Miho is a magical strand near Shimizu in Japan. The sand on the beach is yellow and fine and there is an ancient pine grove that leans in the direction of the wild wind.
Behind Miho rises Fuji the most sacred mountain of mountains. This is a place visited often by celestial beings.
They come through the blue air, or across the mysterious paths of the sea. Their footprints are never seen upon the wet beach, for their tread is ever so light. But sometimes their robes sweep the sand of the beach and leave it ribbed and ruffled.
Once a fisherman from Miho was out in his boat all night. He cast his net several times but didn’t catch a thing. He grew weary enough before the morning so he rowed his boat to shore and set foot on the strand shivering.
A strange warm wind met him and blew through his garments and his hair, so that his skin became flushed, and glowed. The very sand was full of comfort to his chilly feet. The warm wind was bearing a fragrance of cedar and vervain, and the scent of a hundred flowers.
Like bright rain, the flowers dropped softly through the air. The fisherman stretched out his arms and caught them, lotus here, and jasmine and pomegranate there. And all the while sweet music sounded.
At first the fisherman thought he has landed by mistake on a magical island and not his home, Miho strand, or that he was dead. But then he looked up and down the beach, and he turned and saw Fuji, the mountain of mountains. Then he knew he was indeed at Miho and gave a long sigh. Lifting his eyes he saw a robe of feathers hanging upon the branch of a pine tree.
In the robe were feathers of all the birds that fly, every one; the kingfisher and the golden pheasant, the love bird, the swan, the crow, the cormorant, the dove, the bullfinch, the falcon, the plover, and the heron.
“Ah, the pretty fluttering thing!” said the fisherman, and he took it from the pine tree where it hung.
“Ah, the warm, sweet, fairy thing!” said the fisherman; “I’ll take it home for a treasure, sure no money could buy it.” And off he set for home with the fairy feathered robe draped across his arm.
He didn’t even notice the maiden of the Celestial Beings playing all this time with the White Children of the Foam that live in the salt sea.
When SHE looked up through the cold clear water at once marked that her robe no longer hung on the pine-tree branch.
“My robe, my feather robe!” she cried as she sprang from the water, and sped, fleet of foot, along the wet sand. The White Children of the Foam followed at her flashing heels. Clad in the silken cloak of her long hair, she came up at once,with the fisherman.
“Give me – please-my feather robe!” she said, and held out her hand.
“Why?” said the fisherman.
“ It is mine! I want it back – I must have it.”
“Oho,” said the fisherman, “I found it so I’ll keep it”
“I am a Fairy,” she said, “I am a Moon Fairy, and at dawn I came to play upon fair Mio Strand; without my feathers I cannot go back to my place, my home in High Heaven. I beg you, give me my feathers.”
At this the maiden fell upon her knees. With her arms she held the fisherman about the knees, beseeching him. He felt her tears upon his bare feet.
“Oh, stop,” said the fisherman, “you may have your robe. I will give you your robe if you dance for me as the fairies do, here on Mio Strand.”
“What must I dance?” she asked.
“You must dance the mystic dance that makes the Palace of the Moon turn round.”
She said, “Give me my feathers and I will dance it. I cannot dance without my feathers.”
“What if you cheat me, what if you break your promise and fly immediately to the moon and no dancing at all?”
“Ah, fisherman,” she said, “ you forget the faith of a Fairy! In Heaven, deceit is unknown.”
Hearing these words, he gave her the robe.
Now, when she had arrayed herself and flung back her hair, the Fairy began to dance upon the yellow sand. In and out of the feather robe stepped her fairy feet.
Slowly, softly, she went with folded wings and sang of the gold and silver mountains of the Moon. Of the sweet Birds of Heaven. The Fairy spread her rainbow-colored wings, and the wind that they made fluttered the red flowers in her hair. Her feet touched the waves of the sea; then the grass and the flowers. They touched the high branches of the pines and then the white clouds.
“Farewell, fisherman!” the Fairy cried, and he saw her no more.
Long, long he stood gazing up into the sky.
At length he stooped and picked up a little feather from the shore, a grey dove’s feather. He smoothed it out with his finger gently, and carefully hid it in his sash. Then he returned to his home.
It is said that because the fisherman overcame greed, that day on the sands of Mio Strand so long ago, the remote village where he lived and all the land around it was blessed for centuries with great abundance.
The Hagoromo festival is celebrated in that region of Japan every October, to this very day.
You might like our other blog about Japan “10 Ancient Japanese Traditions Which Are Still Relevant“