The Emperor Keiko, Yamatotake, and the Smiting of the Kumaso
In the 3rd month of the 2nd year of his reign, the sovereign Woshirowake Tarihiko (later known as the Emperor Keiko) made the Princess Harima-no-Inahi Oiratsume his Chief Consort.
On the 15th day of the 12th month in the 3rd year, the Chief Consort took part in the custom of making thin, flat rice-cakes (mochi-hana) as festive decorations for the New Year celebrations, using a rice mill (usu). As she rested there, her labour started, and she gave birth to twins.
They named the first of the twins Mochihito Wousu and the second Hanahiko Kousu, referring to the circumstances of their birth ("wousu" meaning a large mill and "kousu" a small mill). Both were robust of health and grew tall in stature. But the elder twin was weak and cowardly while the younger had the strength of twenty men.
In the spring of the 12th year, the sovereign heard that the two daughters of Kanhone in Mino were the most beautiful in the land. So he immediately sent his first son Wousu to summon the sisters. But when he arrived in Mino, Wousu was instantly captivated by the sisters' beauty and entered illicit liaisons with them. So he tarried in Mino and sent no report to his father. Though only 11 years old at the time, he was already eight hands tall.
The sovereign rebuked the prince and forbade him from returning to the court.
In the 7th month of that year, the Kumaso clan in the Land of Tsukushi (Kyushu) failed to send tribute. The governor of that province hastily sent word to the court, requesting a visit from the sovereign. So Woshirowake set off on the 15th day of the 8th month, arriving at Saba in Suhafu (now part of Yamaguchi Prefecture) on the 5th day of the 9th month. There, looking to the south, the sovereign declared:
"An evil air rises; it surely bodes ill!"
He sent his retainers Takemoro of Oho and Unade of Ki, together with the Monobe Natsuhana, as an advance party to learn of the enemy's movements.
Now the local chieftain, a woman named Kankashi, heard of the sovereign's presence, and suddenly appeared in a ship. She had uprooted a sakaki tree from Mount Shizu (in today's Fukuoka Prefecture), and hung an eight-hilted sword on its upper branches, an eight-handed mirror on its middle branches, and a magatama curved jewel on its lower branches. With a white banner stretched from her stern to her bow, she said:
"My people have no wish to rebel, and are loyal to the sovereign court. But those known as Hanatare are disloyal and are spread throughout the land, going under false names. They are camped at Usa, where they make great clamour. There are also others known as the Mimitare, who are greedy and rob the people. They are gathered in the upper reaches of the Mike River. Another is Asahagi, who has gathered his band at the Takaha River, where they lie in wait. Michiori and Yiori are also hiding at the Midorino River, where they take advantage of the precipitous ravines to rob and plunder. These villains have all assembled at the main points of passage, and obstruct the way. They call themselves chieftains, and should be vanquished."
Takemoro now devised a stratagem. He laid out red silk hakama garments and other gifts, and enticed Asahagi out to look at them. And when the brigands came out to satisfy their curiosity, they were all slain to a man.
Woshirowake then proceeded to Nagawo in the Land of Toyo (now part of Fukuoka Prefecture), where he constructed a palace as his temporary capital.
In the 10th month he reached the village of Hayami (now in Oita Prefecture). The local chieftain, a woman named Hayamitsume, heard of the sovereign's presence and came out to greet him in person.
"In the caves of Nezu", she said, "there live two earth-dwellers called Aokumo and Shirakumo. And on the plain of Negi in Naori, there are three others called Uchizaru, Yata and Kunimaro. These five command large bands of men, and if we challenge them by force they will form a powerful army."
The sovereign, thus unable to proceed, immediately held council at a temporary palace in the village of Kutami.
"We should attack this troublesome foe with all our force", he said. "Fearing for their lives, the rebels will disperse and seek refuge severally. Then we will easily overcome them."
So they cut down camellia trees from the mountains, and made them into mallets. The strongest were chosen to wield the mallets. With them they cut through the mountains and cleared the grass, then slew all the earth-dwellers who were hiding in the caves. And the land around the Inaba River was transformed into fields of blood.
Next, they went to attack Uchizaru. As they crossed Mount Negi from Tsuhaki-ichi, the enemy sent volleys of arrows that flew at them more thickly than rain. Unable to proceed, the sovereign host returned to Kiwara, where they conducted divination according to the Futomani. In this way they devised a strategy with which to defeat Yata on the plain of Negi. Uchizaru now entreated the sovereign to accept his submission, but his request was refused. So he threw himself into the rapids with Kunimaro, and they perished together.
In the 11th month, Woshirowake arrived in the province of Hiuga, where he built the temporary palace of Takaya.
