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The Tale of Urashima Taro

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Sam The Shugi

Joined: 28 Mar 2017
Posts: 32
Location: Essex

PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2019 5:06 pm    Post subject: The Tale of Urashima Taro Reply with quote

Shugi sat on the beachfront stoking the fire and pulling his cloak tighter as the winter chill swept across the sand. The sunset shimmering across the calm ocean bringing back flashes of a past half remembered. His mother and father were not keen on bringing Shugi to the ocean often, but there were rare summers he had persuaded them to take the trip. Shugi had made fast friends with a few of the more engineering minded members of the Mari-Ann foundation and they had joined him for some tea.

The Thunders desire to keep to themselves had given them an air of mystery to other cultures, and it seemed one of the few parts of their culture that had become known to the wider world was the tea ceremony. For months the water Sidhe had asked him to perform one, and Shugi had declined. He explained there was no magic or majesty, it was simply a symbolic display of respect and generosity, but eventually he relented.

As Shugi prepared the kettle for the ceremony, one of the Sidhe spoke up
“You’re a fine engineer Shugi, but you speak very little of home. We know next to nothing about your shard. Tell us about your family, your clan.”
Shugi sighed, they were curious and he appreciated that, but there was very little he actually had to talk about.
“Well I do not wish to put a downer on this evening, I am leaving in a few days and I don’t want to colour your opinion of me with a sad story. But my thunders family died when I was very young. I was adopted by a family in Salem, they treated me with kindness although to this day they can be a little overprotective. I serve Lord Chosokabe on an island called Keshi. That is about all there is to say”.
“Then what about a thunders story? You must know plenty of those”. Another Sidhe asked, sitting at the table as Shugi laid out the tea set. Shugi looked out across the sea once again to the setting sun and smiled as a story came to mind. One his mother Constance would tell him whenever they’d come to the seaside.

“I know a tale you might be interested in. Have you heard of Urashima Taro?” Shugi’s question was met with the shaking of heads. “Well he was a fisherman long ago in the thunders. He came from a long line of fisherman, and his prowess with the rod and hook were as impressive as his father, and his father before him. But in his small fishing village, despite him being able to catch more fish in a day than his fellow fishermen could in a week, he was more well known for his kind and compassionate heart. He had never hurt a living thing in his life, in fact as a child he was mocked for his softness.
At the end of a long day fishing, Urashima was taking his catch home when he heard a group of children. Their excited voices betraying their excitement. Urashima approached to see what had got them in such a good mood, only to see a tortoise between three boys. One boy pulled it this way, the other pulling it back, while the third boy beat its shell with a stone.
“Boys please! Stop or this poor tortoise will die soon” Urashima said softly as he approached the them.
The eldest of the boys who had been beating its shell with a stone spoke up “Who cares if it lives or dies? We do not”. They continued to abuse the tortoise, causing it to whimper within its shell.
“Please! I am sure you are good boys. Now won’t you give me the tortoise? I would very much like to have it.” Urashima tried once more, his heart panging as he saw the tortoise in pain and fear.
“No, we won’t give you the tortoise. We caught it ourselves, why should we?”.
Urashima began to reach into the small pouch on his belt “Of course, I do not ask for you to give me your catch for nothing. Won’t you let me buy the tortoise off you? I am sure you could do far more with this money than you can with that poor tortoise”.
His warm smile was enough to sway these mischievous boys, and they gladly handed over the tortoise, scampering away with the money. Urashima scooped up the tortoise, cooing to it softly as he walked back to the sea. Tortoises are said to be the oldest of all creatures, and this one’s life was nearly cut short. He placed it into the ocean and watched it swim away before heading home to his own house for a good nights sleep.
The next day as he sat on his boat fishing he heard a voice calling his name. He looked around the boat only to see to his surprise, a tortoise.
“Was it you that called my name right now Mr. Tortoise?”
The tortoise nodded its old wrinkled head several times and said “Yes it was I. I am so honoured and grateful that you saved my life. Please allow me to show you how grateful I am for your kindness.”
“That is very polite of you Mr Tortoise, would you like to come aboard my boat and dry your shell in the sun?” The tortoise nodded once again and Urashima lifted him out of the water and onto the boat.
“Urashima, have you ever seen Rin Gin, the palace of the dragon king of the sea?” The tortoise asked.
The fisherman shook his head. “No, I have been a fisherman for most of my life and although I often stare into the waters and day dream I have never set eyes on the Dragon King’s realm. It must be very far away, if it exists at all!”
“I assure you it exists, but it is at the bottom of the sea. As thanks for saving my life I wish to take you there. Grab onto my shell and I shall take you there”.
Urashima laughed “Mr Tortoise I thank you for the offer. I have no doubts that you are a powerful swimmer, but you are far too small to pull me there.”
“Please trust me Urashima, I promise you I can take you there”.
Urashima gingerly stepped into the water and grabbed onto the tortoise. His shell seemed to grow until he was the size of a man, surprising Urashima. But he held on and they dove, deeper and deeper into the sea. Urashima found his clothes never even dampened, he did not need to draw breath, and his grip did not tire as they swam. Deeper and deeper they swam, until magnificent gates began to loom from the deep. Gold and encrusted with jewels, these gates were the most magnificent thing Urashima had ever seen. Then he saw the palace. It was so grand that none of the stories about it did its justice. The very sight brought tears to his eyes. The tortoise swam up to a fish dressed in armour to the side of the gates and said
“This is Urashima Taro of the land of the Thunders. I have had the honour of bringing him as a visitor to our kingdom.”

