Takehito, also known as Kanyamato Ihawarehiko, was the fourth child of the sovereign Ugayafuki Awasezu. His mother was the Princess Tamayori and his elder brother, Prince Yitsuse, was Lord of Taga.
Takehito's father Ugaya had spent ten years in Tsukushi (Kyushu), where he worked hard to develop agriculture. He also stabilized the local administration and brought law and order to the province. Now, the people of Tsukushi lived in affluence and peace. When Ugaya's days were coming to a close, he transferred the tokens of sovereign authority to Takehito before entering a cave at Miyazaki and passing away. He was thereafter known as the deity Ahira.
Takehito now took over the government of Tsukushi, assisted by powerful ministers including Ame-no-Taneko, grandson of Ame-no-Koyane. Together, they worked to maintain the stability of the land, and as a result, the people of Tsukushi knew peace and affluence for many years to come.
But soon this tranquillity was to be broken by the dark clouds of bitter strife that none could prevent. For a certain Nagasune, calling himself the Minister of Kaguyama in the service of Nigihayahi (nephew of the 10th sovereign Ninikine) in Yamato, started a plot that was to engulf the whole land in uprising.
Nagasune had married his younger sister Mikashiya to Nigihayahi, but she had shown no sign of producing an heir. So Nagasune had stolen the Yotsugi Fumi (Book of Succession), a sacred document kept by Ame-no-Oshikumo (father of Ame-no-Taneko) in the Kasuga Shrine, and had secretly made a copy of it. His act was exposed when it was reported by the archive guardian Kuramori.
The Ohomononushi (Kushimikatama), who was handling the affairs of government at Taga, repeatedly sent messengers to Nigihayahi enquiring after the truth of the report, but received no satisfactory reply. "I know nothing of the doings of this Kuramori," Nigihayahi would but say.
Now, with the sovereign away in Tsukushi and a hiatus of government in the Central Land of Reed Plains, Nagasune saw his chance to take power. His wanton abuse of his position of authority began to be noticed, for a string of appeals were made by the ordinary people who felt the brunt of his excesses. Using coercion and deceit, he propelled himself into a position in which he feared none and was feared by all.
A customary event at around this time was the presentation of tribute, in the form of the first rice of the new harvest, from the Lord of Harami (governor of the modern-day Kanto and Tokai regions) to the Yamato court of his half-brother Nigihayahi. Now, in a show of disapproval at the behaviour of Nagasune, this tribute was stopped. So Nagasune blocked all ports and prevented ships from carrying provisions. In particular, he forcibly blockaded the key interchange at Yamasaki no Seki, the most important river crossing in the Central Land.
The Ohomononushi, Minister of the Right, immediately formed an army with Oshikumo and prepared to do battle with Nagasune. The Minister of the Right acted as Protector of the Lord of Taga (Prince Yitsuse), as well as administering the Central Land of Reed Plains and the modern-day San-in and Hokuriku regions. He also had command over the mononobe armies throughout the country.
The Lord of Taga, who had until now been free to conduct his rule with the support of such powerful ministers, was considerably alarmed by these events and the swift action of the Ohomononushi. So much so that he withdrew and fled to his younger brother Takehito in Tsukushi.
At around this time, Takehito, Lord of Tsukushi, took to wife the Princess Ahiratsu, daughter of the governor of Ata. She bore him a son whom they named Prince Tagishi. When Takehito was 45 years old, a popular saying became known throughout the land. It went:
"Lay down the law in the east, in the great rock-boat of heaven".
The elderly noble Shihotsuchi knew this saying, and urged Takehito to make an eastern expedition. "The Central Land is in disarray", he said, "owing to the capricious behaviour of Nigihayahi and his Minister Nagasune. This threatens the stability of our whole country. Takehito, you should go to rebuke them, and take control of the kingdom."
Encouraged by these words, the princes and nobles all declared as one, "Of course, he is right!". "We still have no reply on the Yotsugi Fumi", one said. "You should go in person, and quickly! Only you can save this land!". And their loud hurrahs of exhortation sounded even unto the heavens.
