Yamatotake's Eastern Expedition and Princess Oto-Tachibana
It was the 6th month of the 40th year in the reign of the sovereign Woshirowake.
Suddenly one day, Ohotomo Takehi, Governor of the Land of Hotsuma, came up to the capital at Makimuki from the Sakaori Palace (now the Asama Shrine near Mount Fuji) with an urgent request.
"The Yemishi and others in the border region have risen up in rebellion", he announced. "They defy the law of the land, disturb the peace and violate our border. I beg you to send a powerful army with which to pacify them."
The sovereign summoned his ministers, saying:
"The Yemishi of Hotsuma again violate the law, plunder the land, and cause suffering among the people. I will here elect a general to lead an expedition against them. Who should it be?"
But none could utter a word in reply, and an awkward silence ensued. Then the Prince Yamatotake spoke up and revealed his mind to the sovereign.
"Last time, I went to vanquish the Kumaso in the west. Now, it should be my elder brother Mochihito who goes to pacify the east."
Hearing this, Mochihito cried out in terror, and ran to hide in the fields.
The sovereign sent his servants to find the Prince and summon him back. On their return, the sovereign scolded his son, saying:
"Seeing your back as you fled in terror, my expectation in you has been completely betrayed. Though you be my son, you have lost my affection. So be it. You shall henceforth be the Governor of Mino."
Then Yamatotake spoke out bravely, saying: "It is not long ago that we pacified the west. Now we must go to fight in the east. One day the Yemishi will surely be vanquished, and we shall have the victory!"
With that, the sovereign lifted a halberd in his hand, and said:
"I hear that the Yemishi decorate their bodies with tattoos and are of a wild disposition. They have no village chiefs to defend the peace, but their leaders rob and plunder each other. They wantonly cut down trees and burn them to ravage the mountains. They have no livelihoods, but merely loiter and beg, or ambush travellers at forks in the roads. Some Yemishi have carnal relations with no distinction between man and woman, old and young. They live in caves and pits, eat the flesh of wild beasts, and wear animal furs. They show no gratitude for providence, but easily take offence. They shoot well with bows and like to dance with swords. They gather in numbers to violate our borders and steal our crops. They are skilled at escaping across moor and mountain to conceal themselves, and thereby continue to defy the Way of Heaven."
The sovereign now fixed his eye on Yamatotake once more. "Seeing you here before me, I know your appearance to be upright and good, and that you have the valour of a hundred men. Wherever you go, no foe can match you, and if you fight you shall surely win. I see it clearly now. For although in physical form you are my son, in truth you are a divine being sent down from the heavens, to save this world that is so troubled by my powerlessness. You are the heavenly heir who shall succeed to the sovereign dignity and ensure the eternal continuance of our line. Plan your strategy well, reveal your divine authority, be magnanimous. And with the teaching of pure truth, subjugate these brigands to the way of heavenly rule." So saying, he handed the halberd to his son.
Accepting the halberd with solemn dignity, Yamatotake expressed his firm determination, with thanks in his heart to his father.
"In the past, I vanquished the Kumaso safely with the blessing of the heavens. And now, aided by the spirit of my sovereign father, and with the authority of the divine, I shall go to the frontier and engage the enemy. If they do not bend to my will, I shall slay them." With that, he bowed deeply and left the presence of the sovereign.
Yamatotake appointed Takehiko of Kibi and Ohotomo Takehi to assist him in his task, and took Nanatsukahagi as his steward. And on the 2nd day of the 10th month, he left the capital at the head of a sovereign army.
On his way through Yamato, he turned from his route to pray at the Ise Shrine on the 7th day. Then he took leave of the Priestess Yamatohime at the Shrine of Isawa, saying: "By order of my sovereign father, I now proceed on an expedition to vanquish the foe".
Yamatohime took a brocaded pouch from the shrine treasury in her left hand, and a sword in her right. Then she turned to face the Prince and uttered these mystic words in a tone of serenity:
"Inside this bag, you will find a charm against fire, earth and water, set down by your ancestor, the Heavenly Grandchild Ninikine. Should you be threatened by fire, earth or water, use this charm to drive them away. And this sword is the noble Murakumo from days of yore, when Sosanowo conquered the Land of Izumo. These are treasures that will bring you good fortune. Receive them with reverence, smite the foe, and return safely home. Do not neglect these words." So saying, she handed the pouch and the sword to the Prince.
