dragon God, under the sea. He stays there for three days and, upon his return to his village, finds himself 300 years in the future.

Story

One day a young fisherman named Urashima Tarō is fishing when he notices a group of children torturing a small turtle. Tarō saves it and lets it to go back to the sea. The next day, a huge turtle approaches him and tells him that the small turtle he had saved is the daughter of the Emperor of the Sea, Ryūjin, who wants to see him to thank him. The turtle magically gives Tarō gills and brings him to the bottom of the sea, to the Palace of the Dragon God (Ryūgū-jō). There he meets the Emperor and the small turtle, who was now a lovely princess, Otohime.

Tarō stays there with her for a few days, but soon wants to go back to his village and see his aging mother, so he asks Otohime permission to leave. The princess says she is sorry to see him go, but wishes him well and gives him a mysterious box called tamatebako which she tells him never to open. Tarō grabs the box, jumps on the back of the same turtle that had brought him there, and soon is at the seashore.

When he goes home, everything has changed. His home is gone, his mother has vanished, and the people he knew are nowhere to be seen. He asks if anybody knows a man called Urashima Tarō. They answer that they had heard someone of that name had vanished at sea long ago. He discovers that 300 years have passed since the day he left for the bottom of the sea. Struck by grief, he absent-mindedly opens the box the princess had given him, from which bursts forth a cloud of white smoke. He is suddenly aged, his beard long and white, and his back bent. From the sea comes the sad, sweet voice of the princess: "I told you not to open that box. In it was your old age ..."

Variations

As always with folklore, there are many different versions of this extremely famous story. In one, for example, after he turned into an old man he took the body of a crane, in another he ate a magic pill that gave him the ability to breathe underwater. In another version, he is swept away by a storm before he can rescue the turtle. Also, there is a version in which he dies in the process of aging (his body turns into dust), as no one can live 300 years.

Ōkami

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References

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