"The Honorable Urashima Taro"

A One Act Play by Coleman A. Jennings

Dramatizing a Japanese folk tale. Gary Conner

The Honorable Urashima Taro is a Japanese folk tale. The main character Urashima Taro, referred to as simply “Taro,” is a young fisherman and father in Japan. An ancient sea turtle recruits Taro to come save the kingdom under the sea from a giant scorpion. He agrees to go and is eventually successful in defeating the scorpion.

He is revered and honored by all the sea creatures and the Sea Princess who invites Taro to live with them forever under the sea.

Taro misses his family and wants to return to them. However, the sea creatures neglected to tell him that time moves differently under the sea than it does on earth and when he returns to his home, eighty years have passed in a day. The ancient turtle returns once more and offers Taro the choice to live forever under the sea as a young and healthy man. Taro, who has found his son and grandson, refuses again and decides to live out his remaining years with his family.

This 36-page play is meant to be performed with stylized elements of Noh and Kabuki theatre. The characters use heightened dialogue, dance, and pantomime to present an underworld kingdom to the audience. (It would be interesting to see this performed in the manner of The Wizard of Oz, where the stage and costumes are bland and realistic until Taro travels under the sea to a world of colors, masks, and dance emblematic of Japanese culture.)

This play was written for adult actors to perform for young audiences, but high school and possibly even middle school students may also perform it. It is a short play with opportunities for many actors to speak lines and for a chorus of multiple voices. Combine those elements with a curriculum in world folk tales and The Honorable Urashima Taro is an excellent choice for a play in a school setting.

Setting: The shore of Shikoku, an island of Japan, near a little fishing village and the mountains and valleys of the ocean depths.

Time: Long Ago

Cast Size: This play can accommodate 15 actors and a chorus of sea creatures.

Male Characters: 7

Female Characters: 3

Characters that may be played by either males or females: 6

Roles:

Old Turtle is a friend of The Sea Princess who washes ashore to find Urashima Taro.

Three Young Boys find the sea turtle on the beach and decide to beat it with sticks. They are between the ages of 10 and 15.

Urashima Taro is a young father with great respect for the sea and all its creatures.

Kimo is Urashima Taro’s son. He inherits his father’s love of the sea and welcomes him back even after Taro has been gone for eighty years.

Michiko is Urashima Taro’s wife. She is a practical woman whose primary concern is the health and wealth of her family.

The Sea Creatures live with and wait on The Sea Princess. They are beautiful and loyal creatures who want to protect their kingdom. They love Urashima Taro.

The Sea Princess rules the kingdom under the sea. She lives in a castle more beautiful than any seen on earth. She wants Urashima Taro to live forever under the sea.

The Four Seasons can be played by four actors or one actor.

The Four Seasons have magical powers to heal all wounds.

The Sea Scorpion comes along every few years and gobbles up the sea creatures. It can burn people with fire from its eyes.

A Woman meets Urashima Taro after he returns to the beach as an old man. She does not know him, but she tells him all about Kimo and Kimo’s grandchildren.

Sentaro is Urashima Taro’s great grandchild. He loves the sea as much as his elder relatives and yearns to have adventures like his great grandfather.

The Honorable Urashima Taro may be found in the book, Theatre for Youth: Twelve Plays with Mature Themes, edited by Coleman A. Jennings and Gretta Berghammer.