Arisaema Urashima – Taro’s interspecies love experiment
ウラシマソウ Arisaema Urashima or commonly know in English as the Cobra Lily.
The Urashima plant (ウラシマソウ)was named after the mythical fisherman Taro Urashima.
The story goes that one day the fisherman, Taro, saw some naughty little kids torturing a poor defenseless little turtle. Torturing sea animals is often an enjoyable past time for school children around the world. InJapan, elementary school children go on excursion to the seaside just for this purpose. I have once witnessed the ritualized slaughter of various small crabs in numerous inventive ways that would have put my boyhood seaside destruction to shame.
Anyway I digress. Taro, being a lifetime member of Greenpeace, was enraged by the misbehavior of the children and rescued the turtle from their brutal tiny hands and released the little turtle back into the sea.
Taro must have been hit on the head during the rescue because the next day while he was fishing he could have sworn that a huge turtle crawled up to him and spoke to him. The mighty turtle told Taro that the little turtle he had saved yesterday was none other than his daughter – the Emperor of the Sea’s daughter. Taro, a little stunned from the shock of a massive turtle talking to him and never being too quick on the pick-up, had to have the now impatient enormous turtle-emperor explain more succinctly that he was before the Emperor of the sea and Taro had rescued his increasingly attractive turtle-daughter.
Before Taro could knock the stopper off his second flask of sake, the Emperor gave him gills and brought him to his sea kingdom as…erh…thanks for his daughters rescue. The Emperor’s daughter, suffering from a serious case of White Knight Syndrome and knowing her chances of getting laid are slim because she is a… well… turtle, fell in love with our hero. Likewise, Taro, never being one to shy away from interspecies relations and well on his way to suffering a good dose of Stockholm Syndrome falls in love with his captor, the Emperor’s Daughter.
The emperor, being a fairly open minded fellow, doesn’t seem to mind the new couple’s hot scale on skin love making so long as Taro is responsible and wears a squid.
After two days of sweet love making and a cameo appearance along side Kevin Kostner in Waterworld that didn’t make the final cut, Taro wass feeling a bit raw and thought he may have caught crabs. He made an excuse to his new love that he just remembered that his dear old mum was not feeling too well and he must return to his village to check on her. The emperor’s daughter is a little suspicious but lets him go and gives him a box to take with him. She tells him that under no circumstances whatsoever should he ever open the enticing box with the pretty multi-coloured ‘Open Me!’ printed wrapping paper. Feeling the uncontrollable need to scratch his crutch like a dog digging for its favourite bone, Taro hastily agrees, grabs the box, pecks the emperor’s daughter on the beak and makes for his village.
When he returns, Taro discovers that three hundred years had past but the sake flask he left behind on the beach is still good so after a few swigs he staggers around town asking people if they remember a Taro Urashima. The locals only vaguely recall the name as an old wives tale warning children not to get too drunk by the seaside. By now our hero is feeling a bit wobbly and takes a seat on a step to take the final swig of his sake. In his alcohol induced stupor he gets his hands mixed up and tries to take a drink out of the box the emperor’s daughter had left behind instead of his sake flask.
He shook off his befuddlement and carefully examined the attractive print on the box. He squinted hard trying focus through his blurred vision at the words and was surprised to find that they were in English. Unfortunately Taro was not a particularly good English student when he was in junior high school due to the distracting and treacherous nature of his Australian English teacher’s curves.
He asked a couple of local villagers if they knew what the two words meant and it was not long until a large crowd of villagers were milling around Taro and the box grunting, sucking their teeth and making clipped proclamations of their ignorance regarding the meaning of the words.
Of course all the villagers knew what the two words meant but every one of them was too afraid to translate them for fear of a seagulls’ cacophony of ‘sugoi’ (Wow!) that would humiliate the villager enough for them to flee the village and spend the rest of their life as a hermit in the mountains.
Finally someone suggested to Taro that perhaps the box contained a Japanese-English dictionary and that he should open it so that he could translate the words written on the wrapping paper.
The tension among the villagers immediately disappeared as they mentally discarded their packing list for their exiles.
