A Story of Prince Yamato Takeru

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This was one of my favorite Japanese tales growing up.

Mukashi mukashi ... (once upon a time) there was born to the Emperor a second son, and he was named Yamato. Throughout his childhood he proved himself to be strong, brave, wise, and a fierce warrior, and all who knew him were sure that he was destined for greatness.

When he came of age at sixteen, his father the Emperor gave Prince Yamato the task of subduing some brigands who were plaguing the land. Before he left the court, he visited the shrine to pray to his ancestress the Sun Goddess Amaterasu and to take leave of his aunt the Princess. His aunt blessed him and wished him well, and gave him a gorgeous silk kimono to bring him good luck. "Surely it will be of service to you on your journey," she said.

The Prince set out with his troops and within a few days had reached the area where the brigands had their lair. The land was exceedingly wild and travel was difficult. Seeing that an open battle would be fruitless in such country, the Prince halted his company and announced, "I will go alone and seek to overcome our enemies by stratagem rather than force."

Prince Yamato bade his wife, the Princess Ototachibana, who had accompanied him on the journey, to bring out the kimono given to him by his aunt, and to attire him as a woman. With her help he put on the kimono, and he let his hair flow down over his shoulders. The Princess adorned her husband's hair with combs of mother-of-pearl and she placed jewels around his neck. When Ototachibana brought him a mirror, Prince Yamato smiled, because a beautiful lady looked back at him.

Thus disguised, he set out for the enemy's camp, armed only with a sharp dagger hidden in the folds of his robe.

The two brother chieftains Kumaso and Takeru were resting in their tent, enjoying the cool of the evening, when the Prince approached. They were both struck dumb by the apparition of loveliness that had appeared before them in the twilight.

"Woman, come and serve us wine," commanded Kumaso.

The Prince's heart beat fast with excitement but he showed nothing, advancing shyly and gracefully toward the two men, as if he were a frightened deer. He served the chieftains cup after cup of wine until Kumaso became quite drunk. At that moment, the Prince seized Kumaso and plunged the dagger into the evil brigand's heart. His brother Takeru tried to escape but Prince Yamato was too quick. The Prince wrestled Takeru to the ground and gave him a mortal wound, but as the blade flashed before his eyes Takeru gasped, "Wait one moment! Please, tell me whom I have the honor of addressing? My brother and I believed that we were the strongest men in the land, and that no one could conquer us. Yet alone you have entered our stronghold and attacked and killed us! Are you more than mortal?"

The Prince answered proudly, "I am the son of the Emperor and my name is Yamato. I was sent by my father to rid the land of robbers and scum like you."

"Ah," Takeru gasped, "I have heard of you before. You are indeed mighty. Allow me to give you a new name. From henceforth you shall be known as Yamato Takeru (Yamato the Brave), since you are the bravest man in the land." And with that, he fell back and died.

There is more to the story but I cut it down to just this scene in the interests of keeping it within the time limit.


Created: Apr 04, 2014

Tags: folk tale, legend, princess, japan, prince, dagger, yamato, japanese, emperor, folk story, prose, story, kimono

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