The ETPD that will be considered in this article stands for English through Personal Development. The first question to ask is why and the answer is simple – for surely there can be nothing more important in life.
If we start with the assumption that ‘the main purpose of higher education is to facilitate and expand students’ understanding’, (Ramsden, 2003, p. 8), and if we agree that learning methods ‘must reflect real social practices’ (Charrier, 2000, p. 83), then we have to conclude that learning must be anchored into ‘real-world or authentic contexts that make learning meaningful and purposeful’ (Bonk and Cunningham 1998, p. 27).
ETPD is not to be confused with blended learning, which is the combination of multiple approaches to learning. A typical example of this would be a combination of technology-based materials and face-to-face sessions used together to deliver instruction. This could entail using a combination of active learning techniques in the physical classroom and a social web presence online.
However, what ETPD and blended learning do have in common is that they both represent a shift in instructional strategy, from the way things have traditionally been done.
One of the ways ETPD can be applied in the classroom is by making use of storytelling and a Japanese folktale is provided below to use for the purpose, followed by notes on how it can be exploited:
Long ago there lived in a small fishing village by the southern shores of Japan a young fisherman named Urashima Taro. We will call him Taro in our story.
One bright day while he was walking along the seashore with his fishing pole, Taro saw a group of children jumping and running about. All of the children seemed very excited. They were shouting with glee and seemed to be standing over some object lying on the beach. When Taro came nearer to the children, he saw that they were tormenting a little turtle. They threw stones at it, and then each one took his turn kicking the poor turtle.
Taro felt great sympathy for the unfortunate turtle. He turned to the children and said, “Please don’t be cruel to the little turtle. You should be kind to animals. If you will set the turtle free, I will give each of you some money.”
So Taro bought the turtle’s freedom from the thoughtless children. Then he took it to the water’s edge and set it free. Soon the turtle disappeared into the blue waves and in a moment Taro could see it no more.
After a few days Taro again went fishing by the seashore. He cast his line into the water and, as he did so, he was surprised to see a big turtle appear from out of the waves.
The huge turtle approached Taro and said, “Hello, Taro-san! Don’t you remember me?”
Taro stared at the turtle, and to his great surprise he saw that it was the same turtle whose life he had saved by rescuing it from the naughty children a few days before. But now the turtle was very large and looked very old.
Smiling at Taro, the turtle continued, “Thank you very much for your kindness to me the other day. You rescued me from those bad children. I wish to reward you for your kindness. If you wish to go, I will take you to the Coral Palace. It is a beautiful palace in the middle of a kingdom down under the sea. Please get on my back, Taro. Then we will begin our journey.”
Taro was delighted with the invitation from the turtle. He jumped on the hard-shell back, and they started for the Coral Palace.
Into the depths of the blue sea they plunged. It was the first time Taro had been so far under the water, and it was probably the first time anyone had lived to see the bottom of the ocean.
The bottom of the ocean was a beautiful sight to Taro. For a minute he just blinked his eyes, for he could not believe what he saw. Strange and pretty grasses and trees grew on the bottom of the sea. They swirled and waved with the gentle current of the water. Glistening red, blue, and yellow fish of all sizes and shapes swam everywhere. Schools of tiny fish played among the pink and blue coral. Funny little sea horses fled from the larger fish. The shining coral reflected glittering shafts of light in every direction. Everything was like a dream. It was most beautiful and quiet.
The turtle was a swift swimmer, and soon Taro saw the gates of the Coral Palace in the distance.
At the palace, the queen awaited Taro. The queen was named Otohime, and she was delicate and sweet-looking. Otohime wore a long, white robe, and on her head rested a golden crown sparkling with many diamonds and pearls. As she moved, her skirt, which was covered with hundreds of pink shells, swayed and gleamed in the water. Each shell was like a twinkling star.
Behind Otohime stood twenty maids in waiting. Each wore a different-colored dress, and in their hair they had interwoven green seaweed.
