The Legend of Yamato Takeru

This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series Japanese Mythology

The Legend of Yamato Takeru

Yamato Takeru (Prince Ōsu) is a legendary hero in Japanese mythology and history, known for his numerous adventures and heroic deeds. His story is detailed in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki.

Childhood and Trials

Yamato Takeru was born as Prince Ōsu, the son of Emperor Keikō, the 12th emperor of Japan. From a young age, he displayed great strength and courage. After killing his older brother, he was given difficult tasks by his father as a form of punishment.

Defeating the Kumaso Warriors

One of his first major tasks was to defeat the Kumaso warriors in southern Kyushu. Disguised as a woman, Yamato Takeru infiltrated the Kumaso leader’s camp and killed him during a banquet. For this feat, he was given the name “Yamato Takeru,” meaning “The Brave of Yamato.”

The Kusanagi Sword and Eastern Expedition

Yamato Takeru was then sent on a campaign to the eastern regions (present-day Kanto area). Armed with the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (Grass-Cutting Sword), he won many battles. One famous episode involved him cutting down grass to escape an ambush, showcasing the power of the sacred sword.

Adventure at Mount Ibuki

Yamato Takeru later challenged the deity of Mount Ibuki but was severely wounded after underestimating the mountain god. This event significantly impacted his fate.

His Final Days and Legacy

Wounded, Yamato Takeru eventually succumbed to his injuries in Nobono (present-day Mie Prefecture). After his death, it is said that his spirit transformed into a white bird and flew away, symbolizing his enduring legacy.

Worship and Reverence

Yamato Takeru is venerated as a hero at various shrines across Japan. Notably, Nobono Shrine in Mie Prefecture and Atsuta Shrine in Aichi Prefecture, where the Kusanagi Sword is enshrined, are famous sites of his worship.

The story of Yamato Takeru embodies themes of bravery, loyalty, and the tragic fate of a heroic figure, leaving a lasting mark on Japanese culture and history.

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