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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The fighting genius of Yamato dake


One

of the most memorable events in this epoch was the Emperor's military expedition in person to quell the rebellious Kumaso (q.v.) in Kyushu. There had not been any instance of the sovereign taking the field in person since Jimmu's time, and the importance attaching to the insurrection is thus shown. Allowance has to be made, however, for the fact that the territory held by these Kumaso in the south of Kyushu was protected by a natural rampart of stupendous mountain ranges which rendered military access arduous, and which, in after ages, enabled a great feudatory to defy the Central Government for centuries. In connexion with this expedition a noteworthy fact is that female chieftains were found ruling in the provinces of Suwo and Bingo. They were not aliens, but belonged to the Yamato race, and their existence goes far to account for the appellation, "Queens' Country," applied by Chinese historians to the only part of Japan with which the people of the Middle Kingdom were familiar, namely, Kyushu and the west-coast provinces. Keiko's reign is remarkable chiefly for this expedition to the south, which involved a residence of six years in Hyuga, and for the campaigns of one of the greatest of Japan's heroes, Prince Yamato-dake. The military prowess of the sovereign, the fighting genius of Yamato-dake, and the administrative ability of Takenouchi-no-Sukune, the first "prime minister" mentioned in Japanese history, combined to give signal eclat to the reign of Keiko.

justify;">Arriving at this stage of the annals, we are able to perceive what an influence was exercised on the fortunes of the country by its topographical features. The southwestern sections of the islands are comparatively accessible from the centre (Chogoku or Kinai), whether by sea or by land, but the northeastern are guarded by mountain chains which can be crossed only by arduous and easily defended passes. It was, therefore, in these northeastern provinces that the Yemishi maintained their independence until their strength was broken by the splendid campaign of Yamato-dake; it was in these northeastern provinces that the bushi, noblest product of Japanese civilization, was nurtured; it was in the same provinces that the Taira family made its brilliant debut, and it was by abandoning these provinces for the sweets of Kyoto that the Taira fell; it was in the north-eastern provinces that Minamoto Yoritomo, the father of military feudalism, established himself, to be followed in succession by the Hojo, the Ashikaga, and the Tokugawa, and it is in the northeastern provinces that the Meiji Government has its seat of power.

We can not wonder, therefore, that modern historiographers have devoted much labour to tracing the route followed by Yamato-dake's troops and rationalizing the figurative or miraculous features of the narratives told in the Kojiki and the Nihongi. It is enough to know, however, that he overran the whole region stretching from the provinces along the Eastern Sea as far as Iwaki; crossed westward through Iwashiro to Echigo on the west coast, and turning southward, made his way through Shinano and Mino to Owari, whence, suffering from a wound caused by a poisoned arrow, he struggled on to Ise and died there. This campaign seems to have occupied ten years, and Yamato-dake was only thirty at the time of his death. He had marched against the Kumaso in the south at the age of sixteen. The Chronicles relate that when crossing the Usui Pass and looking down on the sea where his loved consort had cast herself into the waves to quell their fury, the great warrior sighed thrice and exclaimed, "My wife, my wife, my wife!" (Ago, tsuma haya), whereafter the provinces east of the mountain were designated Azuma.


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