Kusanagi no Tsurugi

grass cutting sword
Kusanagi no Tsurugi in Brief:
  • Names: Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi ("Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven"), commonly Kusanagi no Tsurugi ("Grass-Cutting Sword").
  • Mythology: Discovered by Susanoo in Yamata no Orochi's tail
  • Imperial Regalia: One of three sacred treasures symbolizing the emperor's divine right to rule.
  • Current Custody: Allegedly at Atsuta Shrine.
  • Replicas: 9th-century replicas; 12th-century replica used in coronation ceremonies.
  • Recent Mention: Referenced during Emperor Naruhito's 2019 enthronement.

What is Kusanagi no Tsurugi

Kusanagi no Tsurugi (草薙の剣), is a legendary Japanese sword and one of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan. According to Japanese mythology, it was discovered inside the body of an eight-headed serpent, Yamata no Orochi, by the storm god Susanoo.

Initialy named as Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi (天叢雲剣), which translates to "Heavenly Sword of Gathering Clouds", it is more commonly known as Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (草薙), meaning "Grass-Cutting Sword".

As an integral part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan, Kusanagi no Tsurugi holds immense cultural and historical significance. This mythical blade is enveloped in tales of valor, divine intervention, and symbolic representation of power and authority.

Kusanagi-no-tsurugi sword

Origins of the Kusanagi no Tsurugi

The Discovery by Susanoo

The origins of Kusanagi no Tsurugi trace back to the Shinto god Susanoo, the tempestuous deity of storms and seas. According to the ancient text "Kojiki," the history of Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, the god Susanoo encountered a family of land deities (kunitsukami) in Izumo Province, led by Ashinazuchi. The family was being terrorized by the eight-headed serpent Yamata no Orochi, who had already devoured seven of Ashinazuchi's eight daughters and was now after the last, Kushinada-hime. Susanoo promised to save Kushinada-hime in exchange for her hand in marriage.

Susanoo's plan involved transforming Kushinada-hime into a comb to keep her close during the battle. He then instructed the family to prepare eight vats of sake and place them on platforms behind a fence with eight gates. The serpent took the bait, putting one head through each gate to drink the sake. While the serpent was distracted, Susanoo attacked and killed it, chopping off its heads and tails. Inside the fourth tail, he discovered a great sword, which he named Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi. Susanoo later presented this sword to the sun goddess Amaterasu to resolve an old dispute.

Susanoo fighting Orochi

Generations later, during Emperor Keikō's reign, Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi was given to the warrior Yamato Takeru by his aunt, Yamatohime-no-mikoto, the Shrine Maiden of Ise Shrine, to protect him in times of danger.

The Legends Surrounding Kusanagi no Tsurugi

Yamato Takeru and the Grass-Cutting Legend

One of the most famous legends involving Kusanagi no Tsurugi is that of Prince Yamato Takeru. According to the tale, during a hunting expedition, Yamato Takeru was trapped by a deceitful warlord who set fire to the grassland and killed Takeru's horse to prevent his escape. In desperation, Takeru used the sword Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi to cut the grass and reduce the fire's fuel. While doing so, he discovered that the sword could control the wind.

Yamato-Takeru holding the-Grass-Cutting Sword

Utilizing this power, he used his fire strikers to direct the flames towards the warlord and his men, ultimately defeating them. In honor of this victory, Takeru renamed the sword Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi ("Grass-Cutting Sword").

Later in life, Takeru married but ultimately died in battle against a monster, having ignored his wife's advice to take the sword with him.

The Disappearance of the Sword

The whereabouts of Kusanagi no Tsurugi have been shrouded in mystery. Some accounts claim that it was lost at sea during the Battle of Dan-no-ura in 1185, while others suggest it resides in Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya. This shrine is one of the most significant Shinto shrines in Japan and claims to house the sacred sword. The exact location and current condition of Kusanagi no Tsurugi remain subjects of speculation and reverence, but it seems that the sword is being kept at Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya.

Battle of Dan-no-ura

The sword's most recent public mention was during Emperor Naruhito's enthronement in 2019, where it, along with the jewel Yasakani no Magatama, the Emperor's privy seal, and the State Seal, was concealed in packages.

According to Shinsuke Takenaka from the Institute of Moralogy, a 12th-century replica stored in the Imperial palace is used for coronation ceremonies, likely because the original sword is too fragile for such events.

Representation in Pop Culture

The Grass-Cutting Sword in Naruto

One of the most notable appearances of Kusanagi no Tsurugi in modern media is in the popular anime and manga series "Naruto," created by Masashi Kishimoto. In "Naruto," the sword is wielded by the infamous and powerful antagonist Orochimaru. Known as the Kusanagi Sword in the series, it embodies many of the legendary attributes associated with the mythical blade, though with creative liberties that align with the series' fantastical elements.

In "Naruto," the Kusanagi Sword is depicted as an extraordinarily powerful and versatile weapon. It can extend its blade to significant lengths, allowing Orochimaru to attack from a distance. The sword is incredibly sharp and durable, capable of cutting through almost anything with ease. Additionally, Orochimaru can control the sword telekinetically, enhancing its lethality and unpredictability in combat.

The Kusanagi Sword later becomes associated with Sasuke Uchiha, one of the series' main protagonists and a complex character with a deep connection to Orochimaru.

sasuke uchiha grass cutting sword

Kusanagi no Tsurugi in One Piece

In the “One Piece” series written by Eiichiro Oda, one of the important swords is Kusanagi no Tsurugi. Thus, Anne Harlow, uses the saber called Kusanagi no Tsurugi. Though, it is difficult to know much about this character and her sword, she is well-known for her skill and persistence, and the girl quickly earns the reputation of a dangerous swordswoman. Her past is frequently connected with the concepts of honor, revenge, and justice, which are familiar to the viewers in the context of the samurai series. Kusanagi no Tsurugi is shown as Saber with a single edge blade, the handle of the scabbard having a curved hand guard below which lies a pink star shaped flower. That might have a connection to the Grass-Cutting Sword story, such is its floral ornamentation.

Anne harlow Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi
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