Shugi nodded to the kettle as steam began to pour out, snapping the attention of the Sidhe that had become enthralled by his tale.
“My apologies, please allow me to pour the tea”.
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Sam The Shugi

Joined: 28 Mar 2017
Posts: 32
Location: Essex

PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2019 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As the ceremony concluded Shugi could tell that the Sidhe had been slightly disappointed. He had exaggerated it as much as he could while sticking to the tradition, but the truth is they had been swayed by stories that gaijin had spread about the thunders tea ceremony, and now they had seen it was something that needed the context of its homeland.
The Sidhe sat closest to Shugi scrunched his face up slightly as he sipped the tea “it is quite…bitter” he managed, not wishing to offend.
“Yes it is quite an acquired taste, but I assure you it is at least healthy” Shugi offered, feeling slightly bad for disappointing his new friends.
“Could you at least finish the story of Uruchida? I was enjoying it” A sidhe said as he patted Shugi comfortingly on the shoulder.
“Urashima” Shugi corrected, he always wondered how people found thunders names so difficult. “Where was I? Ah yes they had just got to the palace of the dragon king.
Urashima walked along the floor of sea, looking up at the palace in astonishment. Fish in the most regal clothing darted about and some swam up to him and bowed. He felt very out of place as the mere fisherman. At the main palace doors however stood the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She was more beautiful than any human being, and was robed in flowing garments of red and soft green like the under side of a wave, and golden threads glimmered through the folds of her gown. Her lovely black hair streamed over her shoulders in the fashion of a king’s daughter many hundreds of years ago, and when she spoke her voice sounded like music over the water. Urashima was lost in wonder while he looked upon her, and he could not speak. Then he remembered that he ought to bow, but before he could make a low obeisance the Princess took him by the hand and led him to a beautiful hall, and to the seat of honour at the upper end, and bade him be seated.
“Urashima Taro, it gives me the highest pleasure to welcome you to my father’s kingdom,” said the Princess. “Yesterday you set free a tortoise, and I have sent for you to thank you for saving my life, for I was that tortoise. Now if you like you shall live here forever in the land of eternal youth, where summer never dies and where sorrow never comes, and I will be your bride if you will, and we will live together happily forever afterwards!”
And as Urashima listened to her sweet words and gazed upon her lovely face his heart was filled with a great wonder and joy, and he answered her, wondering if it was not all a dream:
“Thank you, a thousand times, for your kind speech. There is nothing I could wish for more than to be permitted to stay here with you in this beautiful land, of which I have often heard, but have never seen to this day. Beyond all words, this is the most wonderful place I have ever seen.”
While he was speaking a train of fishes appeared, all dressed in ceremonial, trailing garments. One by one, silently and with stately steps, they entered the hall, bearing on coral trays delicacies of fish and seaweed, such as no one can dream of, and this wondrous feast was set before the bride and bridegroom. The bridal was celebrated with dazzling splendour, and in the Sea King’s realm there was great rejoicing. As soon as the young pair had pledged themselves in the wedding cup of wine, three times three, music was played, and songs were sung, and fishes with silver scales and golden tails stepped in from the waves and danced. Urashima enjoyed himself with all his heart. Never in his whole life had he sat down to such a marvellous feast.

