The Japanese History: The Fabled Sword Kusanagi - History Brought Alive
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The Japanese History: The Fabled Sword Kusanagi

At the coronation of each Japanese Emperor, they are presented with three items that serve as proof of the Emperor’s divinity. These items are known as the Imperial Regalia. They consist of the jewel Yasakani no Magatama from the contest between Amaterasu and Susanoo mentioned above, the mirror Yata no Kagami that was used to lure Amaterasu from her cave in the previous myth, and the sword Kusanagi no Tsurugi. 

This is the tale of how the kami Susanoo came to possess the sword Kusanagi.

Having been banished from heaven, Susanoo was walking beside a river when he came across two parents and their daughter who were all weeping. Susanoo asked them what was wrong. The parents told him that they had eight daughters, but every year a horrible serpent monster with eight heads, Yamata no Orochi, killed and ate one of their daughters. Now they had only one daughter left. They were crying because it was almost time for the serpent to arrive again and they feared they would lose their last remaining daughter.

Susanoo offered to slay the serpent in exchange for their daughter’s hand in marriage. The family agreed. Susanoo turned the daughter into a comb. He puts the comb in his hair to keep the daughter safe and close by. Susanoo then instructed the old couple to fill eight vats with sake and place them behind a fence with eight gates, one behind each gate. The couple did as they were told. 

When the serpent appeared, it fell for Susanoo’s trap and placed one head in each vat of sake to drink from it. Susanoo acted quickly, slicing off each of the eight heads one by one. Then he began to hack off the creature’s tails as well. When he tried to slice off the forth tail, his sword broke. He discovered that inside this tail, there was an exquisite sword. He named the sword Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi (“Heavenly Sword of Gathering Clouds). He presented this sword to Amaterasu to help make amends for his previous behavior towards her.

Many years later, under the reign of Emperor Keikō, the sword was given to Yamato Takeru, a great and powerful warrior. Takeru was lured into a grass field. His enemy used flaming arrows to set fire to the field, trapping Takeru, so he would die in the flames. Takeru used the sword to cut down the grass, so the fire could not spread. He discovered that the sword also had a magical ability to control the wind. He was able to use it to redirect the fire towards his enemies and win the battle. After this victory, Takeru renamed the sword Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (“Grass Cutting Sword”).

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