The Dream Story Of Gojiro
Source: Japanese Fairy World
Only a few years ago there was a gentleman in Fukui, Japan, who had a
son, a bright lad of twelve, who was very diligent at school and had made
astonishing progress in his studies. He was especially quick at learning
Chinese characters, of which every Japanese gentleman who wishes to be
called educated must know at least two thousand. For, although the
Chinese and Japanese are two very different languages, yet the Japanese,
Coreans and Chinese use the same letters to write with, just as English,
Germans, French and Spaniards all employ one and the same alphabet.
Now Gojiro's father had promised him that when he read through five
volumes of the Nihongi, or Ancient History of Japan, he would give him
for a present a book of wonderful Chinese stories. Gojiro performed his
task, and his father kept his promise. One day on his return from a
journey to Kioto, he presented his son with sixteen volumes, all neatly
silk-bound, well illustrated with wood-cuts, and printed clearly on thin,
silky mulberry paper, from the best wooden blocks. It will be remembered
that several volumes of Japanese literature make but one of ours, as they
are much lighter and thinner than ours.
Gojiro was so delighted with the wonderful stories of heroes and
warriors, travelers and sailors, that he almost felt himself in China. He
read far into the night, with the lamp inside of his musquito curtain;
and finally fell asleep, still undressed, but with his head full of all
sorts of Chinese wonders.
He dreamed he was far away in China, walking along the banks of the great
Yellow River. Everything was very strange. The people talked an entirely
different language from his own; had on different clothes; and, instead
of the nice shaven head and top-knot of the Japanese, every one wore a
long pigtail of hair, that dangled at his heels. Even the boats were of a
strange form, and on the fishing smacks perched on projecting rails, sat
rows of cormorants, each with a ring around his neck. Every few minutes
one of them would dive under the water, and after a while come struggling
up with a fish in its mouth, so big that the fishermen had to help the
bird into the boat. The game was then flung into a basket, and the
cormorant was treated to a slice of raw fish, by way of encouragement
and to keep the bird from the bad habit of eating the live fish whole.
This the ravenous bird would sometimes try to do, even though the ring
was put around his neck for the express purpose of preventing him from
gulping down a whole fish at once.
It was springtime, and the buds were just bursting into flower. The river
was full of fish, especially of carp, ascending to the great rapids or
cascades. Here the current ran at a prodigious rate of swiftness, and the
waters rippled and boiled and roared with frightful noise. Yet, strange
to say, many of the fish were swimming up the stream as if their lives
depended on it. They leaped and floundered about; but every one seemed to
be tossed back and left exhausted in the river, where they panted and
gasped for breath in the eddies at the side. Some were so bruised
against the rocks that, after a few spasms, they floated white and stiff,
belly up, on the water, dead, and were swept down the stream. Still the
shoal leaped and strained every fin, until their scales flashed in the
sun like a host of armored warriors in battle. Gojiro, enjoying it as if
it were a real conflict of wave and fishes, clapped his hands with
Then Gojiro inquired, by means of writing, of an old white-bearded sage
standing by and looking on: "What is the name of this part of the river?"
"We call it Lung Men," said the sage.
"Will you please write the characters for it," said Gojiro, producing his
ink-case and brush-pen, with a roll of soft mulberry paper.
The sage wrote the two Chinese characters, meaning "The Gate of the
Dragons," or "Dragons' Gate," and turned away to watch a carp that
seemed almost up into smooth water.
"Oh! I see," said Gojiro to himself. "That's pronounced Riu Mon in
Japanese. I'll go further on and see. There must be some meaning in this
fish-climbing." He went forward a few rods, to where the banks trended
upward into high bluffs, crowned by towering firs, through the top
branches of which fleecy white clouds sailed slowly along, so near the
sky did the tree-tops seem. Down under the cliffs the river ran perfectly
smooth, almost like a mirror, and broadened out to the opposite shore.
Far back, along the current, he could still see the rapids shelving down.
It was crowded at the bottom with leaping fish, whose numbers gradually
thinned out toward the center; while near the top, close to the edge of
level water, one solitary fish, of powerful fin and tail, breasted the
steep stream. Now forward a leap, then a slide backward, sometimes
further to the rear than the next leap made up for, then steady progress,
then a slip, but every moment nearer, until, clearing foam and ripple and
spray at one bound, it passed the edge and swam happily in smooth water.
It was inside the Dragon Gate.
Now came the wonderful change. One of the fleecy white clouds suddenly
left the host in the deep blue above, dipped down from the sky, and
swirling round and round as if it were a water spout, scratched and
frayed the edge of the water like a fisher's troll. The carp saw and
darted toward it. In a moment the fish was transformed into a white
dragon, and, rising into the cloud, floated off toward Heaven. A streak
or two of red fire, a gleam of terrible eyes, and the flash of white
scales was all that Gojiro saw. Then he awoke.
"How strange that a poor little carp, a common fish that lives in the
river, should become a great white dragon, and soar up into the sky, to
live there," thought Gojiro, the next day, as he told his mother of his
"Yes," said she; "and what a lesson for you. See how the carp persevered,
leaping over all difficulties, never giving up till it became a dragon. I
hope my son will mount over all obstacles, and rise to honor and to high
office under the government."
"Oh! oh! now I see!" said Gojiro. "That is what my teacher means when he
says the students in Tokio have a saying, 'I'm a fish to day, but I hope
to be a dragon to-morrow,' when they go to attend examination; and that's
what Papa meant when he said: 'That fish's son, Kofuku, has become a
white dragon, while I am yet only a carp.'"
So on the third day of the third month, at the Feast of Flags, Gojiro
hoisted the nobori. It was a great fish, made of paper, fifteen feet
long and hollow like a bag. It was yellow, with black scales and streaks
of gold, and red gills and mouth, in which two strong strings were
fastened. It was hoisted up by a rope to the top of a high bamboo pole on
the roof of the house. There the breeze caught it, swelled it out round
and full of air. The wind made the fins work, and the tail flap, and the
head tug, until it looked just like a carp trying to swim the rapids of
the Yellow River--the symbol of ambition and perseverance.
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