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From Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki
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The insignia of the great Japanese Empire is composed of three
treasures which have been considered sacred, and guarded with jealous
care from time immemorial. These are the Yatano-no-Kagami or the Mirror
of Yata, the Yasakami-no-Magatama or the Jewel of Yasakami, and the
Murakumo-no-Tsurugi or the Sword of Murakumo.
Of these three treasures of the Empire, the sword of Murakumo,
afterwards known as Kusanagi-no-Tsrugugi, or the grass-cleaving sword,
is considered the most precious and most highly to be honored, for it
is the symbol of strength to this nation of warriors and the talisman
of invincibility for the Emperor, while he holds it sacred in the
shrine of his ancestors.
Nearly two thousand years ago this sword was kept at the shrines of
Ite, the temples dedicated to the worship of Amaterasu, the great and
beautiful Sun Goddess from whom the Japanese Emperors are said to be
There is a story of knightly adventure and daring which explains why
the name of the sword was changed from that of Murakumo to Kasanagi,
which means grass clearing.
Once, many, many years ago, there was born a son to the Emperor Keiko,
the twelfth in descent from the great Jimmu, the founder of the
Japanese dynasty. This Prince was the second son of the Emperor Keiko,
and he was named Yamato. From his childhood he proved himself to be of
remarkable strength, wisdom and courage, and his father noticed with
pride that he gave promise of great things, and he loved him even more
than he did his elder son.
Now when Prince Yamato had grown to manhood (in the olden days of
Japanese history, a boy was considered to have reached man's estate at
the early age of sixteen) the realm was much troubled by a band of
outlaws whose chiefs were two brothers, Kumaso and Takeru. These rebels
seemed to delight in rebelling against the King, in breaking the laws
and defying all authority.
At last King Keiko ordered his younger son Prince Yamato to subdue the
brigands and, if possible, to rid the land of their evil lives. Prince
Yamato was only sixteen years of age, he had but reached his manhood
according to the law, yet though he was such a youth in years he
possessed the dauntless spirit of a warrior of fuller age and knew not
what fear was. Even then there was no man who could rival him for
courage and bold deeds, and he received his father's command with great
He at once made ready to start, and great was the stir in the precincts
of the Palace as he and his trusty followers gathered together and
prepared for the expedition, and polished up their armor and donned it.
Before he left his father's Court he went to pray at the shrine of Ise
and to take leave of his aunt the Princess Yamato, for his heart was
somewhat heavy at the thought of the dangers he had to face, and he
felt that he needed the protection of his ancestress, Amaterasu, the
Sun Goddess. The Princess his aunt came out to give him glad welcome,
and congratulated him on being trusted with so great a mission by his
father the King. She then gave him one of her gorgeous robes as a
keepsake to go with him and to bring him good luck, saying that it
would surely be of service to him on this adventure. She then wished
him all success in his undertaking and bade him good speed.
The young Prince bowed low before his aunt, and received her gracious
gift with much pleasure and many respectful bows.
"I will now set out," said the Prince, and returning to the Palace he
put himself at the head of his troops. Thus cheered by his aunt's
blessing, he felt ready for all that might befall, and marching through
the land he went down to the Southern Island of Kiushiu, the home of
Before many days had passed he reached the Southern Island, and then
slowly but surely made his way to the head-quarters of the chiefs
Kumaso and Takeru. He now met with great difficulties, for he found the
country exceedingly wild and rough. The mountains were high and steep,
the valleys dark and deep, and huge trees and bowlders of rock blocked
up the road and stopped the progress of his army. It was all but
impossible to go on.
Though the Prince was but a youth he had the wisdom of years, and,
seeing that it was vain to try and lead his men further, he said to
"To attempt to fight a battle in this impassable country unknown to my
men only makes my task harder. We cannot clear the roads and fight as
well. It is wiser for me to resort to stratagem and come upon my
enemies unawares. In that way I may be able to kill them without much
So he now bade his army halt by the way. His wife, the Princess
Ototachibana, had accompanied him, and he bade her bring him the robe
his aunt the priestess of Ise had given him, and to help him attire
himself as a woman. With her help he put on the robe, and let his hair
down till it flowed over his shoulders. Ototachibana then brought him
her comb, which he put in his black tresses, and then adorned himself
with strings of strange jewels just as you see in the picture. When he
had finished his unusual toilet, Ototachibana brought him her mirror.
He smiled as he gazed at himself--the disguise was so perfect.
He hardly knew himself, so changed was he. All traces of the warrior
had disappeared, and in the shining surface only a beautiful lady
looked back at him.
Thus completely disguised, he set out for the enemy's camp alone. In
the folds of his silk gown, next his strong heart, was hidden a sharp