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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 14, 2006

TELL ME A STORY
Quest for exotic found all was same

Adapted by Amy Friedman

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"Two Frogs from Japan" is a Japanese folk tale.

Once upon a time in Japan there lived two frogs. One frog lived in a quiet little ditch in Osaka. The other frog lived in a clear, flowing stream near Kyoto.

One day the frog who lived in the Osaka ditch overheard a man talking as he passed by. "There over the mountain, in beautiful Kyoto," said the man, "is the glorious Mikado's palace."

The frog came up with a plan. "I would love to see the city of Kyoto and the glorious palace of the Mikado," she said. "I will climb the mountain and go there."

At the same time, the frog who swam in the crystal waters of Kyoto thought, "Surely there is more to see in the world." He had nothing against the Mikado, the country's emperor, but he was bored, for beauty and majesty are not everything. He had grown weary of the world around him. "I think I shall climb the mountain and visit other cities. I have heard Osaka is the place to see."

So, each frog set out to cross the tall mountain that separated the two cities. Up went the frog from Osaka, leaping and hopping with all her might. And up went the frog from Kyoto. "Oh, to see another world," he thought as he hopped.

On and on they leapt. They grew thirsty and tired, but they did not think about their troubles. Their eyes bulged with delight as they imagined the new world they would see when they reached the summit.

At last, huffing and puffing, the frog from Osaka came to the top of the mountain, and there she sat in the tall grass to catch her breath. Just at that moment she felt a blade of grass beside her shiver. "Who's there?" cried the frog.

Of course it was the frog from Kyoto who had, at last, reached the mountain peak. "Hello," said he. "It is I, a frog from Kyoto."

"Ahh," said the frog from Osaka, "you must be a most distinguished explorer, my friend. So you have come from the land of the palaces, the home of the great emperor, have you?"

The frog from Kyoto harrumphed and gurgled, trying hard to catch his breath. "Yes, gracious explorer, I am from the land of palaces. And you? What about you?"

"Harrumph," croaked the frog from Osaka, "I am from Osaka. I have traveled far and wish to see your land."

"That is my plan precisely," said the frog from Kyoto. I mean to see the city of Osaka, for it is a place that I have never seen."

"You needn't bother with Osaka," said the Osaka frog. "It is a poor place, filled with ditch water. It clogs the pores, you see. I mean to go to a land of crystal-clear streams."

"Ha," said the frog from Kyoto. "Let me tell you what it's like to sit all day in a sparkling stream. Sparkle and shimmer all that glistening water will make your eyes ache, my friend."

At that the frogs fell silent and stared at each other.

She does not look very different from me, thought the frog from Kyoto, and the frog from Osaka thought the same. For a long while the two frogs sat silent, listening to the whistling grass surrounding them.

At last the frog from Kyoto said, "I have climbed up a high mountain, and I do not wish to climb all the way down to Osaka if it is as dull as you say."

"I feel the same way," said the frog from Osaka. "My journey up the mountain was a strain, and now my legs feel weak. If the sparkling streams are not so wonderful, I don't know that I wish to hop all the way there."

At last the frog from Osaka said, "If only we were taller, we could look down from this mountaintop and see the cities of our dreams. Then we would know if we wished to go on traveling."

The frogs both sighed sadly.

Then the frog from Kyoto puffed out his throat and said: "It is true that we are tiny and the grass is tall, but we frogs of Kyoto are famous for our intelligence. I'm sure I can come up with a solution."

The frog from Kyoto thought for a long while. At last he leaped into the air, so high he almost caught a glimpse of the city below. "Come, dear friend, I shall stand on my hind legs and turn toward you, and you shall stand upon your hind legs and turn toward me. We shall hold each other up," he said. "Then we shall be taller than this tall grass, and we will be able to see the cities of our dreams."

The frog from Osaka agreed.

So up they hopped, onto their hind legs. They held each other steady, but alas, made one mistake.

The frog from Kyoto faced Osaka, and the frog from Osaka faced Kyoto, but as you know, frogs' eyes are set so far back on their heads that when they looked down, they saw their own cities.

"Oh my," said the frog from Kyoto, "Osaka looks like Kyoto."

"My thoughts precisely," said the frog from Osaka. "Your city looks like the city I call home."

At that the frogs dropped down on their four legs. Then they squatted in the tall grass and stared sadly at each other.

"There seems no point in traveling all the way down the mountain to see a city just like my own," said the Kyoto frog.

"No point indeed," said the frog from Osaka. "I think I shall return home. Farewell, friend."

"And farewell to you."

The frogs hopped down the mountain, back to their homes, happy to think that their home was as good as any other, and almost exactly the same.