Story of Japan - R. Van Bergen

Prince Bravest's Conquests

There are a great many Americans who visit Japan, for it is a beautiful country. Many of them land in Yokohama (yoh-koh-hah-mah), because that city is nearest to the Pacific coast. All the land around is a great plain, with here and there a hill. But if one goes by railroad toward the west, a few hours' ride will bring one to Odawara (oh-dah-wah-rah), at the foot of the Hakone (hah-koh-nay)  range. In the summer, when it is very hot in the plain, most of the foreigners in Japan, and a great many Japanese as well, go to one of the many resorts in these mountains, where the scenery is so lovely that every one who has been there longs to go again. On the top of the mountains is a fine lake named Hakone. It is quite large, and is supposed to be the crater of one of the extinct volcanoes, of which there are a great many in Japan.

Prince Bravest led his army over the Hakone Mountains, and entered the great plain at its eastern base. As he marched on, he came to a broad river emptying into the ocean close by; but now the god of the sea raised such a tempest that it was impossible to cross. Prince Bravest at first thought it was an ordinary storm; but when several days passed and the tempest did not abate, he suspected that it had been sent by one of the gods. He therefore ordered the priests to find out the cause of this unlucky weather, and they very soon told him that it was sent by the sea god, who thought himself abused by the army of the Bravest; and that his wrath could be appeased only by some person volunteering to drown himself.

Here was a difficulty. There was not a warrior in the prince's army who would not gladly have risked his life in battle, even with a most powerful enemy; and every man was ready to die by his own sword, if such a sacrifice should be necessary. But to die by drowning is so inglorious that the warriors looked at each other in silence, but not one volunteered.

While the army was waiting and the prince was considering how he might overcome this unexpected difficulty, his wife could not help noticing that he was worried, and she soon found out the cause. She loved her husband and her country so dearly that she quickly decided to sacrifice herself. Quietly she set about making her preparations, and when she had arranged all her affairs, she went to the river, leaped in, and was drowned.

The prince, deeply shocked at his wife's heroic death, did not notice the waters subsiding as a sign that the sea god's wrath had been appeased; and he remained on the bank of the river, bewailing her loss. After seven days the comb which she had been wearing in her hair was washed ashore. By this time the prince was firmly convinced of his wife's death, and he gave orders to break up the camp. He kept the comb as a precious relic of his wife's love and devotion.

Prince Bravest crossed the river that had caused him so much wretchedness, and tried to forget his loss by pursuing the conquest with more zeal than ever. Sometimes one god would help him and speed him on his way, and at other times he would be worried and opposed by another. But he succeeded in his work, although it was three years before the eastern people would recognize the emperor as their master. When he turned homeward, he took a road more to the north than the one by which he had come. His army, on the march, reached a point from which they could see the unlucky river, and even the place where the prince had lost his wife. When the prince looked upon this spot, he said with a deep sigh, "Adzuma!" (ad-zoo-mah), which means, "My wife!" And so even to this day, Japanese poets speak of eastern Japan as Adzuma.

Prince Bravest


Some time ago, the Japanese government bought a man-of-war, the Stonewall, from the United States. When this vessel arrived in Japan, its name was changed to Adzuma.

Prince Bravest returned home, but he did not live long. He was changed, we are told, into a great white bird and flew to heaven.

This is the story as it is told in Japanese books, and thus the children learn it as part of the history of their country. The truth is that in the beginning the emperor reigned over only a small part of Japan. He conquered Kiushiu and a part of the center of Hondo. Afterwards he extended these conquests until the south of Hondo belonged to him. Yamato was the name first given to Japan. It will be well to remember this, for when I am telling you of the famous men of to-day, you will hear much of the Spirit of Old Japan, and the daring deeds it has inspired.