When the feast was over the Princess asked the bridegroom if he would like to walk through the palace and see all there was to be seen. Then the happy fisherman, following his bride, the Sea King’s daughter, was shown all the wonders of that enchanted land where youth and joy go hand in hand and neither time nor age can touch them. The palace was built of coral and adorned with pearls, and the beauties and wonders of the place were so great that the tongue fails to describe them.

But, to Urashima, more wonderful than the palace was the garden that surrounded it. Here was to be seen at one time the scenery of the four different seasons; the beauties of summer and winter, spring and autumn, were displayed to the wondering visitor at once. First, when he looked to the east, the plum and cherry trees were seen in full bloom, the nightingales sang in the pink avenues, and butterflies flitted from flower to flower. Looking to the south all the trees were green in the fullness of summer, and the day cicala and the night cricket chirruped loudly. Looking to the west the autumn maples were ablaze like a sunset sky, and the chrysanthemums were in perfection. Looking to the north the change made Urashima start, for the ground was silver white with snow, and trees and bamboos were also covered with snow and the pond was thick with ice.

And each day there were new joys and new wonders for Urashima, and so great was his happiness that he forgot everything, even the home he had left behind and his parents and his own country, and three days passed without his even thinking of all he had left behind. Then his mind came back to him and he remembered who he was, and that he did not belong to this wonderful land or the Sea King’s palace, and he said to himself:
“O dear! I must not stay on here, for I have an old father and mother at home. What can have happened to them all this time? How anxious they must have been these days when I did not return as usual. I must go back at once without letting one more day pass.” And he began to prepare for the journey in great haste.

Then he went to his beautiful wife, the Princess, and bowing low before her he said:
“Indeed, I have been very happy with you for a long time, Otohime Sama” (for that was her name), “and you have been kinder to me than any words can tell. But now I must say good-by. I must go back to my old parents.”
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Sam The Shugi

