KOJIKI

The Kojiki ("Record of Ancient Matters") is considered the earliest remaining record written by the Japanese. It is an account of Japanese history as viewed by seventh and eighth century Yamato aristocracy. The early accounts are considered a myth, while later accounts hold some historical accuracy.

The compilation of the Kojiki was first commissioned by emperor Tenmu (reigned 673-686), but it was completed only twenty five years and three emperors later in the year 712, during the reign of Empress Genmei. The completion of the Kojiki a year after the establishment of the capital in Nara indicates that the Yamato court was making a significant step forward towards justifying its claim to supreme authority over the Japanese people.

The following selection of three chapters tells the story of a warrior prince, whose legendary military prowess and creativity with which he pacified the provinces, have made him a symbol of the ancient Japanese warrior. These records of Yamato-takeru's innovative mind also show that warriors of eighth century Japan were aware of the benefits of deceiving the enemy. Furthermore, it shows that assassination of leaders was one efficient method of subduing his lands.

Book Two

CHAPTER 79

PRINCE WO-USU KILLS HIS ELDER BROTHER AND IS SENT BY EMPEROR KEIKO TO CONQUER THE TWO BROTHERS KUMASO-TAKERU.

The emperor said to Wo-Usu-no-mikoto : "Why does your elder brother not come to the morning and evening meals? Take it upon yourself to teach and admonish him." After this had been said, five days passed, but he still did not come. The emperor then asked Wo-Usu-no-mikoto: "Why has your elder brother not come for such a long time? Is it perhaps that you have not yet admonished him?" He replied : "I have already entreated him." Then he said: "In what manner did you entreat him?" He replied: '' Early in the morning when he went into the privy, I waited and captured him, grasped him and crushed him, then pulled off his limbs, and wrapping them in a straw mat, threw them away." At this, the emperor was terrified at the fearless, wild disposition of this prince and said : "Toward the west, there are two [mighty men called Kumaso-takeru. They are unsubmissive, disrespectful people. Therefore go and kill them." [Thus saying], he dispatched him. At this time, he was still a youth wearing his hair up on his forehead. Then Wo-usu-no-mikoto received from his aunt Yamato-hime-no-mikoto an upper garment and a skirt and, with a small sword in his bosom, set out.

CHAPTER 80

WO-USU-NO-MIKOTO, DISGUISED AS A WOMAN, VANQUISHES THE BROTHERS KUMASO-TAKERU. HE IS GIVEN THE TITLE YAMATO-TAKERU.

When he arrived at the house of the Kumaso-takeru, he found that the house was surrounded by three rows of warriors, and that they were building a pit dwelling and were inside it. At the time there was a great deal of noise about the coming feast [celebrating] the new pit dwelling, and food was being prepared. Walking around the vicinity, he waited for the day of the feast. When the day of the feast arrived, he combed his hair down in the manner of a young girl's and put on the upper garment and the skirt of his aunt. Thus, completely taking on a young girl's appearance, he mingled with the women and went into the pit dwelling. Then the two Kumaso-takeru, the elder and the younger, looked with admiration at this maiden and had her sit between them as the festivities continued. Then, when [the feast] was at its height, [Wo-usu-no-mikoto] took his sword from his bosom and, seizing the Kumaso's collar, stabbed him clear through the chest. Then the younger Takeru , seeing this, was afraid and ran out. Pursuing him to the foot of the stairs leading out of the pit dwelling, he seized him by the back, took the sword, and stabbed him clear through from the rear. Then Kumaso-takeru said : "Do not move the sword. I have something to say."

Then holding him down, he allowed it for a while. Then he said : "Who are you, my lord?" Whereupon he said : "I am the son of Emperor Opo-tarasi-osiro-no-mikoto, who dwells in the palace of Pisiro and rules Opo-ya-shima-guni; and my name is Yamato-woguna-no-miko. Hearing that you Kumaso-takeru Were unsubmissive and disrespectful, he dispatched me to kill you." Then Kumaso-takeru said: "Indeed this must be true. For in the west there are no brave, mighty men besides us. But in the land of Opo-yamato there is a man exceeding the two of us in bravery! Because of this I will present you with a name. May you be known from now on as Yamato-takeru-no-miko!" After he had finished saying this, [Wo-usu-no-mikoto] killed him, slicing him up like a ripe melon. From that time, he was called Yamato-takeru-no-mikoto to praise his name. Then as he returned, he subdued and pacified all of the mountain deities, river deities, and deities of the sea-straits.

CHAPTER 8 I

YAMATO-TAKERU-NO-MIKOTO KILLS IDUMO-TAKERU BY DECEIT.

At that time [Yamato-takeru-no-mikoto] entered the land of Idumo. Intending to kill Idumo-takeru he pledged friendship with aim on his arrival. Then he secretly made an imitation sword of tipi wood, which he wore at his side. They bathed together in the Pi River. At this time, Yamato-takeru-no-mikoto came out of the river first and put on the sword which Idumo-takeru had worn , saying : "Let us exchange swords !" Then Idumo-takeru came out of the river and put on the imitation sword which Yamato-takeru-no-mikoto had worn. Whereupon Yamato-takeru-no-mikoto invited him saying : '' Come, let us cross swords !" As they were unsheathing their swords, Idumo-takeru was unable to unsheathe the imitation sword. Then Yamato-takeru-no-mikoto, unsheathing his sword, struck and killed Idumo-takeru. Then he made a song, saying:
The many-clouds-rising
Idumo-takeru Wears a sword
With many vines wrapped around it,
But no blade inside, alas!

Thus, having swept away and pacified [his foes], he went up and reported [on his mission].

(Selected chapters from Donald L. Philippi's translation of the Kojiki. University of Tokyo Press,1968).

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