This draconic legend is something of an oddity. It was published in 1918 as part of Richard Gordon Smith’s volume, Ancient Tales and Folk-Lore of Japan. However, many aspects are more reminiscent of European dragon lore. Even the author admitted that the tale couldn’t be authenticated as Japanese. This raises a question: where did the story come from?
Sometime in the 1300s, there lived a samurai named Shima Oribe, who fell into disgrace and was banished by his lord, Takatoki Hojo. Shima was commanded to live on an island called Kamishima, in the Oki island group. Oribe had a beautiful daughter, about 18, named Tokoyo. She was devoted to her father, as he was to her. Alone in her house, she wept for over a year.
When Tokoyo could no longer bear the loneliness and grief, she set off to find her father. She was a courageous young woman who knew how to sail and had learned how to swim from the women of her village. At times, she even dove with them to collect oysters and awabi (abalone). Having sold a few of her fine possessions, Tokoyo made her way to a village called Akasaki, where the Oki Islands could be seen in the distance. She asked the local fishermen to take her there, but her money was nearly gone. They refused to help her.
Tokoyo had a bold heart. She found a small boat and sailed off on her own. Coming to land, she searched for her father. He was not there, so she sailed on, from island to island, day after day, always searching. Despairing, she found a sheltered place to rest on land.
Wait a minute — wasn’t there supposed to be a dragon in this story? Yofune something? Check back on Saturday and see if he shows up!