Story of Taro the Fisherman

One day, a fisherman named Urashima Taro saves a small turtle from boys who are teasing it. The next day, a turtle comes to thank him by taking him down to the Dragon Palace at the bottom of the sea, where he spends time as if in a dream. But when he returns home, many more years have passed than he had realized. Overcome with sadness, he lifts the lid of a treasure box he was given when he left the Dragon Palace, despite being warned that he should never open it…

Once upon a time there lived a young fisherman named Urashima Taro. One day, Taro came upon some children who were tormenting a sea turtle on the beach. Feeling pity for the turtle, Taro told the children to let it go, but they would not stop. Taro finally saved the turtle and let it return to the sea.

Several days later, the turtle appeared before Taro once again and called to him. “Thank you for rescuing me the other day. You saved my life.” The turtle then extended an invitation. “In return, please allow me to show you Ryugu-jo, the palace of the Dragon King. Come, ride on my back.” Taro thought he would indeed like to see Ryugu-jo, so he seated himself on the turtle’s back. He and the turtle dove to the bottom of the ocean.

In a moment, Taro and the turtle had arrived at the magnificent gates of Ryugu-jo. At the palace, the princess Otohime gave Taro a warm welcome. Taro watched the sea bream and flounders dance, took part in many feasts, and had a wonderful time.
After a few days had passed, though, Taro grew homesick for his village and his mother. He told Otohime that he wished to go back home. The princess was greatly distressed at his words, but gave him a gift—a special box called a tamatebako—with strict instructions to never open it.

Taro rode a turtle back to shore. When he arrived, however, the beach seemed completely different. Taro’s home was gone—and so was his mother. Everyone that Taro knew was gone. When he asked the people nearby if they knew an Urashima Taro, they replied that they had indeed heard stories about someone by that name, who long, long ago sank beneath the ocean waves and disappeared. It was then that Taro learned that three hundred years had passed since he had gone to Ryugu-jo.
Thinking that all might return to the way it had been if he opened the tamatebako, Taro lifted the lid despite what the princess had told him. When he did so, however, a puff of white smoke came out of the box. The white smoke engulfed Taro and left him an old man, with white hair and beard.

The Sightseeing Limited Express Train “Ibusuki no Tamatebako”:

Based on Urashima Taro’s Legendary Tamatebako

The Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu) operates the “Ibusuki no Tamatebako,” a limited express sightseeing train that takes its name from the legend of Urashima Taro of Kyushu’s Satsuma Peninsula. The train’s bold color scheme—the cars are painted half-white and half-black—and the white mist that sees you off when the doors open and you arrive at the station make it just like a tamatebako on rails.

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