The son of an emperor who was rejected from the imperial succession, Prince Takaoka (a historical figure from the 9th century) became a monk and, towards the end of his life, undertook a journey to China, then to India, where he never arrived. He is said to have died in the Malay Peninsula, devoured by a tiger. It is on this historical framework that Tatsuhiko Shibusawa imagines a journey enamelled with fantastic phenomena, mythical animals and monstrous flowers, in the form of a questioning of reality: if the world is only an illusion, then there is more wisdom in leading one’s life on the fictions of one’s dreams than in refusing them as vanities. It remains to know how to “see” one’s dreams.
This is the whole point of this fascinating novel, halfway between Calvino and Tolkien, the Journey to the West and Dragon Ball.