With a smile on her tender face, Otohime spoke in a soft voice to Taro. “Welcome, Taro-san! It was so kind of you to have rescued my loyal turtle. All the inhabitants of my kingdom wish to reward you by entertaining you in my Coral Palace. You will see many strange and wonderful things beneath the sea.”
And then she beckoned and said, “Come with me, Taro. We will go into the palace.”
Taro followed Otohime, and the charming queen led him through one splendid room after another. Finally they came to a huge room filled with beautiful furniture and treasures. In the center of the room was a great table and it was laden with golden plates, knives, forks, and spoons, crystal glasses, silver trays, and delicate china.
The food upon the table was the strangest and most inviting food Taro had ever seen. Taro had never tasted such delicious dishes, and he did not know any of the names of the strange delicacies.
Otohime was a generous and charming hostess, and she offered Taro one wonderful dish after another.
Then, when Taro could eat no more, he was delighted to see many beautiful fish dance into the banquet hall. They swam before the table where Taro sat with the queen, and after they bowed and shyly smiled at the guest, the fish began to dance to a lovely tune.
Tiny fish swayed, and sunfish tossed their tails. Thousands of gleaming bubbles rose above the dancers. Goldfish danced to a soft waltz, and shafts of light shone on their gleaming gilt scales. It almost looked as if many mirrors were dancing. Then gleaming codfish and trout moved in rhythm to the gay tunes of oysters who clacked their shells open and shut. Off to one side, five small fish danced over the keys of the golden piano. They made a delicate, tinkling tone bubble out. Beside them a sweet rainbow trout stroked the strings of a silver harp. And in the background a group of proud lobsters played their violins while a huge, fat lobster led the musicians. Taro laughed at the lobster leader, for he had thick glasses resting on the end of his nose, and he looked very funny as he conducted the orchestra.
Finally the feast and the entertainment were over. Otohime then showed Taro the treasures of the palace. She had so many treasures, too! She had more silver and gold and pearls than anyone on earth or under the sea.
Taro spent many days at the Coral Palace. Every day was a new experience which ended with a splendid feast and an evening of entertainment. For a while Taro even forgot his friends and parents at home above the sea.
But one day Taro felt a great longing for his own people. Taro did not wish the queen to think him ungrateful for her kindness, but he felt that he must tell her of his desire to return home. By then Taro was very homesick.
So the next time he saw the queen, Taro approached her and said, “Thank you very much for your kindness, little Queen Otohime. I have never spent such happy days before. I love your palace and all your little friends. But now I feel a longing to see my home again. I must say good-by.”
Otohime was sorry to hear Taro speak these words. She cried bitterly to think of his leaving her kingdom, and all her little maidservants tried to persuade Taro to remain with them forever.
Taro did not wish to see the queen cry, but he would not change his mind.
The time came for Taro to leave. The big turtle prepared to carry Taro to the land above the sea, and he awaited him at the gates of the palace.
Otohime, brushing away tears like pearls from her eyes, said to Taro, “I am sorry you are leaving my palace, Taro. But I do not wish you to be unhappy. Do not forget me, even though you go back to your own country and people.”
Then Otohime showed Taro a jewel-encrusted chest and said, “I wish to give you this as a token of farewell. It will bring great luck to you if you keep it. But one thing you must remember. You must never, never open it. Do not forget my words, Taro-san. It will only bring you luck if you keep it unopened.”
Then the queen handed the chest to Taro. Taro was delighted with his gift and he thanked the queen many times.
Then, holding the precious chest in his hand, Taro got on the turtle’s back and amid a swirl of water and bubbles they sped to the surface of the sea. They reached the beach, and Taro bid good-bye to the turtle. Then Taro set out for home.
When he arrived at the gates of his native village, he was surprised to see that everything was changed.
