Yamato Takeru

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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 Keikō, 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.

He was also known as Yamato Woguna.4

Family

Yamato Takeru was the son of Emperor Keikō and Harima no Inabi no Ōiratsume, and twin to Ōsu.4

He is known to have been the husband of Futajirihime despite her being his aunt234 and together they had four children by the names of Ineyoriwake, Emperor Chūai, Nunoshiirihime and Waketake.4

With his wife Kibi no Anato no Takehime they had two children by the names of Takemiko and Towokiwake.4

With another wife called Ototachibanahime he had a son by the name of Wakatakehiko.4

His great-grandchild was Sumeiroohonakatsuhiko, whose daughter Kagurohime married Emperor Keikō according to the kojiki. This is clearly a mistake in the chronologies as it would mean the Emperor married his great-great-granddaughter.23

Appearance

Desciptions of him say he was a rod in height, and was so strong that he could lift a tripod.4

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 kami 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 kami living in the water becomes angry, and so a princess travelling with him at the time sacrifices herself to appease the kami 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 kami living on Mount Ibuki barehanded. Climbing the mountain, he mistakes a boar as the kami messenger and ignores it, but it was actually the kami. 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.
2. Yasumaro. O, translated by Gustav Heldt. (2014) “Kojiki. An Account of Ancient Matters”. New York: Columbia University Press.
3. Chamberlain, B. H. (1932) “Translation of the Kojiki.” Kobe: J.L. Thompson & Co.
4. Aston. W.G. (1896) “Nihongi Volume 1: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to AD697”. Tuttle Publishing.

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