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Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi


Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi means "Sword of the Billowing Clouds" or "Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven" and is one of the three objects that make up the Imperial Regalia of Japan. The tsurugi is a straight bladed double edged sword; the curved single edged swords that Japan is traditionally known for did not exist until the 8th century.

In the creation myth of Japan written down in the Kojiki, Susano-o the Shinto god of storms and the sea had a rivalry with his sister Amaterasu the sun goddess. In a fit of rage he destroyed her rice fields and killed one of her attendants which caused her to flee into a cave.

No one could convince her to come out, and without the sun goddess the world was shrouded in perpetual darkness. On a nearby tree the gods hung a mirror named Yata no Kagami and a jewel named Yasakani no Magatama. These objects piqued the curiosity of Amaterasu and she stepped out of the cave to see what they were, at which point the gods grabbed her and dragged her out to restore light to the world.

As punishment, Susano-o was banished from heaven to the province of Izumo. There he met a man named Ashinazuchi, who told Susano-o that the Yamato no Orochi ("Eight Branched Serpent") who had consumed 7 of his eight daughters and was coming soon to eat the last one. Susano-o gathered eight vats of sake (rice wine) and set them out for the creature to drink from. The wine made the orochi very drunk, and after it had passed out Susano-o hacked the creature to bits with his sword. When he cut into the tail he discovered the Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi hidden inside the creature's body. He returned to heaven and presented the sword to his sister as a reconciliation gift.

When Amaterasu sent her grandson Ninigi-no-Mikoto to rule over Japan, she gave him the Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi, Yata no Kagami, and Yasakani no Magatama as proof of his divine lineage. These three objects make up the Imperial Regalia of Japan and represent the divinity of the emperor. Specifically, the Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi represents valor, the Yata no Kagami represents wisdom, and the Yasakani no magatama represents benevolence.

In the 1st century BCE, Emperor Sujin built the Kusanui Shrine to house the Imperial Regalia and appointed his daughter to care for the sacred relics. He had replicas made of the originals which he kept in the imperial palace. Several generations later the sword would be used by Prince Ousu, the son of Emperor Keiko of Yamato. He was nicknamed Yamato Takeru, or "The Brave of Yamato". His father sent him to quell rebellion in the eastern lands and he stopped to pray at the shrine in Ise province which was supervised by his aunt. She had a premonition that he would need the Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi in battle so she let him borrow it.

At one point in the fighting Yamato Takeru was surrounded and his opponents set fire to the grass hoping to burn him out. He drew the Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi and cut away the grass to prevent it from burning, and a divine wind blew the fire back upon his enemies. He continued to swing his sword and blow the fire into his enemies' camp turning the tide of battle and eventually carrying the day. From that point on, the sword was known as Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi or "Grass Cutting Sword".

Japan, Mythology, Sword, Weapon


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