The tale of Urashima

This is a fine example of a Japanese picture scroll, or emaki. It narrates a well-known folk tale. A fisherman, Urashima, is transported to a magic palace as the guest of Princess Otohime. From each of the four sides of the Princess’s palace there was a magical view of one of the seasons. The view from the west, shown here, was of autumn. After several days Urashima returns to his village, only to find that many years have passed. On his leaving the palace the princess had given Urashima a mysterious box, which she had told him to keep closed. Forgetting her instructions, he opens the box and is immediately transformed into an old man. Emaki were made for the wealthy, and here a popular tale is given a markedly aristocratic treatment.