In earlier days, during the reign of Mimaki-Irihiko (grandfather of Woshirowake), the Prince Ame-Hiboko had crossed the sea from his native land of Shilla on the Korean peninsula. After doing service to the sovereign, he later returned to his homeland. His son was Morosuke, who in turn begat Hinaragi, and he Kiyohiko, whose child, finally, was Tajimamori. Under command from the sovereign Ikume-Irihiko (son of Mimaki), Tajimamori went on a tour of the eastern lands, and, on his return, left this message for posterity:
"On visiting the lands of the eastern Yemishi, I found, to my regret, that they are unlikely to bend easily to the will of Yamato. Wishing nevertheless to find the Tree of Fragrance (the tachibana orange tree), as I had pledged, I passed some years in the house of Tachibana Motohiko, and became familiar with the customs of the land. As I sojourned there, ten years quickly passed. During this time, I also became acquainted with the rulers of Hitakami and Shimatsu.
"At last, I understood the differences between Yamato and Hitakami, obtained the Fragrance, and took great pains to bring it back to the court. But before I could do so, my sovereign lord passed away. I tormented myself endlessly, asking why I could not have returned earlier. I now present the Fragrance to the Sovereign Prince Woshirowake. My Lord! I beg you not to forget the bond of brotherhood I forged with Motohiko, to maintain friendly relations with the land of Hotsuma and rule the land in peace.
"My wife is Hana-Tachibana, daughter of Motohiko. She is carrying my child. But now that my sovereign lord is dead, I have lost the will to prolong my own life. I pray that you will have pity on me, protect Hana-Tachibana and her unborn child, and reign long in peace over this land."
Tajimamori spent day after day in mourning before the tomb of the late sovereign, until at length, in his inconsolable remorse, he too passed away to be reunited with his master.
Taking heed of this testament by Tajimamori, Woshirowake conferred with his Minister Takeuchi. First, Takeuchi was sent to form an allegiance with Motohiko in the Land of Hotsuma. Oto-Tachibana, daughter of Hana-Tachibana and a consort of Yamatotake, was sent ahead to Hotsuma with Hotsumi-Teshi and Sakurane-Mashi as her ministers (Teshi on the left, Mashi on the right). Only then did Yamatotake and his army advance.
The Hitakami leaders, hearing of these events, urgently sent a messenger to Motohiko, entreating him to enter an alliance. But Motohiko stubbornly refused. He built a castle on the small plain at Sagamu, which Hotsumi-Teshi, Sakurane-Mashi and the others defended stoutly as they waited for Yamatotake to appear.
The Yemishi kinsmen were quick to respond, and the Yezo clan came to meet Yamatotake in the foothills of Mount Fuji. They had devised a cunning plan to trick him, saying:
"In these parts, the breath of the wild deer rise up like mist, and sometimes the plain is trampled down by them. You will know their paths by the lines of twisted branches. Will you not go a-hunting?"
Hearing this, the Prince declared "Why, yes!", and set off to hunt the deer.
The enemy waited for their moment, then set fire to the plain. Now realizing their duplicity, Yamatotake made a fire of his own with a flint, then, taking the charm against fire, earth and water from the brocade pouch that Yamatohime had given him, thrice chanted the charm.
Suddenly, the easterly wind changed direction, and smoke drifting from the west came upon the enemy. The Prince then cut down the grass with his sword. The burning grass flew up and set fire to the whole plain, engulfing and destroying the enemy. They named this place Yakezuno, or 'Burnt Moor', and the sword was thenceforth known as Kusanagi ('Grass-Mower').
Realizing the precarious position of the castle at Sagamu, the army moved forwards to Mount Ashigara. Meanwhile, Motohiko and the others continued to defend the castle bravely against the oncoming foe. But when they found the castle impregnable, the enemy changed their strategy, and piled up brushwood around it. Only after the wood had lain there for seventy-four days to dry in the sunshine did they set fire to it. The castle was instantly engulfed in a sea of fire.
Yamatotake climbed to the summit of Mount Yagura, and looked across to the castle at Sagamu. Seeing the flames leaping up in the distance, he devised an emergency strategy. First, he sent Takehiko of Kibi with his men southwards towards Ohoiso. Next, he sent the Ohotomo Takehi northwards around Mount Ohoyama. These two then approached the castle from north and south to engage the enemy in a pincer formation.
Yamatotake dressed his hair and purified his body, then fashioned a wooden sword from white oak. This he likened to the deity of Mount Fuji, and thrice chanted the purifying charm against fire, earth and water.
With that, the dragon deity Tatsuta appeared from Lake Konoshiro near Mount Fuji, causing rain to fall and quench the fire around the castle. The sovereign army now took courage and fell upon the enemy, slaying half of them. As the remainder fled, the allied host raised their voices in a triumphant battle cry.
As Yamatotake and his army entered the castle gate, Oto-Tachibana raced to him and took his hand to express her relief. "I feared that I and all the others would surely die in the fire. But our prayers were answered. With what happiness can I look upon your face again!" And her sleeves were moistened with tears of joy.
