Yamato Takeru is one of the most famous Japanese heroes. He has a carefully
chosen name, which connects him with the state of Yamato, the predecessor of todayʼs
Japan. He is characterized by all the features of a mythical hero: courage, strength and
ingenuity, but mythological story includes also fairy-tale motifs such as a miraculous
sword, helpers, disguise, falling in love, and finally, supernatural death due to encounter
with a numinous force. The oldest variants of the myth about this fearless warrior we
can find in the first Japanese historical chronicles (8th century). Adding certain elements
to the common ground and combining them in accordance with their own narrative
aspirations, these texts gave their own recognizable variants of the myth of Yamato Takeru,
which were a clear reflection of the ideology of the time. Regardless of the differences,
these variants describe the achievements of Yamato Takeru as a key turning point, because in that semi-historical time that is also the beginning of national consolidation.
By “calming and subduing” western and eastern countries, he contributed to increasing
the territory under imperial rule and strengthening the authority of the Yamato court. In
the following centuries, new variants of the myth about this hero were created on these
bases. Some are focused on territorial conquests and spreading of the influence of the
imperial government, while the miraculous events related to the Kusanagi sword were
more important to the others. Recently, Yamato Takeru has been used, in the same way
as the other national icons, to create and highlight Japanese national identity, especially
when it came to inspiring the people to selflessly lay down their lives for the country and
the emperor.