by Lillian Csernica on April 29, 2015
When you Google the name Yamato Takeru, you will discover everything from the Toho Studios movie to various anime and manga to actual videogames. Here is the legend of Prince Yamato Takeru, first known as Prince Osu:
Prince Ōsu slew his elder brother Ōusu (大碓命, おおうすのみこと). His father, the emperor Keikō, feared his brutal temperament. To keep him at a distance, the father sent him to Izumo Province, today the eastern part of Shimane Prefecture, and then the land of Kumaso, today Kumamoto Prefecture. However, Ōsu succeeded in defeating his enemies, in the latter case by cross-dressing as a maid attendant at a drinking party (see image left). One of the enemies he defeated praised him and gave him the title Yamatotakeru, meaning The Brave of Yamato. But Emperor Keikō’s mind was unchanged.
Keikō sent Yamato Takeru to the eastern land whose people disobeyed the imperial court. Yamatotakeru met his aunt Princess Yamato-hime, the highest priestess of Amaterasu at Ise Grand Shrine (in Ise Province) and grieved, “my father wishes I would die?” Princess Yamato-hime showed him compassion and lent him a holy sword named Ame no Murakumo no tsurugi (Kusanagi no tsurugi), which Susanoo, the brother god of Amaterasu, found in the body of the eight-headed great serpent, Yamata no Orochi. Yamatotakeru went to the eastern land. He lost his wife Oto tachibana-hime during a storm when she sacrificed herself to soothe the anger of the sea god. He defeated many enemies in the eastern land, and legend has it that he and a local old man composed the first sedōka in Kai Province with Mount Tsukuba (now in Ibaraki Prefecture) as its theme. On his return he blasphemed a local god of Mount Ibuki, which sits on the border of Ōmi Province and Mino Province. The god cursed him with disease and he fell ill.
The story above is found in the Kojiki. In the Nihonshoki version, the father and Yamatotakeru keep a good relation.
According to traditional sources, Yamato Takeru died in the 43rd year of Emperor Keiko’s reign (景行天皇43年). The possessions of the dead prince were gathered together along with the sword Kusanagi; and his widow venerated his memory in a shrine at her home. Some time later, these relics and the sacred sword were moved to the current location of Atsuta Shrine.
Yamato Takeru is believed to have died somewhere in Ise Province. According to the legend, the name of Mie Prefecture was derived from his final words. After death his soul turned into a great white bird and flew away. His tomb in Ise is known as the Mausoleum of the White Plover. A statue of Yamato Takeru stands in Kenroku-en in Kanazawa, Ishikawa.
The movie is a somewhat condensed version of the Prince’s very busy life.
After killing his brother, Prince Yamato is banished from his father’s kingdom until he can bring his dangerous powers under control. On his journey, he meets and joins with the magical priestess Oto, and together they go to fight against an evil god that has been ravaging the Earth in the form of an enormous hydra. Will Yamato ever return home to reclaim his rightful place on the throne? Written by Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
So we have a Japanese prince, son of the twelfth Emperor of Japan. We have a sorceress/Shinto priestess who has mystical powers. And we have an eight-headed dragon, the dreaded Orochi. This movie was made by the same wonderful folks who brought us the original Godzilla. That means we can expect high drama, noble sacrifice, and a monster suit made out of rubber. What’s not to like?