Now that the worst had passed, Motohiko sent out an order to the people all around, saying: "Those who refuse to bow to our authority will be put to death." The local people all came to swear allegiance, and asked the Prince to make a formal procession through the land.
And so it was that, on the 8th day of the 12th month, Yamatotake started on a grand tour of the region, using an orange basket as his emblem. And the people of Hotsuma all submitted to him, peace returned to the land and there was great rejoicing.
Continuing his journey, the Prince embarked on a ship to cross from Ohoiso to Kazusa (on the opposite side of what is now Tokyo Bay). But in the middle of the journey, the ship was suddenly overcome by a ferocious storm. Tossed by gales and buffeted by high waves, the vessel drifted this way and that like a scrap of weed on the sea's surface.
Suddenly, the Prince's consort Oto-Tachibana, in a bid to calm the billowing waves, climbed onto the bow of the ship and prayed to heaven and earth for the safety of the ship. "Let the authority of my lord arise over Yamato! For the sake of my lord, I shall become a dragon, and so shall protect this ship!" And so saying, she threw herself into the sea.
All on board were astonished, and tried to find her. But she was no longer to be seen. Then, to their amazement, the seas were still, and the ship arrived safely on the opposite shore.
On landing in Kazusa, Yamatotake hung a mirror on the branches of a sakaki tree, as a symbol of his sovereign and mystical status. With this, the army moved in to the Land of Hitakami. They were met by Tokihiko, Priest of the Katori Shrine, Hidehiko, High Priest of the Kashima Shrine, and Otohiko, Priest of the Ikisu Shrine, who had already received Kuninazu Ohokashima (High Priest of the Ise Grand Shrine).
Ohokashima prepared a grand feast for the sovereign host, meeting Yamatotake and his men with a hearty welcome. Here at the Kashima Palace they tarried awhile, before once more setting off across Lake Ashiura. They landed on the beach at Nakoso, where they built a temporary palace.
While they remained there, Michinoku of Hitakami and Michihiko of Shimatsu, heads of the Yemishi tribes, came to them with five local governors, 174 minor chieftains and a host of men. Armed with bows and arrows, they gathered by the harbour at Take to block the progress of Yamatotake. And there they camped in readiness for battle.
Hearing news of this, Yamatotake sent Takehi as an envoy to invite the two leaders for talks. Michihiko of Shimatsu already feared the divine authority of the Prince, and knew well that, if he were to resist, he would surely be destroyed. So he cast aside his weapons and threw himself down in submission. But there was no sign that Michinoku would yield. So Yamatotake once again sent Takehi as an envoy to the Hitakami camp, to persuade their leader to submit. Michinoku came to meet him at the gate, and straightaway said:
"You serve a human master but call him divine. Do you, who are so feeble, dare come here so brazenly to rob us of our kingdom?"
Takehi replied, "If the heavenly sovereign commands you and you should refuse, then we shall put you to death."
Michinoku said again: "On what authority do you say that? This country of Hitakami was first held by Takamimusubi, our Great Ancestral Deity, whose rule continued through seven generations of his line. His grandson, the sun deity Amateru, came here to learn the Way of Heaven at the Yamate Palace. Amateru's heir Oshihomimi then had two sons by Princess Takuhatachichi. The elder, Kushitama Honoakari Teruhiko, governed Yamato from the Asuka Palace, while the younger, the heavenly grandchild Ninikine, ruled the Land of Hotsuma from Harami. At that time, Amateru granted this Land of Hitakami to my ancestor Takagi, and I am his descendent in the 14th generation. For all this time, we have not bowed to the rule of any other land. When Takehito seized Asuka and usurped the rule of the land, he was wrongly called divine. But his action violated the heavens, and for this reason we never recognized his authority. And now you come again, intent to rob us of our rightful land. Is this too a divine being, this so-called heavenly sovereign of yours?! Is he not merely an earthly king, a mortal ruler?"
Takehi had listened in silence to Michinoku's claims, but now smiled and said:
"There is a saying, 'If you live in a well, you cannot see the lake'. You live in the provinces and cannot see the true glory. Indeed, your claim sounds good, but it is mistaken. Now listen well, for I shall explain the real truth of it."
Takehi paused to survey those around who were listening closely to their discourse. He continued with great care, to ensure that he was well understood.
