(English Version below)
「竜宮？ さあ？ 竜宮って、どこにあるんだい？」
Once upon a time, there lived a young fisherman named Urashimataro and his old mother.
One sunny day, when Urashimataro hurriedly went passing the beach, he heard many children playing loudly and noisily, so he went over to have a look. He saw the children using sticks to poke a turtle‘s body, and sometimes turned its body and played. "Hay! Don‘t abuse the animal! It’s such a poor thing!"
"No! We caught it!" The children refused.
So Urashimataro said, "Give it to me then." and gave the children some money to buy the turtle, and saved the turtle.
After the children left, Urashimataro said to the turtle, "It‘s Okay now, quickly run away!" and put the turtle back to the ocean.
After few days, one day when Urashimataro went fishing at the beach, a turtle swam to the shore and said, "Uncle Urashimataro, thank you for saving my life last time, I will bring you to the Dragon Palace."
Urashimataro was so happy and surprised, "Really? You are bringing me to the Dragon Palace? Is it true?"
"Please sit on my back."
So Urashimataro sat on the turtle‘s back. The turtle swam lightly, and Urashimataro felt very relaxed and happy, and not long after that, they arrived at the Dragon Palace. The turtle let Urashimataro off its back, and said, "OK, we’ve arrived at the Dragon Palace."
At that time, the front door of the palace opened, a beautiful princess followed by a lot of fish came out to welcome Urashimataro. The princess said with a beautiful voice, Welcome, Mr. Urashimataro. Thank you for saving my turtle‘s life last time. I hope you enjoy the stay in the palace."
She took Urashimataro to the main hall of the palace for dinner. There were a lot of delicious dishes, one after another. Then the music started, and the fish started to dance and entertain Urashimataro. It was the first time in his life that he felt so happy, and he thought it was like a dream.
"It is always like this in the Dragon Palace, and you can stay as long as you want."
Urashimataro enjoyed himself very much in the Dragon Palace. He played with the princess and the fish, and had delicious dishes every day that he forget about going home. However, on the third day in the palace, he suddenly thought of his old mother. He thought that his mother must have been very worried about him, and he became very homesick and he wanted to go home.
Although the princess asked him to stay for a few more days, but Urashimataro insisted on going home, so the princess give him a beautiful box as a present, and said, "This is a present for you, and it‘s called the Jade Box. But, don’t open it no matter what happens. OK?"
Urashimataro carried the box carefully and sat on the turtle‘s back and went back home. The turtle swam very quickly and they arrived at the beach soon.
Urashimataro wanted to rush back to his house, but he found something strange. The scenery and the houses at the beach seemed different, and the people passed by all seemed stranger to him. He didn‘t know any of them. What’s worse, he could not even find his own house. So he went to the people in the neibourhood and asked, "Excuse me, but could you tell me where is the house of this young fisherman called Urashimataro?"
"Urashimataro? I‘ve heard that this person lived in this village 700 years ago, but he went out to the beach one day and never came back again."
Urashimataro was so astonished that he could not speak any word.
He only stayed in the Dragon for three days, but 700 years has already passed in the human world. His mother had died long ago, and so had the people he knew.
Urashimataro felt so sad and lonely. He sadly went back to the beach and sat on the sand.
He thought of the jade box that the princess gave him, and thought, "This is the only thing I have......"
He forgot all about what the princess told him, which is not to open the box no matter what happens, and he wanted to open the box.
"What‘s inside? I will just have a look."
So, Urashimataro opened the lead of the box a little bit to have a look, and just at that moment......
White smoke came out from the box.
Urashimataro, who saw the white smoke, suddenly became a gray-haired, wrinkle-faced and hunchbacked old man.
I asked Nakamura-san about the moral of the fairy tale, but he wasn't sure. We both found it a little strange, that good Urashimataro is punished twice in the story. First he has done a good deed and was rewarded with a stay at the Dragon Palace and the princess. But then when he wanted to see his mother and thus returned, 700 years had passed and he found himself at a loss.
Secondly it is strange that the princess would give the good Urashimataro a present, which he was not supposed to open. What kind of present is this? And when he opened it anyway, he got his second punishment and was turned into an old man.
If you have any ideas how to interpret this story or can find some hidden meaning, I am eager to hear it ^_^