Nothing was the same as before he had gone to the Coral Palace. Not one familiar face remained, and Taro felt like a stranger. Taro asked many people about his old friends, but hardly anyone seemed even to have heard of them. Only one or two old men remembered Taro’s friends. These old men had heard their grandfathers speak of them, but that was many, many years ago.
With disappointment and sorrow heavy in his heart, Taro looked for the home where he had once lived. But even that was no longer there, and strange people now lived on the site in a new house. Taro felt very lonely in this strange town where he was but a puzzling stranger to all the inhabitants.
Taro plodded his weary way to the seashore and sat upon a rock where he could see the waves roll in.
Suddenly he remembered the chest the queen had given him. Taro was so lonely he forgot the words of the little queen, and he began to open the chest. When the lid was open, a column of white smoke arose from the chest. The smoke was strange and surrounded Taro. And when the smoke disappeared, Taro had become an old man with hair as white as snow. For Taro had really been under the sea for many years, and now time had caught up with him.
Notes for Teachers / Trainers
- Pre-listening: You have sixty seconds, starting from now, to make a list of all the different things you can find in the sea – animal, vegetable and mineral. Ask one of the learners to board all the suggestions the others call out. Well you’ve produced a very impressive list but none of you have mentioned what the story I’m about to read you features.
- Read the story
- Post-listening: Urashima had a choice – to carry on living with his family and stay where he was, contented with what he had in life, or to take a chance and explore a different world, to try something new. Have you ever been in a situation like that? Take a minute of clock time, equal to all the time you need, to think about it. What choice did you make when you were in a similar situation and what was the result? And if you were now given a second chance, would you do something different in hindsight? Now pair up with the person next to you and share your experiences. Then report back what you found out about your partner to the rest of the class.
- Who learnt something about themselves from today’s exercise, and what was it?
The story is told of a man who, being late for a trip, arrived at a station and jumped onto the first available train. Feeling sleepy, he dozed off for a while and then when he woke up, saw the train rumbling along at full speed towards an unknown destination. He began questioning everyone, complaining aloud and finally crying and shouting. He demanded that the train stop to let him off. The more excited he became, the more the other passengers, eerily silent and downcast, seemed puzzled by his behaviour. Finally a kind old man told him, “Don’t you know, this train only has one destination, the ocean depths that nobody ever returns from.” Once we’re born, our final destination is death — the deep ocean. Why fret and fuss? All we can do is to make sure we use our time on earth well, to seek Enlightenment for ourselves and for others.
And this can be done through the medium of English, which is what ETPD is all about.
Notes on the shamanic origins of the story
The notion of a sea journey in search of the infinite that is found in the Old Testament in the Book of Jonah is also common both to early medieval insular literature dealing with pagan myth and the lives of Christian saints such as the sixth-century Columbanus (see Aldhouse-Green, 2005, p.200). In Urashima Taro it is found within a Japanese setting.
The name “Urashima Taro” first appears in the 15th century in the book Otogizoushi, but the story is in fact much older, dating back to the 8th century. Although Urashima Taro is referred to as “Urashimako” in books from that period, the story is the same. This is simply due to a change in Japanese naming customs. In the previous eras, -ko (child) was used for both male and female names, while in later times it was mostly a female name element, and was replaced with -tarou, (great youth) in boys’ names.
What is particularly interesting is that the story would appear to be partly factual in that a shrine on the western coast of the Tango Peninsula, named Urashima Jinjya, contains an old document describing a man, Urashimako, who left his home in 478 A.D. to visit a land where people never die. He returned in 825 A.D. with a Tamatebako (a box consisting of a modular cube design that can be opened from any side). Ten days later he opened the box and a cloud of white smoke was released, which turned Urashimako into an old man. Later that year, after hearing the story, Jyunna Tenno ordered Ono-no-Takamura to build a shrine both to hold the Tamatebako and also to commemorate Urashimako’s strange voyage (see http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Tamatebako&oldid=83094847 [accessed 20 December 2006]).