On the 3rd day of the 10th month, Takehito himself led a fleet of ships as he embarked on his eastern expedition. The other princes and ministers, divided among the ships in command of the mononobe soldiers, were of one mind. They had entrusted their lives to Takehito on a journey from which many would not return.
First, the ships reached Hayasuhido (the Bungo Channel). There, a small fishing boat approached them, its occupant greeting them loudly. Ahiwake called out to ask him who he was. He replied that he was the local lord, Utsuhiko.
"I was fishing at Wadanoura, and heard that your ships were coming. So I have come to meet you. Let me join your expedition!", he said.
"Will you act as our guide?", they asked.
"Aye", he replied. So Takehito ordered that a pole made of shii (a type of oak) be put out to help him up onto the leading ship. And thereupon Takehito bestowed on him the new name of Shiinetsuhiko.
Guided now by Shiinetsuhiko, and assisted by a brisk wind, the fleet soon arrived at Usa. There, the local lord Usatsuhiko greeted the entourage with a grand banquet in the temporary palace of Hitoagari. At the banquet, Takehito was served by Usatsuhiko's daughter Usako. Ame-no-Taneko, sitting nearby, was greatly taken with the girl's charms, and wished to have her for his wife. Her father consented, and he was made the sovereign envoy to Tsukushi.
At the end of their sojourn, they once again set out in their ships, arriving first at the Chinomiya Palace in the Land of Aki. There they stayed until the new year. In the fourth month, they proceeded to the Land of Kibi, where they governed the Central Land from the Takashima Palace.
Since the uprising of Nagasune, when the Lord of Taga (Prince Yitsuse) had fled to Tsukushi, Kushimikatama (the Ohomononushi) had remained alone at the head of the government at Taga. Meanwhile, he continued to assist Takehito with regular communication. Takehito stayed three years at Takashima, where he stored up provisions and weapons and trained his men in preparation for a lengthy campaign.
When they finally departed, they first arrived at Cape Mitsu in the second month of the 55th year. There, the current suddenly became rapid. Takehito was so struck by the speed of the waves that he named his landing place "Namihaya" ("Wave-Quick"), which gives us "Naniwa", the familiar name for Osaka today.
From the landing at Namihaya, they proceeded up the Yamato River until they reached Kusaka in Kawachi. There, they stayed in the palace of the local governor, Auyemoro.
As planned in advance with Kushimikatama, the two armies now joined forces. With Auyemoro as its commander, the combined force moved along the Tatsuta Pass in an attempt to enter Yamato. But the Pass was so narrow that they could not go through together. So they returned and made a renewed attempt over Mount Ikoma, crossing this time eastwards into the plain of Yamato.
Nagasune's army met them there with fierce resistance. "Have you come to rob us of our kingdom?" he called, challenging them to battle. As they fought there at the Hill of Kusaye, a stray arrow struck the Prince Yitsuse on the elbow, and the sovereign host could not advance. Takehito realized he would have to change his strategy, and ordered his men to retreat.
"We are descended from the Sun Deity", he declared. "In firing our bows towards the sun, we have erred against the Heavens. Let us fall back and pray to the gods, then make a new challenge in the shadow of the sun. If we do so, we will surely vanquish the foe!".
The nobles all agreed, and the army withdrew to Yao, unpursued by the enemy.
At Yao, they once again boarded their ships, setting off around the Kii peninsula and eastwards towards Kumano Bay. But as they reached the port of Chinu-no-Yamaki, Prince Yitsuse died of the wound on his elbow, and was buried on Mount Kama in the Land of Kii.
A local leader called Nagusatobe in the nearby village of Nagusa tried to obstruct them, but was defeated.
As they proceeded eastwards, they stopped to make offerings to the deities of Kumano, Hayatama and Kotosaka, praying for good fortune in the coming battle. But when they took their ships around the Bay of Iwadate to attack the enemy from the rear, they suddenly encountered a violent storm that drove them far out to sea. The ships were scattered and tossed about like leaves on a tree, with no refuge in sight. The whole fleet was swallowed up in darkness, in danger of being sent to the briny depths. At this, Prince Inayi, who had until now borne the hardships of the campaign in stout loyalty to this brother Takehito, suddenly cried out:
"Ye heavenly deities, our maternal deity of the sea, why come you not to our aid? We have endured torment on the land and calamity here at sea. This is an end of me!". With that, he pulled out his sword and plunged into the sea. He was later revered as the deity Sabimochi.