On the 5th day of the 12th month, he held a council to decide how the Kumaso should be vanquished. The sovereign himself decreed*
"I hear that the Kumaso are led by two brothers, Atsukaya and Sekaya, who command all the people and call themselves 'the Kumaso Braves'. None can withstand their force. But we are few in number. If we mobilize the local people to fight with us, many lives could be lost. Let us subdue the rebels without resorting to arms."
Hearing this, one of the ministers stepped forward and said, "Atsukaya has two daughters named Fukaya and Hekaya. They are bright in appearance and stout of heart. We should prepare valuable gifts and lure them out, then take the opportunity to capture them."
"So be it", replied the sovereign. He prepared beautiful silks with which to deceive the women, and, inviting them to his side, accorded them every comfort.
Then the elder sister, Fukaya, said, "Have no fear, my Lord, for I shall devise a plan." And, taking some men back to the house with her, she gave her father Atsukaya a large quantity of rice liquor to drink. When he was drunk and lay down to sleep, she cut his bowstring and had the men kill him.
The sovereign so abhorred Fukaya's act of infidelity that he killed her. But he elevated the younger daughter Hekaya to the rank of local governor, and, marrying her to Toriishikaya, son of her uncle Sekaya, allowed her to continue her line under this title.
Woshirowake remained in his temporary palace at Takaya for another six years until the Land of Tsukushi was completely brought to heel. In the meantime, he had taken Mihakase, daughter of a local leader, as his consort, and she bore him the Prince Toyokuniwake. Mother and son thereafter remained in this palace as governors of Hiuga.
On the 12th day of the 3rd month in the 17th year, the sovereign went to the plain of Nimo in the district of Koyu (now in Miyazaki Prefecture). Looking eastwards, he cast his mind back to days of yore, and declared:
"Our august ancestor, the Heavenly Sovereign Ninikine, ascended the peak of Mount Takachiho, where he rested in the morning sun. There, facing the direction of his consort (east), and with blessings above and below (kamo), he passed into divinity. The name of this land was also thus. Ka is for kami, 'up', or the light that brightens the sky, and mo is for shimo, 'down', or the providence given to the people below. In good measure, he divided the rain sent by the thunderous deities, bringing moisture to the rice fields and abundance to the people. Such good deeds were the divine spirit of the one we now call Kamo Waketsuchi ('Lightning-Divider')."
With such thoughts, the sovereign revered the deity. And thinking back to the sky over his capital, he composed a song:
"How sweet the memory of my home whence clouds arise, clouds that protect the Land of Yamato. And Yamashiro, cradled by rows of blue mountains that surround it, is the true essence of life itself. If there is smoke, think of a child, his hair dressed with branches of evergreen oak from Mount Kagu!"
In the 3rd month of the 18th year, he made a tour of the province before returning to the capital. As he approached the river Iwase in a place called Hinamori, he saw a large throng of people in the distance, and sent Hinamori the Younger to see what they wanted. On returning, he reported: "The local governors and their people have gathered to offer you a feast at the house of a woman called Izumi."
As Woshirowake continued on the tour, on the 3rd day of the 4th month he summoned the Kumatsuhiko brothers, chieftains of the Kuma district (now part of Kumamoto Prefecture). The elder brother heeded the call, but the younger did not. The ministers, together with Kumatsuhiko the Elder, tried to persuade the younger brother to accede, but he refused. So they put him to death.
On the 20th day, they crossed to a small island off Ashikita. The sun was fierce, and the sovereign asked for water. But there was no source of fresh water. Then Yamabeko Hidari prayed to the heavens, whereupon a spring of pure water gushed from an outcrop of rock, and he offered it up to the sovereign. So they named the island Mizushima (Water Island).
On the 1st day of the 5th month, they hurried by ship towards Yatsushiro. Night set in, and though they reached the shore, they knew not where they were. So the sovereign commanded:
"Aim for the place where the fire shines bright."
So they came up onto the shore, and asked what the place was called. "Toyo Village in Yatsushiro", came the reply. Then they asked who was burning the fire. But the local people replied, "We know not whose fire it is. It is no man's fire, but an unknown fire." So the sovereign named that place 'Shiranu Hi no Kuni', or the Land of the Unknown Fire.
On the 3rd day of the 6th month, they crossed by ship from the county of Takaku to Tamagina Village, where they slew some earth-dwellers going under the name of Tsuzura.
On the 16th day, they arrived in the Land of Aso. On all sides they could see nothing but a vast landscape, with no sign of human habitation anywhere. Woshirowake then wondered aloud:
"Are there any people here?"
And in that instant two deities appeared, calling themselves Asotsuhiko and Asotsuhime (the Prince and Princess of Aso).
"Why do you ask if there are people here?", they said.
"And who are you?", the sovereign replied.
They answered in turn, "We are the local deities of the land, but our shrine has been destroyed."