What happens to Urashima is not exactly a case of soul loss or soul theft, but is perhaps best described as soul captivation. Otohime, Princess of the Sea and the daughter of Ryujin, does not attempt to possess Urashima, rather Urashima allows himself to be attracted to her and chooses voluntarily to spend time in her underwater palace.
In Japanese mythology Ryujin is the dragon god of the sea and Ryūgū-jō is his undersea palace. Depending on the version of the legend, it is built from red and white coral, or from solid crystal, and the inhabitants are Ryujin’s servants – various denizens of the sea. On each of the four sides of the palace is a different season, and one day at the palace is said to be like 100 years on earth.
Many events in stories are set in vehicles of transportation, such as the ship that Jonah sets sail in, and the setting serves the purpose of temporarily suspending ‘the safe predictability and clarity of the social order’ (Bal, 2004, p.217). In Urashima Taro the turtle is the vehicle, a common motif in Japanese folklore that often indicates longevity. It also takes on the role of Urashima’s power animal in what can be regarded as a shamanic journey to the Lower World.
Shamanic journeys frequently involve passing through some kind of gateway:
The “clashing of rocks,” the “dancing reeds,” the gates in the shape of jaws, the “two razor-edged restless mountains,” the “two clashing icebergs,” the “active door,” the “revolving barrier,” the door made of the two halves of the eagle’s beak, and many more – all these are images used in myths and sagas to suggest the insurmountable difficulties of passage to the Other World (Eliade, 2003, pp.64-65).
In this particular tale, the gates of the Coral Palace that Urashima enters by can be seen to represent the gateway between the two worlds.
‘The purpose of the descent as universally exemplified in the myth of the hero is to show that only in the region of danger … can one find the “treasure hard to attain” ‘ (Jung, 1968, pp.335-336), and this is what Urashima Taro goes in search of.
In non-ordinary reality, a minute of clock time can last forever. It is where one can discover the circularity as well as the linearity of time, acting both in history as well as in the depth of the world of timelessness. The story of Urashima Taro explores this concept, in that the hero is given the opportunity to shift out of limited consciousness and gain access to the great workings of the timeless world. However, as he ultimately discovers, there is a price to pay for this gift (see Berman, 2000, p.125).
- Aldhouse-Green, M. & Aldhouse-Green, S. (2005) The Quest for the Shaman: Shape-shifters, Sorcerers, and Spirit-Healers of Ancient Europe, London: Thames & Hudson.
- Bal, M. (2004) Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative, Canada: University of Toronto Press.
- Berman, M. (2000) The Power of Metaphor, Carmarthen: Crown House.
- Bonk C.J., & Cunningham, D. (1998). Searching for learner-centered, constructivist, and sociocultural components of collaborative educational learning tools. In C. J. Bonk & K. King (Eds.), Electronic collaborators: Learner-centered technologies for literacy, apprenticeship,and discourse (pp. 25–50). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Caws, C. (2006). Assessing group interactions on-line: Students’ perspectives. Journal of Learning Design, 1(3), 19-28. http://www.jld.qut.edu.au/
- Chanier, T. (2000). Hypermédia, interaction et apprentissage dans des systèmes d’information et de communication: Résultats et agenda de recherche. In L. Duquette & M. Laurier, (Eds.), Apprendre une langue dans un environnement multimédia (pp. 179–210). Outremont: Les Editions Logiques. O’Donnell, J.E. (1958) Japanese Folk Tales, Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers.
- Eliade, M. (2003) Rites and Symbols of Initiation, Putnam, Connecticut: Spring Publications (originally published by Harper Bros., New York, 1958).
- Jung, C.G. (1968 2nd Edition) Psychology and Alchemy, London: Routledge & Keegan Paul.
- Ramsden, P. (2003). Learning to teach in higher education. London: Rutledge Falmer.