Princess Akiko
A Fairytale

Cassidy is used to having a nighttime story when she goes to bed. Sometimes there are no stories to read, and we just have to make something up. What follows is one such tale, made up at the Dai Ichi Hotel (a "ryokan," traditional Japanese inn, or "onsen," a mineral bath/spa area usually having accommodations) in Hokkaido.

The Princess Akiko

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful fairy in the cold northern part of Japan. She was more beautiful than the sun itself, and was seldom glimpsed by mere mortals. Her black hair was the color of the raven's wing, her pale skin the shade of glittering ice in the sun, and her lithe form more beautiful than a swan in flight. She was called the Princess Akiko.

It was she who brought the bright colors of autumn and the beautiful crystal shimmers to the plants and rocks of old Japan. And it was she who protected the birds and other animals from the cold winter. The seat of her kingdom was the source of the magic, volcanic waters that poured steaming from the earth's heart even in the middle of the harshest winter.

One day, a humble woodcutter who was very tired and sore from his work discovered the secret hot springs of Princess Akiko's kingdom. After he bathed in the waters, he felt very much rejuvenated. He returned again and again, angering the Princess Akiko. But her advisors, the sprites and fairies who peopled her kingdom, liked the old woodcutter and bade her do him no harm.

The kindness of the woodcutter was renown, and soon he wanted to share this medicine with the world. He and his family built a beautiful ryokan over the warm waters of Princess Akiko's magic spring, disrupting the princesses' power, and filling her world with trouble.

The nights were suddenly blacker, the winter colder. No deer were seen, the wild ponies disappeared and birds were found frozen in the waters. People stopped coming to the onsen because the waters did not heal them, and they swore there were ghosts about. The old man was very troubled and called upon a very wise old priest to come to the onsen and discover the trouble.

The fairies and sprites spoke to the priest in the night, telling him that their princess lay in mortal danger, cut away from her power. In the morning, the priest instructed the woodcutter to build a special shrine, a secret shrine, in the middle of the onsen, one that was at the water's source, but still had unseen channels to the natural world that lay outside.

The woodcutter did as he was told, taking great care to make every detail prefect. Princess Akiko clapped her hands with joy when she saw what he had done, and happily moved to her new secret kingdom in the very heart of the onsen.

From that day to this, the Princess Akiko resides over the wonderful healing waters of the Dai Ichi Ryoken, birds and deer and foxes abound, and the princess herself may be glimpsed riding a wild Hokkaido pony in the moonlight.

The End

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