Totoya Hokkei: Urashima Taro Going Home on the Back of a Tai Fish, the King of the Sea Seeing Him Off (19th century)

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA)

A print by the Japanese artist Totoya Hokkei (1780–1850). This piece shows an episode from a Japanese fairy tale. According to the tale the fisherman Urashima Tarō rescued a turtle from a group of children who were tormenting it. Thankful, the turtle returned the following day and offers Urashima Tarō to take him to Rin Gin, the Palace of the Dragon King of the Sea. Urashima agrees and rides on the back of the turtle to the dragon king's palace beneath the sea. There the fisherman is greeted by the dragon king of the sea and is entertained by his daughter, princess Otohime Sama. After what Urashima Tarō thinks are several days he begins to miss his family and asks to be brought back to his home. Upon his farewell, Otohime gives Urashima Tarō a box: the tamate-bako (Box of the Jewel Hand) and explains that the box contains something very precious and that Urashima Tarō must not open it under any circumstances. When Urashima Tarō however returns to his home he discovers that 300 years have passed since his journey to the dragon king's palace. Thinking that he has lost everything - his family, his house, he opens the box and immediatly becomes an old man and dies instantly. The box contained 'his old age'. There are several versions of the tale, in the version depicted on this print the fisherman is brought back to his home by a large red seabream. The dragon king of the sea and a servant are standing on the left. Print from the 19th century.