Obaachan used to tell me stories about dragons when I was a little girl. I remember her telling me tales about creatures that lived in the water. They would transform into humans and trick those around them. Green, blue, red, black, yellow and gold. There were an assortment of dragons.
Her favorite tale to tell me was about Toyotama-hime.
“Mi-chan, how about a bedtime story?”
“Hai, onegaishimasu. What story are you going to tell?”
Grandma started the tale.
There once was a girl named Toyotama-hime who was the daughter of the dragon god. She was very beautiful. One day she was kidnapped and a man by the name of Hoori rescued her. Toyotama-hime and Hoori got married and lived in her father’s palace in the sea.
Hoori missed living on land so they decided to move to his village. Toyotama-hime became pregnant and wanted to give birth in private. She left Hoori and told him not to follow, but he followed her anyway and saw her transform into a dragon. The dragon goddess was upset and out of rage, returned to the sea leaving her husband and son behind.
Toyotama-hime’s younger sister, Tamayori came to the surface and raised her son. Eventually, Tamayori and Toyotama-hime’s son got married and had a son of their own. His name was Jimmu and he became the first emperor of Japan.
“Obaachan? Are there still dragons?”
“Oh now now little Misaki, that was back in the old country. You have nothing to worry about.”
Cleaning out grandma’s belongings, I find a family tree that was passed down to my grandpa. I trace through the history seeing my name at the end.
Further back into my ancestry, I notice the ‘hime’ title after several girls’s names indicating they were princesses. Even further back, I notice one name that stood out, Jimmu.
It can’t be the same Jimmu, right? It’s just a myth. There’s no such thing as dragons.
I clean through more of her belongings and take things to my grandma’s best friend. My grandma wanted Reiko to have her Japanese fan collection so it only felt right.
Reiko lives several hours away near the sea. I drive to Reiko’s house and she is pleasantly surprised to see me. “Oh Mi-chan! You’re all grown up and so beautiful. Come in and have some tea.”
I follow Reiko into the house and sit on the tatami mat laid out on the floor. While Reiko goes to the kitchen to grab the tea kettle and cups, I notice a book on the floor full of Japanese folklore. I open the book and start looking through the photos.
“Are you interested in Japanese mythology?” I look up to see Reiko with the tea.
“Obaachan used to tell me stories about the dragons.”
“Ah yes! Those were her favorite tales which reminds me…” She pauses and reaches for the book. I pass the book to her and she flips the pages and shows me a photo. “Misaki, this is Toyotama-hime and you look like her.”
Is the Jimmu in grandpa’s family tree the same one that’s in the myth? It can’t be true.
After finishing up with the tea, I head out and I’m mesmerized by the sea. It’s a sight I had never seen before.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” A man standing behind me startles me. He is a tall and gorgeous man. His eyes sparkle in the sunlight.
“Oh um yes.” My heart begins to race staring at him.
“I’m Reiko’s grandson, Ryu. What’s your name?”
Ryu? Doesn’t that mean dragon?
“Oh, it’s Misaki.”
“Did you want to go into the water?” He looks at me with inquisitive eyes. How can I say no?
“Yes, but I don’t know how to swim and I don’t have anything to wear.”
“I’ll go with you and make sure nothing happens to you.” Still unsure of what to do, I stand there dumbfounded.
“But my clothes will get wet.”
“Just do what I do. Don’t be shy, Misaki.” Ryu begins stripping until he is completely naked. His abs are quite prominent and my eyes begin wandering south.
“Ookii!” I accidentally blurt out and cover my face to hide my embarrassment. Ryu chuckles.
“Well, I’m waiting.” He stands there staring at me.
I begin removing my clothes until I am also naked. His eyes roam up and down my body before taking my hand in his. My heart hasn’t slowed a beat since laying eyes on him. We walk into the water. Our bodies submerge more and more, the further we walk. Fear overtakes me and cling onto him. Upon our bodies connecting, we submerge completely and transform into dragons. I am gold and he is green.
Image by Sebastian Kurpiel on Unsplash