The Prince Mikeiri, meanwhile, was driven back by the wildly billowing waves and, falling into the sea, also lost his life.
Takehito and his son, the Prince Tagishi, undeterred by these dreadful events, merely increased their resolve to defeat the usurper Nagasune. Surviving the ordeal, they re-organized their forces and set out for their next strategic base, Arasaka. Here, a band of devils called Nishikido had concealed themselves deep in the shelter of the bay. Using the magic of isora to spew out poisonous fumes, they looted passing ships and terrorized the local fishing folk.
The sovereign fleet entered the bay, which was surrounded on all sides by towering crags, and quietly disembarked to survey the area. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, the Nishikido brigands appeared, spewing fire from their mouths. As their poisonous vapour reached the sovereign army, the soldiers all became faint and fell into a deep sleep.
At the time, a man named Takakurashita was living in this land. In a dream, he saw the Great Amateru commanding Takemikazuchi to go and quell the disturbances in the Central Land of Reed Plains. To this, Takemikazuchi replied, "Even if I do not go, I shall send down the sword with which my ancestors pacified the land". Amateru agreed that this was good. Takemikazuchi then said: "I have placed the Futsunomitama sword in your storehouse. Offer it up to your Lord." And just as Takakurashita replied "Aye!", he awoke.
Astonished at such a strange dream, Takakurashita went straight away to open up his storehouse, not knowing what to believe. And there, thrust into the floorboards, was a sword. He quickly went to Takehito and offered the sword up to him. And the sovereign and his nobles immediately awoke from the long sleep caused by the isora magic, which now ceased to have any effect. Their eagerness for battle returned and, slaying the devils forthwith, they set off again to do battle.
As they proceeded along the perilous mountain path to Asuka, the road in front of them frequently diverged and disappeared. The army would spend days going round in circles before arriving back at the same place. One night, as the sovereign lay asleep by a boulder under a star-lit sky, the Great Amateru appeared to him in a dream. "Use Yata-no-Karasu as your guide", he said.
When Takehito awoke, an old man named Yata-no-Karasu stood there before him. He opened up paths where there were no paths, and led the host on their way to Asuka. The commander Michiomi, leading in the vanguard under the instructions of Yata-no-Karasu, took them across a series of mountain peaks before at last arriving in the village of Ugachi in Uda.
There, they immediately summoned the governor of Uda, whose name was Ukeshi. He failed to appear. Instead, his younger brother (Ukeshi the Younger) came and said:
"My brother is plotting against you. He plans to invite you to a banquet, where he has prepared a cruel trap with which to kill you. I have come to warn you of his treachery."
Hearing this, Michiomi went in search of the elder brother, and found him in his hiding place. Ukeshi mocked him loudly with hostile intent, shouting "You will all die ere long!", and tried to flee.
Michiomi and his men pursued him with swords and bows, and forced him into the house he had built to entrap them. Having no means of escape, he fell into his own murderous trap and died a traitor's death.
Ukeshi the Younger put on a sumptuous feast to welcome Takehito, the nobles, and all the soldiers. And hearing that Ukeshi had rendered fealty to the sovereign host, another local governor, Yihikari of the Ridge of Yoshino, as well as the local lords of Iwawake, came out in force to support them.
But in the foothills of Mount Takakura, Shigi the Elder had an army encamped around Ihaware, thus blocking the advance of the army. One night, after praying to the gods, Takehito had another dream. In it, he was told:
"You must dig clay from Mount Kagu and make dishes with it, place offerings on them, and serve them up to the gods of heaven and earth."
Meanwhile, Ukeshi the Younger came rushing in breathless to deliver a report. "I have sent out my men in stealth to gain intelligence. They report that not only Shigi the Elder, but also Kadaki, Akashi and others are wont to resist your advance. To have a victory over them, we must gather up clay from Mount Kagu, make platters with it and use them to serve offerings to the gods. Then may we smite the foe."