Joined: 28 Mar 2017
Posts: 32
Location: Essex

PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2019 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Go back to his parents?” One of the sidhe questioned, interrupting the story. “But he has a gorgeous woman literally begging to be his bride and she is the daughter to some kind of dragon god?” The fish-person scratched the fin atop his head, confused.
“Well in the Thunders we believe that ones family is very very important. It is the duty of the son to care for his mother and father. I suppose it is a large part of our identity as people that we are part of our family unit and not just an individual” Shugi replied, thinking to Hanzo, his newly acquired guardian ancestor who he was still trying to connect with.
“The princess Otohime protested. She begged Urashima to stay with her for just one more day. But he could not, he knew he must go back to his parents. 3 days from them must have worried them sick and he could not bear the guilt of leaving them with no explanation.
“Indeed, I must go. Do not think that I wish to leave you. It is not that. I must go and see my old parents. Let me go for one day and I will come back to you.”
“Then,” said the Princess sorrowfully, “there is nothing to be done. I will send you back to-day to your father and mother, and instead of trying to keep you with me one more day, I shall give you this as a token of our love—please take it back with you;” and she brought him a beautiful lacquer box tied about with a silken cord and tassels of red silk.
Urashima had received so much from the Princess already that he felt some compunction in taking the gift, and said:
“It does not seem right for me to take yet another gift from you after all the many favors I have received at your hands, but because it is your wish I will do so,” and then he added:
“Tell me what is this box?”
“That,” answered the Princess “is the tamate-bako (Box of the Jewel Hand), and it contains something very precious. You must not open this box, whatever happens! If you open it something dreadful will happen to you! Now promise me that you will never open this box!”
And Urashima promised that he would never, never open the box whatever happened.
Then bidding good-by to Otohime Sama he went down to the seashore, the Princess and her attendants following him, and there he found a large tortoise waiting for him.
He quickly mounted the creature’s back and was carried away over the shining sea into the East. He looked back to wave his hand to Otohime Sama till at last he could see her no more, and the land of the Sea King and the roofs of the wonderful palace were lost in the far, far distance. Then, with his face turned eagerly towards his own land, he looked for the rising of the blue hills on the horizon before him.
At last the tortoise carried him into the bay he knew so well, and to the shore from whence he had set out. He stepped on to the shore and looked about him while the tortoise rode away back to the Sea King’s realm.
But what is the strange fear that seizes Urashima as he stands and looks about him? Why does he gaze so fixedly at the people that pass him by, and why do they in turn stand and look at him? The shore is the same and the hills are the same, but the people that he sees walking past him have very different faces to those he had known so well before.
Wondering what it can mean he walks quickly towards his old home. Even that looks different, but a house stands on the spot, and he calls out:
“Father, I have just returned!” and he was about to enter, when he saw a strange man coming out.
“Perhaps my parents have moved while I have been away, and have gone somewhere else,” was the fisherman’s thought. Somehow he began to feel strangely anxious, he could not tell why.
“Excuse me,” said he to the man who was staring at him, “but till within the last few days I have lived in this house. My name is Urashima Taro. Where have my parents gone whom I left here?”
A very bewildered expression came over the face of the man, and, still gazing intently on Urashima’s face, he said:
“What? Are you Urashima Taro?”
“Yes,” said the fisherman, “I am Urashima Taro!”
“Ha, ha!” laughed the man, “you must not make such jokes. It is true that once upon a time a man called Urashima Taro did live in this village, but that is a story three hundred years old. He could not possibly be alive now!”
When Urashima heard these strange words he was frightened, and said:
“Please, please, you must not joke with me, I am greatly perplexed. I am really Urashima Taro, and I certainly have not lived three hundred years. Till four or five days ago I lived on this spot. Tell me what I want to know without more joking, please.”
But the man’s face grew more and more grave, and he answered:
“You may or may not be Urashima Taro, I don’t know. But the Urashima Taro of whom I have heard is a man who lived three hundred years ago. Perhaps you are his spirit come to revisit your old home?”
“Why do you mock me?” said Urashima. “I am no spirit! I am a living man”
“But Urashima Taro lived three hundred years ago, that is all I know; it is written in the village chronicles, ”persisted the man, who could not believe what the fisherman said.
Urashima was lost in bewilderment and trouble. He stood looking all around him, terribly puzzled, and, indeed, something in the appearance of everything was different to what he remembered before he went away, and the awful feeling came over him that what the man said was perhaps true. He seemed to be in a strange dream. The few days he had spent in the Sea King’s palace beyond the sea had not been days at all: they had been hundreds of years, and in that time his parents had died and all the people he had ever known, and the village had written down his story. There was no use in staying here any longer. He must get back to his beautiful wife beyond the sea.
He made his way back to the beach, carrying in his hand the box which the Princess had given him. But which was the way? He could not find it alone! Suddenly he remembered the box, the tamate-bako.
“The Princess told me when she gave me the box never to open it—that it contained a very precious thing. But now that I have no home, now that I have lost everything that was dear to me here, and my heart grows thin with sadness, at such a time, if I open the box, surely I shall find something that will help me, something that will show me the way back to my beautiful Princess over the sea. There is nothing else for me to do now. Yes, yes, I will open the box and look in!”
And so his heart consented to this act of disobedience, and he tried to persuade himself that he was doing the right thing in breaking his promise.
Slowly, very slowly, he untied the red silk cord, slowly and wonderingly he lifted the lid of the precious box. And what did he find? Sand. Golden sand swirled and flowed over the rim of the box, pouring to the floor at his feet before being blown away.
Urashima, who had been till that moment like a strong and handsome youth of twenty-four, suddenly became very, very old. His back doubled up with age, his hair turned snowy white, his face wrinkled and he fell down dead on the beach. His body becoming dust on the wind.”

“So the princess was a horologist?” One of the Sidhe asked.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to think too hard about it to be honest” Shugi sighed, but looked at them as they all sat in contemplation. “He made a promise to the princess to not look into the box, but disobeyed and payed the price.”

“That was an odd story. But I think I liked it”. The sidhe offered a hand to help Shugi to his feet. “Now lets get inside. It’s starting to get a bit cold. Thank you for the tea and story Shugi.”
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