The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum

The motifs on this kimono illustrate the tale of Urashima Taro. Urashima was a fisherman who one day mistakenly caught a tortoise, which he kindly returned to the sea. The following day he saw a beautiful woman clinging to a wreck. The woman was Otomine, one of the princesses in the court of the Dragon King of the Sea. Otomine and Urashima were married and lived for three happy years in the Dragon King's realm until the fisherman began to feel homesick. Otomine begged him not to go and revealed that she was the tortoise he had rescued. Urashima was not dissuaded however, and he left taking a treasure box given by Otomine with the strict instructions that if he wanted to see her again he must not open the box. When he returned home, Urashima found all his family had died and even discovered his own grave. Frightened and puzzled he forgot his promise to Otomine and opened the box hoping for an explanation. He discovered that in the three years he had lived with his wife, three hundred years had passed in the real world. He was now a very old man and his spirit left him, leaving him lying dead on his own tomb.

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  • Title: Kimono
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1850/1900
  • Location: Japan
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 165 cm neck to hem, Width: 122 cm across the shoulders
  • Provenance: Given by Bernard Leach
  • Medium: Embroidered and resist-dyed silk crêpe