This counsel was quite in accord with the sovereign's dream. So Takehito commanded: "Shiinetsuhiko shall dress in a straw coat and sedge hat like an old peasant. Ukeshi the Younger shall carry a winnowing basket and dress like an old peasant woman. And in that guise shall you two go to the top of Mount Kagu and take clay from there. Should anyone challenge you, say it is for the sake of an ancient divination. Above all, be circumspect."
So the two set off for Mount Kagu. The roads were blocked by the enemy, who lay in wait for the strange pair. Shiinetsuhiko, in an attempt to carry them through their adversity, offered a prayer to the gods:
"If our lord is the one who will rule this land, then surely the road will open up for us!"
They advanced straight ahead with this prayer in their hearts. The enemy soldiers, laughing at the pathetic sight of this old peasant man and woman, stood aside and let them pass on their way unmolested.
Eventually, the pair were able to gather clay from the top of Mount Kagu and bring it back to Takehito. He was greatly pleased by this, and forthwith made jars out of the clay to present offerings to the gods.
Near the Ibu River in Uda, he replicated the Asahihara Shrine and there worshipped Amateru and the Lord Toyoke. Michiomi was appointed as Chief Worshipper. Meanwhile, Atane, descendent of Kanmimusubi, venerated the August Parent Deity (Ugayafuki Awasezu) at Mount Wakeikazuchi for three days. And after this, they went to smite the foe.
Takehito set up camp on top of Kunimigaoka ("Land View Hill"), the highest peak in the Uda region, from whence to spy on the enemy movements. Surveying the land all around, he composed a song:
"Long ago, in the sea of Ise where the divine wind blows, there was one who crawled like the shitatami*. Men, let us smite the one who crawls like the shitatami!"
(*A word play between shitatami meaning "commoner" and shitatami meaning a kind of mollusc. In the song, Nigihayahi is being compared to Sosanowo, errant brother of Amateru.)
When all the soldiers sang this song together, the enemy reported it to Nigihayahi. He pondered for a while, then cried loudly, 'Liken me not to Sasurawo! This army comes with the heavenly authority. I have nothing more to say'. So saying, he withdrew his men. And there was much rejoicing in the sovereign camp.
On the seventh day of the eleventh month, Takehito sent a messenger to summon Shigi the Elder, who was still camped at the bottom of Mount Takakura and blocked the army's advance. Shigi made a show of compliance, but stubbornly refused to move.
So now Yata-no-Karasu was sent to persuade him, saying "Your Lord and Sovereign has summoned you. Be quick!".
This so angered Shigi that he replied, "What is this lord who shows such mercy? It is risible and nauseous! Karasu, you are my foe!". Then he took aim with his bow and prepared to shoot at the messenger.
Yata quickly went to the house of Shigi the Younger, repeating the same message. Now the younger brother was truly afraid, and changed his position immediately. "I am thankful for the sovereign's mercy and render myself to you", he said, and after preparing a feast, went to pledge allegiance to Takehito.
"My elder brother opposes you", he reported. The sovereign consulted his nobles, and they replied as one: "Send the Younger to persuade him, and if he should still resist, then we shall attack him."
So now Shigi the Younger was sent from Takakura as a messenger to persuade his elder brother. Shigi the Elder, however, still refused to comply, and would not even receive them.
Now the only option was to enter the field of battle. Michiomi fought with the enemy at Oshisaka while Utsuhiko (Shiinetsuhiko) attacked them at Onnazaka, trapping Shigi the Elder in a pincer movement as he fled into Kurosaka.
Shigi the Elder, who along with Kadaki, Akashi and others represented Nagasune's last line of defence, fought valiantly, and the battle continued long and hard without either side gaining the advantage.
Suddenly, everything changed. The sky darkened with black clouds and an icy rain began to fall. Then, as if from nowhere, a golden cormorant came flying down and landed on the end of the sovereign's bow. The bird's radiant light shone all around, and all were truly astonished, both friend and foe.
