Kyoto: Locals Strive to Rejuvenate Folktale-Linked Urashima Shrine

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Aging Urashima Shrine’s honden main hall is seen in Ine, Kyoto Prefecture.

INE, Kyoto — Locals in the small seaside town of Ine in Kyoto Prefecture are raising funds to repair a shrine linked to a famous Japanese folktale.

In the tale of “Urashima Taro,” a young fisherman rescues a turtle from children who are bullying it. In gratitude, the turtle takes the protagonist to a palace in the sea, where he leads a happy life for a while, before returning home with a box he received as a gift. But when he opens the box after returning, smoke pours out and he instantly transforms into an old man. Despite only being gone a short time from his own perspective, time had passed rapidly in the “real world.”

Urashima Shrine was established in 825 and enshrines the deity Uranoshimako. Legend has it that the deity traveled to a realm beyond the sea and returned to this realm more than 300 years later. This mythical story is thought by some to be the origin of the noted folktale.

The shrine’s honden main hall, which was last rebuilt in the 19th century, has suffered damage over the years due to falling trees and corrosion. In 2009, parishioners began fundraising to dismantle and repair the building. When it proved difficult to raise sufficient funds, however, they launched a crowdfunding appeal online.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tamatebako boxes and charms that are sent out to donors

Upon receiving a donation, the fundraisers send out a Tamatebako made of paper — a representation of the fantastic box in the folktale — containing shrine charms by way of thanks.