The Man Who Became a Dragon

In Japanese folklore there is a common belief that most bodies of water contain a nushi, or guardian spirit. There is one particular tale about a man named Botaro, who was the son of farmers. Instead of helping on the farm, each day he chose to go fishing alone at a nearby pond which everyone thought was very strange behaviour. One day, he did not return home and his parents were very distressed. They searched high and low for him and began to fear that he had drowned.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1853

They mourned his death, but to their great surprise, he returned home one day as if nothing had happened. Despite his parents worry, Botaro continued to go fishing at the pond each day. One day, after returning home from fishing, he was very tired and headed to his room for a sleep, telling his parents not to look in on him. Thinking this was a very strange request, they crept outside and peered in through his window. 

Okumura Masanobu, 1740

On the floor they saw a dragon lying asleep on the floor. The room began to fill with water and the dragon woke suddenly. Upon seeing them, a huge wind carried the dragon up into the sky. At this point everyone realised that Botaro had spent so long fishing at the pond that he had transformed into the nushi of the pond. Afterwards, no one ever fished or swam there again.

Totoya Hokkei

Utagawa Hiroshige, 1833

Kasamatsu Shiro, 1957