Nagasune stopped the fighting, and declared loudly to the sovereign prince: "Long ago, a descendant of the Great Deity Amateru came down in a heavenly rock-boat from the Land of Hitakami, and settled here in Asuka. He became the sovereign Nigihayahi, and the glory of his reign now shines over the land. He took to wife my younger sister Mikashiya, and the child she bore is named Umashimachi. Nigihayahi is the true sovereign of this land and the only one I shall serve. He was bestowed the Ten Divine Treasures by the Great Amateru, and they are the signs of his true divinity. Now you come under the guise of the Heavenly Grandchild and plan to rob him of his kingdom. What do you mean by this?!"
To this, Takehito replied with dignity, "If your lord be the true sovereign, show me a sign of his divinity."
So Nagasune took a hahaya arrow, symbol of divine authority, from Nigihayahi's quiver and showed it to Takehito. The sovereign, in turn, pulled a hahaya from his own quiver, and had his men show it to Nagasune. It clearly bore a sign that had been placed on it by the Great Amateru himself.
With neither of the two willing to yield, their armies now adopted defensive postures from which neither could advance. But Nigihayahi relented, and gradually came to recognize Takehito as bearing the divine character of their ancestors.
"My loyal Minister Nagasune has, since birth, been of a stubborn disposition", he explained, "and is unable to distinguish between a noble cause and an ignoble one. Alas, he has now become a curse of misfortune to me." He hid his tears of bitterness as he put Nagasune to death, then led his men to submit themselves before the sovereign prince.
Takehito recognized the noble character and fidelity of Nigihayahi, and entertained him richly at the temporary palace of Ihaware.
Another new year came, and still the tsuchigumo (local bands of rebels) were spread over the land, resisting the rule of Takehito. But he vanquished them one by one, gradually spreading the order of his rule. There was one band called the Ashinaga-Gumo (literally, "long-legged spiders") whose resistance was particularly hard to break. They would hurl rocks and trees at their attackers, and Takaoharibe, who was sent to deal with them, was short in stature and unable to handle them. So Takehito sent a command to Kushimikatama, who was defending the Taga Palace alone, that he devise a good strategy to defeat them.
The Ohomononushi considered the situation, and devised a solution. He had them weave a huge net of arrowroot vine, which they cast over the enemy, thereby capturing them all and ending their resistance.
And now, at last, all the battles were won and the fighting was over. Takehito summoned Ame-no-Taneko from Tsukushi and Kushimikatama from Taga, and issued this decree:
"We wish to remove our capital. You are to survey the land and find the best location."
You two toured the land in accordance with the decree, and, on their return, reported that Kashihara would be most suitable. Takehito fully agreed, and commanded Ametomi to oversee the construction of the new Kashihara Palace. Then the sovereign, wishing to find a new consort, consulted with the nobles as to the most suitable candidate.
Usatsuhiko it was who replied: "The Kotoshironushi's daughter Tatara-Isosuzu by his consort Tamakushi is the most beautiful maiden in the land. She resides in the Awa Palace, and that too is a favourable sign."
The sovereign was delighted to hear this, and gladly took Isosuzu as his new wife. Her father the Kotoshironushi, now deceased, was lauded as the deity Emisu (Ebisu), while his grandson Atatsu-Kushine was made governor of Takaichi and commanded to build a shrine. And on the 20th day of the tenth month, they held a grand festival in honour of all the deities of Miwa.
To mark his assumption of the sovereign dignity, Takehito changed his name to Kanyamato Ihawarehiko (literally "Divine Prince of Ihaware in Yamato"). This alluded to the place of his final victory, the prefix "Kan" added in reference to the "kami" deities. This new name and the authority of his rule were promulgated throughout the country.
In the year sanato, Kanyamato Ihawarehiko formally acceded to the sovereign dignity. Thus began the rule of the leader known familiarly as Kantake ("Divine Brave", from Kami-Takehito), many centuries later to be renamed Jimmu, the "first human emperor" of Japan.
(Seiji Takabatake, from the 30th and 31st aya of the Hotsuma-Tsutae)
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