Urashima Taro

This is a fisherman in old Japan. He is walking on the beach and sees a baby turtle being bullied by some youngsters. So he’s like “Scram scram get out of here”. And the turtle talks to him like “thank you so much. I’ll make sure to pay my gratitude”. And he goes about his day, and forgets about it. And one day he is approached by the baby turtle again, and the turtle says “hey if you want to hang out, you can hang out with my family and I, and we can show you a good time. You can ride on my back”. So the fisherman rides on the turtle’s back and goes deep into the ocean where there is eventually an underwater palace. And, it’s basically a kingdom of sea creatures and I believe their version of a princess. A sea human, basically. Because you can breathe underwater when you are with these people. And so they are having a good ol’ time, feasting it up, drinking, partying. And then he realizes “Oh i should probably head back it’s been way too long”. So he tells the person in charge, basically the queen, “Oh i should head back” and she goes “oh you don’t have to head go!”, but he says “no i have to go”. And she tells him “okay you can go but I have a gift for you” and she gives him a box. She tells him “whatever you do you can’t open this box. It’s a box that will protect you but you can’t open it”. He goes back and realizes that everything is different, the shoreline is different, the stores are different. He asks a kid “where is blah blah blah” and the kid says “What are you talking about”. The man realizes that he has been gone for 100s of years and becomes depressed realizing that everything around him was gone. So he decides to open the box and the woman comes out saying “told you not to open” and all the time that he has stolen catches up to him, and he becomes a mummified corpse. 


This performance was done when the speaker, a college student who grew up in Japan, was sharing Japanese fairy tales that they knew. When asked how the speaker knew of this, they explained that this tale is thousands of years old and is commonly known in Japan, as there have even been cartoons and adaptations of it. The speaker also makes a point that many Japanese stories are not about virtues or sins, but about contemplating random topics such as death or one’s role in society. 

Personal Thoughts:

This fairytale focuses a lot on the idea of how one should spend their life and the consequences of one’s decisions. The informant made a note that this specific fairytale was about how one should not waste their life away by partying, as they could miss their life. From this specific tale, one can gather that this story is trying to teach a specific lesson, having an ending that is about how not focusing on the life in front of you can ultimately destroy you in the end. Since this is a fairytale that is well-known by the folk community, it can be deduced that this fairytale is not only used to tell a story, but also to teach this specific lesson to youth, as with many fairytales from other folk communities.  

For another version of this fairytale, refer to: 

Ozaki, Yei Theodora. “The Story of Urashima Taro, The Fisher Lad”. Lit2Go.