"Long ago, Nagasune, Minister of Asuka, stole the Yotsugi Fumi (Book of Succession) from the treasury of the Kasuga Shrine. But the Lord of Asuka failed to punish him for his misdeed. So then a song became popular around the land. It went: 'Nori kudase Hotsuma-ji, hiromu ama-no iwafune', or 'Lay down the law in eastern lands, spread wide the rock-boat of heaven'. The elderly noble Shihotsuchi therefore urged Takehito to go and enforce his authority. When Takehito had subdued Yamato, the Great Deity appeared to the Lord Kashima in a dream, saying 'Go and smite them'. But he replied, 'Though I do not go myself, I shall send down the sword with which my ancestors pacified the land, and this shall be offered up by Takakurashita.' Takehito, possessing the character and authority befitting a sovereign, continued the divine rule, and his line of sovereign deities have illuminated the world ever since. For, without our line of sovereigns, from whence would you have your calendar?"
"From Ise", was the reply.
Takehi continued. "Amateru, the great deity who brightens the heavens, made the first calendar and bestowed it on us. He caused us to plant rice and increase our food. And thanks to this, we all have life. The great deity has watched over this world for 1,793,000 years, and now resides in the orb of the sun. His grandson Ninikine ruled the people in affluence, and was a heavenly sovereign made in the image of the sun deity. You have received the blessing of life through the generations, and yet you still show no gratitude to your sovereign. How much transgression have you amassed thereby? But there is a way out for you. So. Do you still say our sovereign is not divine?"
Hearing this, Michinoku and all the others bowed down in obeisance, and were thus pardoned by Yamatotake. He granted Michinoku the lands north of Nakoso, calling them Michinoku, and commanded that the first harvest of the hundred counties be given up as tribute.
To Michihiko he granted the lands of the Tsukaru Yemishi in the far north, and commanded that the first harvest of the seventy counties be given up as tribute. As for the southern regions, he granted the three lands of Hitachi, Kazusa and Awa to Mikasa Kashima. And the three brothers Hidehiko, Tokihito and Otohiko Kashima were given ritual garments.
The five local governors entreated the Prince to teach them the Way of Heaven. So they were invited to join him on his way to the Nihari Palace.
Michihiko, head of the Yemishi of Shimatsu, delivered up ten lengths of multi-coloured brocade and a hundred sharp-pointed arrows dressed with eagle feathers. Michinoku yielded ten pounds of gold and a hundred Kumaso arrows.
Although fine weather had continued from the end of the previous year, heavy snow fell on the 28th day of the new year, and the Prince rode on a sledge towards the Palace of Sagamu. Awaiting his arrival was a certain Toragashiwa. He had found one of the stirrups lost by Yamatotake on the plain during his battle with the Yemishi. Toragashiwa hung the stirrup (abumi) on a sakaki branch to make a sacred offering as the Prince approached.
Yamatotake commended him greatly, and named the place where the stirrup was found 'Tamagawa Abumi' (now part of Atsugi City). And in honour of the sacred offering ('sashi') made from the stirrup, he named the whole region the Land of Misashi ('August Offering'; this is the region now known as Musashi). He granted this and the Land of Sagamu to Tachibana Motohiko, who had shown great valour in the conquest of the Yemishi, and made him overlord of that region.
Ever since Oto-Tachibana had cast herself into the sea, her two ministers Teshi and Mashi continued to roam the shore in search of her body. One day, they at last discovered her comb and waist sash on the beach at Ohoiso. What great remorse they must have felt on finding these objects, which the Princess would have worn close to her person. They then held a ceremony of 'Tsukari-Abiki' to send her soul to the heavens. The relics were buried in a mound called Azumamori ("Forest of My Wife") in the Ohoiso hills. On top of the mound was built a shrine, where she was venerated as a deity.
Teshi and Mashi, in their deep loyalty and devotion to the Princess, stayed at that place thenceforth to protect her soul.
Through these events, Yamatotake became convinced that his precursor spirit was none other than Sosanowo, brother of Amateru. He built a Grand Shrine on the plain at Kawaahi (now Omiya City in Saitama Prefecture), where he venerated the deity of Hikawa (Sosanowo).
To commemorate the success of his expedition, he buried his army's weapons on Mount Chichibu. Then, on the 8th day of the 2nd month, he made a final tour of the Musashi area. And the local people welcomed him with orange baskets fixed on the ridges of their houses, as a symbol of their homage to him. This became a custom in the Land of Hotsuma.
The whole episode had come to an end and peace had at last returned.
Leaving Musashi behind, Yamatotake set off on the journey home. Climbing the Hill of Usuyi (Usui Pass on the Nakasendo Highway), he stopped at the top and remembered his departed Princess. As he looked out across to the sea to the southeast, he cast his mind back over their short time together. He took out a song the Princess had written as a memento:
(Seiji Takabatake, from the 39th aya of the Hotsuma-Tsutae)
- END -
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