Hearing this, he immediately decreed that a splendid shrine be built for them. The deities rejoiced, and defended the shrine stoutly. As a result, people built farmhouses all around and abundance returned to the land.
On the 4th day of the 7th month, they entered the Takata Palace in Yonder Tsukushi (later known as Chikugo, today's Fukuoka Prefecture). There, a grand old tree had fallen down. The tree was 970 spans in length, and the people would go back and forth across it as they went on their way. As they did, they sang:
Woshirowake then inquired about the tree. One old man replied:
"This is a kunugi* tree. Before it fell, its shadow was on the peak of Mount Kishima** in the morning, and on Mount Aso in the evening. This is a truly sacred old tree." For this reason, they gave this land the name "Mike" (Hallowed Tree).
* A type of oak
** Now in Saga Prefecture
Traversing the county of Yatsume, the sovereign looked out to Cape Awa on Mount Mae, saying:
"The folds of the mountains are beauteous. Are there any deities here?"
Saru Woumi, governor of Minuma, replied:
"The female deity Yatsume resides on the peak." For this reason, the area was thereafter known as the Land of Yame.
In the 8th month, they arrived in the village of Ikuba. As they proceeded with a banquet, the table servants forgot to bring out the dishes. The village headman explained the reason for this, saying:
"Long ago, when a heavenly prince was visiting this region, he partook of food here. At that time, the servants also forgot the tableware, which we call ukuha or yiha in our local tongue. This is in memory of that very felicitous occasion."
On the 8th day of the 9th month in the 19th year, Woshirowake at last finished his tour of Tsukushi and returned to the Hishiro Palace in Makimuki (in today's Nara Prefecture).
In the 27th year, the Kumaso again rebelled and defied the sovereign rule. On the 10th day of the 10th month, the sovereign decreed that his second son Kousu should this time go to vanquish them. Hearing this, Kousu said:
"If there are any good archers, let them come with me."
To this the ministers replied as one, "Otohiko of Mino is the very best." So they sent Katsuragi Miyado forthwith to summon Otohiko. Otohiko assembled his retainers Ishiura no Yokotate, Tago no Yinagi, and Chichika Inagi, with whom he joined the expedition.
Prince Kousu and his entourage arrived in Tsukushi in the 12th month. There, they secretly spied on the movements of the Kumaso and studied the shape of the land.
One day, the Kumaso brave Toriishikaya (son of Sekaya) assembled his clan for a great feast by a river. When Kousu heard of this, he dressed himself in a young woman's garments, inside which he concealed a dagger. Then he went to mingle with a group of girls as they took a rest, and waited for his moment.
Soon Toriishikaya caught sight of the noble-looking girl dressed in her fine garments. He approached her and, taking her by the hand, led her into the inner room. He sat her on fancy matting, and amused himself with her as he drank.
The night wore on, and Toriishikaya let down his guard in his drunken state. Kousu now saw his moment. Taking the dagger out from inside his garment, he thrust it through his enemy's chest. It happened so quickly that Toriishikaya was powerless to resist. He could but raise a hand to stay Kousu's movement, saying:
"Hold your dagger, I beg you! I have something to say!" Kousu stayed his hand and let him speak.
"Pray tell me who you are!", said Toriishikaya.
"I am Kousu, son of the sovereign Woshirowake", replied the Prince.
"I am the strongest in this land. None may surpass me, and all obey me. There has been no man as valiant as you. For this, will you allow me to give you a name?" The Prince agreed. "From this day forth, may you be called Yamatotake, the Brave of Yamato." So saying, he breathed his last. Yamatotake then sent Otohiko and his men, who slew the remaining warriors and so completed the victory.
On the return voyage across the sea from Tsukushi, the Prince first landed at Kibi on the Anato Straits. There, he disposed of some violent brigands, before slaying a whole clan of miscreants in Kashiha, Namiha (today's Osaka).
On his return to the capital, he made this report to his father.
"Guided by my sovereign's spirit, I was able to vanquish the Kumaso with my own might of arms. Since they are now all slain, there will surely be peace and wealth in the western lands henceforth. But in Anato of Kibi and the Kashiha Crossing of Namiha, there were still pirates who plundered the coastal lands and prevented people from crossing safely. Since these troublesome brigands were the root of these calamities, I easily overcame them, and have thus ensured the safety of sea and land."
Woshirowake was very glad to hear this. For the report by his son, who had returned to the capital after defeating the Kumaso, and had grown in stature by doing so, reminded him of his own past adventures in Tsukushi, where nothing could cause him any fear.
And he bestowed lavish gifts upon Kousu, now renamed Yamatotake, in recognition of his feat in pacifying the land.
(Seiji Takabatake, from the 38th aya of the Hotsuma-Tsutae)
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