Yamato Takeru

Yamato Takeru
Yamato Takeru disguised as a woman.

Yamato Takeru

Yamato Takeru (小碓命, Prince Ōsu) (The Brave of Yamato) is known to have been the second son of Emperor Keiko, said at the age of 16 to have torn apart one of his brothers after he insulted their father. He is mentioned in the Kojiki, Nihongi and Hitachi Fudoki1.

Military Exploits

After this display of devotion to his father, he went on to lead many military campaigns against barbarians, at first being sent to subjugate the Kumaso. To infiltrate the Clan he disguised himself as a woman, the clothes given to him by his aunt Yamato Hime. Reaching the clan he kills the two brothers who lead them, killing the first during a feast and the second after he runs away stabbing him in the buttocks. As he dies he gives the Prince the name Yamato Takeru1.

His next job was to subdue the people and deities of the periphery of their realm, the Yemishi. He travels there accompanied by Takehiko, Takehi no Muraji and Nanatsukahagi. Once more he visits his aunt who gives him this time the sword Kusanagi and flints for lighting fire.

On his way he visits Princess Miyazu Hime, promising to marry her when he returns. Before reaching Emishi he reaches Sagami (Nihongi gives the name, Suruga) encountering a chieftain there who tries to kill him in a grass fire. He mows the grass around him with the sword, lighting a backfire to escape and then kills the chieftain. Takeru then sails across Sagami Bay to subdue the Emishi.

Crossing the bay a deity living in the water becomes angry, and so a princess travelling with him at the time sacrifices herself to appease the deity so Yamato may continue.

Death

Eventually, he returns and marries Miyazu Hime and attempts one more exploit, leaving the magical sword behind. He leaves to subdue the deity living on Mount Ibuki barehanded. Climbing the mountain, he mistakes a boar as the deities messenger and ignores it, but it was actually the deity. It summons a hailstorm which dazes Takeru, killing him later after he descends the mountain near Otsu where he had left another sword by a pine tree. The Emperor filled with grief had him buried under a tumulus.

His soul escapes in the form of a giant white bird, stopping at two places before reaching Heaven1.

Footnotes

1. Littleton. C.S. (1995) “Yamato-takeru: An Arthurian Hero in Japanese Tradition”. Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 54, No.2, pp.259-274.

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