Two Frogs from JapanTwo Frogs from Japan
A Japanese Folktale

Once upon a time in Japan there lived two frogs. One frog lived in the city of Osaka, in a quiet little swamp outside of town. The other frog lived in a clear, flowing stream near Kyoto.

Of course the two frogs did not know each other.

One day the frog who lived in the swamp in Osaka overheard a man who was passing by. "There over the mountain in beautiful Kyoto is a glorious palace," the man said. "Everyone ought to see the Mikado's palace there."

The frog in the swamp began to dream. "Ah, how I would love to see the city of Kyoto, how I would cherish a visit to the palace of the Mikado!"

She thought about this for a while, and at last she decided. "I shall climb the mountain and go to see Kyoto for myself."

And she hopped out of the swamp.

At the very same time the frog who swam in the crystal clear waters of Kyoto was sitting very still. He was thinking. "My home is lovely, but surely there is more to see in this world than one pretty place."

Now the frog from Kyoto had nothing against the Mikado, the country's emperor. He thought the Mikado's palace was a fine place indeed. But he knew that beauty and majesty are not everything, and he had grown weary of the world around him.
"I think I shall climb the mountain and visit other cities," he said to his friends. "I have heard Osaka is a place to see," and with that he leaped out of the stream.

So each frog set out to cross the tall mountain that separated Kyoto from Osaka.

Up and up and up climbed the frog from Osaka. She leaped and hopped with all her strength, so excited was she about this fine adventure.

And up and up climbed the frog from Kyoto. "Oh, to see a brand new world," he thought as he jumped along.

On and on they leapt, and after a while they grew thirsty, and soon they grew tired. But neither frog thought of these troubles. Instead their eyes bulged with delight as they dreamed of new worlds, the vistas they would see when they at last reached the summit.

On they climbed.

At long last, huffing and puffing, the frog from Osaka reached the very top of the mountain. There, in the tall grass beneath a flowering dogwood tree she squatted to catch her breath and rest her tired legs.

Suddenly she felt a blade of grass beside her shiver. "Who's there?" she cried.

"Who indeed?" Now this was the frog from Kyoto who had, at long last, reached the mountain peak too. "It is I," he said. "A frog from Kyoto."

"Ah," the frog from Osaka sighed, "you must be a most distinguished explorer, my friend."

"What do you mean?" asked the frog from Kyoto.

"You have come from the land of palaces, home of the great emperor, isn't that so?"

The frog from Kyoto harrumphed and gurgled. He was trying hard to catch his breath. "Indeed," said he, "I am from the land of palaces. And you, gracious explorer? Where do you come from?"

"Well," croaked the frog from Osaka, thinking how nice it was to be called a gracious explorer, "I am from Osaka, and I have traveled far to see your land."

"And that is my plan!" said the frog from Kyoto. "I wish to see Osaka. It is a place I've never seen."

The frog from Osaka smiled to herself. "You needn't bother with Osaka," she said. "It is a poor place, filled with swampy water that clogs the pores, you see. Now Kyoto—that is the land of crystal-clear streams, I hear. A land a frog can really enjoy."

"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, sparkle and shimmer. All that glistening water makes one's eyes ache, my friend. Take it from me."

Now both frogs fell silent, and they stared at each other.

The frog from Kyoto was thinking: This frog from Osaka does not look very different from me.

And the frog from Osaka? She thought, "How peculiar that this sparkly eyed frog from Kyoto looks so much like me."

The two frogs sat silently, listening to the whistle grass surrounding them, staring into each others' eyes. And after a long time had passed, the frog from Kyoto sighed. "I have climbed a high mountain," he said. "It was a tiring climb, 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, you see. My legs are feeling very weak, and if the sparkling streams are not so wonderful, I don't wish to hop all the way there."

Again they sat in silence, listening to the whistling grass.

"Ah," sighed the frog from Osaka at long last, "if only we were taller. Then we could look down from this mountaintop and see the cities of our dreams. Then we would know if we wished to continue traveling."

"It is a shame," the frog from Kyoto agreed, "but we are short, and we are stuck here in the tall grass without such a view."

They both sighed sadly.

Then the frog from Kyoto puffed out his throat. "It's true we are tiny and the grass is tall, but gracious friend, we frogs from Kyoto are famous for our intelligence. I am sure we can find a solution to this problem. Let me think."

The frog from Kyoto closed his eyes, and he thought for a long, long while. And then, with a thought, he opened his eyes and leaped into the air, so high he very nearly caught sight of the city below.

Then he turned to the frog from Osaka. "Come my friend. I shall stand upon my hind legs and turn toward you, and you shall stand upon your hind legs and turn toward me. That way we shall hold each other up, and then we shall be taller than this tall grass and able to see the sights we are longing to see."

The frog from Osaka, impressed by his intelligence, agreed. "A good plan," said she.

So they hopped onto their hind legs, and they held each other steady, and the frog from Kyoto looked one way, and the frog from Osaka looked the other.

Alas, they had 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, they were actually looking at their own cities. The frog from Kyoto looked out and saw Kyoto, and the frog from Osaka looked and saw the city of Osaka.

The frog from Kyoto nearly wept. "Oh my," he said, "Osaka looks just like Kyoto."

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

And so they let go of each other, and they dropped down on their four legs again. Then they squatted very still in that tall grass and stared sadly at each other.

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

"No point at all," agreed the frog from Osaka. "I think I shall return home," she said. "Farewell, my friend."

"Farewell to you."

And with that the frogs hopped back down the mountain, back to their homes, happy to think the place they lived was just as good as any other home, and almost exactly the same.