At Toscanini's on June 22, 2009,
telling "Tokoyo" for the MouthOff
The story of Tokoyo and the Sea Serpent is one of my special favorites. Set in the far flung Oki Islands, it describes the journey a young woman must take in order to be reunited with her father. It's sort of like "The Journey of Natty Gann", except for the medieval Japanese setting. And the sea serpent.
When her father is unjustly banished by the mysteriously ailing emperor, Tokoyo sets out alone to track him down and find him. Armed with nothing but her father's dagger and her training as an Ama, or pearl diver, the teenager eventually arrives at the forsaken Oki Islands, where inconvenient and unwanted nobles were traditionally sent to live out their days in exile. But before she has the chance to find her father, Tokoyo happens upon a scene of human sacrifice. Every year the islanders push a young girl into the ocean to be devoured by an underwater dragon, an attempt to placate the beast so that it would spare their fishing fleet and not condemn the local population to starvation. Tokoyo volunteers to go in the girl's place and dives into the roiling waves.
Luckily for Tokoyo, her training stands her in good stead, so the scene in the story where she faces off against the evil submarine flesh-eating serpent is very exciting (although it ends badly for the serpent). Tokoyo is hailed as a hero, finds her father, and inadvertently heals the sick emperor. The latter is so grateful that he recalls her father in exile, and the story ends happily for everyone, except for the sea serpent.
This story has inspired a great deal of dramatic art, enjoy!