It was time for curiosity so the all the villagers leaned a little further forward to show their interest. Taro, knowing what was expected of him took one last look at the box, shrugged and tore at the wrapping. Beneath the wrapping was an ornate Styrofoam bait box. Taro gave one last nervous look at the crowd who nodded at him encouragingly before opening it.
You see, the Emperor’s Daughter was a cunning girl. She knew that if Taro was true to his promise he would return to the sea to be with her for eternity, but if he didn’t return he would not be able to control his curiosity for the box and open it. Inside the box lay Taro’s old age and as soon as he opened the bait box the stench of his years overcame him like the smell of off bait in the midday sun.
He immediately started to grow old; first complaining about the weather and then farting without shame, before finally turning to dust; thus ending the sad tragedy of Taro Urashima.
Or does it…
The little known sequel
Little known to the historians of the time and rarely spoken about among those of the sea kingdom is another story. It seems that during the intense love filled two days between Taro and the Emperor’s Daughter, Taro may have found himself a leaky squid.
It seems that the Emperor’s Daughter had fallen pregnant. Knowing the high success rate of interspecies procreation, she knew she was pregnant with at least three children-turtle things. She had to tell her father.
The Emperor was furious. No way was he going to lets some human, and a fisherman-soak at that, interfere with his noble bloodline. Unfortunately the sea kingdom’s pro-choice lobby was entangled in a tragic jellyfish accident so the sanctimonious old eels were celebrating their victory in passing the anti-abortion laws through the senate. This meant that the Emperor and his daughter just had to go through with the pregnancy regardless.
The emperor was enraged beyond belief and sort comfort in the numbness a line of blowfish could only offer until his addiction finally overcame him.
His daughter, lost in her grief and shame set forth on the great ocean until it was finally time to give birth to her mutated spawn. She crawled up on a bank of sewage and filth in a strange world of lights and noise where she laid not three but four eggs and return to her kingdom to never again remember those tragic times.
The heat of the sewage kept the eggs warm as the mutated creatures within slowly came to life to crack out of their shells. As this was happening, an old mutant rat – who was the result of a similar interspecies mating – was looking for food and came across these four mutated creatures. He was just about to devour them when he was surprised at their dexterity as they ambled over the sewage filth with tumble rolls and back flips.
Being the enterprising mutant rat that he was he decided to teach them acrobatics so that one day he might make his fortune selling them on to the circus.
However, due to the mutant turtles strong sense of ethics and large supply of kung fu movies that the rat played to entertain the four young creatures another path was chosen for them.
I first found the Arisaema Urashima (ウラシマソウ) while hiking in the Numazu Alps in Shizuoka prefecture back in 2006. This most recent find was in a cedar grove near my home on the midlands ofAshitakaMountain.
It is one of the most unusual wild plants I have seen inJapan. Not being much of a botanist buff I thought it might have been some sort of pitcher plant because of its tubular shape and slightly covered top. I am sure the boffins would be chortling over my obvious error.
The Arisaema Urashima is in fact a lily and is more commonly know in the West as the Cobra Lily. When flowering, as you can seen in the pictures, the plant produces a spathe (Yeah I had to look that one up too) that forms an outer sheath that protects the flowers inside.
The spathe (look, now I can’t stop saying it to show you how smart I am) of this lily starts from the stem as columns of white and a purple that is a shade darker than egg plant. As the columns rise towards the mouth of the spathe the purple takes over and the tip of the spathe sweeps over the entrance to the flower.
Protruding from the centre of the spathe is the spadix – the doobalydoo that the flowers attach themselves to at the base – that whips out over the plant and can run as long 60 cm making it look like a fishing line. Thus the analogy of Taro Urashima’s fishing basket (spathe) and fishing line (spadix).
The flower blooms in mid spring along the coastal mountains of centralHonshuand well worth a look if you are on a hike. In summer the flower produces red berries that are poisonous and can cause irritation to the skin like Taro’s nasty case of crabs.
If anything I have provided you with some new scrabble words and a plant to impress your friends with on your next hike aroundJapan. Happy hiking.