Makoto and the Kingdom in the Sky

April 19, 2011
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Long, long ago, and as long ago again, in a seaside village on the coast of Okinawa, Japan, lived a young man by the name of Makoto. He lived here with his mother who taught him everything while he was growing up, one of them being to fish.
One day while Makoto was packing up his bento box, in preparation for lunch, he remembered something very important. Makoto remembered that the day before, while he was fishing, he had used up all of the bait. Therefore, he decided that he should probably take a trip down to the market to see if the local fisherman would give him some of his extra bait from his morning trip.
“That’s what I’ll do!” Makoto thought and at that moment, he set forth to the market to find the fisherman.

The weather was very nice for a spring day and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. Makoto was so amazed at the sight that he stopped to admire the beauty of the tiny pink flowers. Looking up to the sky, Makoto happens across a little bluebird. With such grace, this bird flew through the branches of the cherry blossoms and sang its magnificent songs. Then along came three little boys. Makoto could tell that they were looking for trouble, as they too spotted the little bird fluttering through the sky. Just as quick as Makoto saw the boys, he saw a rock flying through the air. Then down came the bird landing onto to the ground next to the trunk of a cherry blossom tree.
“What a cruel thing.” Thought Makoto, and feeling pity for the little bird he went over to the boys, now holding the bird, and asked, “What are you going to do with that poor bluebird?”
“Go into town and sell it for its feathers,” the oldest one answered.
“In that case, please give it to me.” Makoto gave some money to each child, and with pleasure, they handed over the bird. Looking at the bird Makoto saw that she was the most beautiful bird he had ever seen. However, she was so very scared that her fear paralyzed her and to comfort her Makoto found some seeds nearby to feed her. The boys had not harmed her bird too bad only nicking her wing causing her to fall to the ground. Discovering the condition of the bird Makoto blessed her with a kiss and threw her into the sky. At that moment, she expanded her wings and soared up through the magnificent pink flowers.

Makoto now had no more money to buy his bait so he returned home to help his okaasan make vegetable soup for their evening meal. Now the next day Makoto found some more money for bait, said goodbye to his mother and began his walk to the market. The cherry blossoms had begun to shed from the branches and the familiar sound of a bluebird filled the air. Looking once more to the sky Makoto spots the beautiful little bluebird from the day earlier.
“Ohio Goziamasu!” said Makoto to the little bird.
“Good morning to you too Makoto” replied the bird. “My name is Sakura. I am the bird whose life you saved yesterday and in thanks I would like to guide you to the palace of Ko-No-Hana, the blossom princess. Please get on my back.”

Surprised at this comment, Makoto knew that he would never be able to get onto the back of a tiny bluebird like Sakura, until in a single instant he fell to the ground just to be caught by the shirttail and carried away. How did this happen you ask? No one quite knows, but flying away like a tiny seed, Makoto was soaring high into the sky on top of Sarkura’s back. Without realizing, he soon fell fast asleep.
“Here we are. We arrived at the palace of Ko-No-Hana.” Makoto awoke to the sound of Sakura’s voice, and was startled when he opened his eyes and saw around him this majestic palace. On the roof was a line of gold tile, and the walls were made of silver and lapis lazuli. Cherry Blossoms were everywhere and their petals, scattered all around. They were like nothing he had ever seen before and taking it all in like this was breathtaking.
Walking through the gates, Princess Ko-No-Hana, together with many other women came to greet them. With a kimono made of her beloved cherry blossoms this princess was so beautiful that Makoto could not even speak to her.
“I am so happy that you are here. Arigato gozaimasu for helping my little Sakura. Watching what happened from up here was a horrible experience.” The princess said with a voice ringing like a mandolin. She then took Makoto inside the palace walls and over the marble floors. Into the great dining hall they went, and saw a table 20 feet long and piled high with food. Outside of the window, peaking over the clouds, Makoto could clearly see the top of Mt. Fuji and his tiny legs felt like they could no longer support his body. His excitement was really getting to him.
“Eat!” The princess said as she poured him some sake.
Without thinking, Makoto drank and closed his eyes. This was the best thing he had ever tasted. Never before in his life had he drank such delicious sake.
“Sugoi!” He said “Great!”
Then before long, the hypnotizing sound of flutes filled the room. The lulling notes flowed gently through the air like the feathers of a tiny bird floating down to earth. Slowly dancers dressed in different colors, many of which Makoto had never seen before, appeared in the room. He forgot everything as time seemed to stop and all of his attention was centered on them.
Each day seemed to pass like a dream. However, one day Makoto happened to remember his okaasan back home. At that moment, he became very homesick.
“For a long time I was taken care of, but I believe that it is time that I return to my uchi and back to my mother.” Makoto said.
Then the blossoming goddess said, “I’m so sorry that you feel that way. I wanted to live with you forever but it cannot be helped.”
Bringing in a stunningly crafted puzzle box, the princess said her final goodbyes to Makoto, “Think of this box as me and treasure it forever. No matter what happens though never open the lid.”
“Domo Arigato Princess Ko-No-Hana, for all that you have done for me and I will never forget your kindness.”
Makoto accepted the box with pleasure. While walking out the front gate he took one-step and fell on top of a very large cherry blossom. The flower folded in around him and once again, he was fast asleep. It was not until landing back on the ground did he wake up again.
Makoto awoke under the shade of the same cherry blossom tree that Sakura had landed by after having been injured by those little boys. Yet something seemed very different about this tree, it had grown quite a bit in what Makoto thought was only a short while. He rushed into the direction of his house but he could not find it anywhere. His mother was also missing. Makoto walked here and there around the completely changed town and there was not one person that he knew. Asking about his house and his mother, nobody has a clue who he was or what he was talking about. Tearing up, loneliness and confusion was all that filled his mind.
To Makoto it felt as though only a year had passed in the palace but in reality, it was three hundred years. Returning to the shade of the towering tree, Makoto sat holding the box. Only the view of the sky had not changed from that spot and no matter how long he looked up watching the clouds, the beautiful bluebird Sakura never appeared again. Breaking his promise to the princess Makoto believed he had no other choice but to open the box. Slowly and gently pulling off the lid something happened. Just then, a puff of white smoke came out of the box and Makoto suddenly became an old man.
Long, long ago, but not so long now, in a seaside village on the coast of Okinawa, Japan, lived an old man by the name of Makoto. He lived here with his mother but he is now alone, living the rest of his days under the shade of the cherry blossom trees. Constantly watching the sky for something, anything, to tweet, chirp, or flutter on by.

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