Japanese Death Poem: The final moments of Prince Ōtsu (663-686)

Japanese Death Poem: The final moments of Prince Ōtsu (663-686)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The final weeks and moments of the life of Prince Ōtsu (663-686) were full of shock and sadness. His father, Emperor Tenmu, provided hope and optimism that his future would be bright. However, the convulsions after the death of Emperor Tenmu were full of bewilderment, pain, and mental suffering.

Hence, while Ōtsu felt the death of his father, Empress Jitō was plotting against him. Empress Jitō desired Ōtsu to be out of the way concerning the family advancement of Prince Kusakabe. Therefore, Ōtsu was accused unjustly of rebellion and sentenced to death. 

His life was shattered beyond understanding. Not only this, but he also feared for his consort Princess Yamanobe and his only son. If the sword had come for him, then what awaited the love of his life and his son?

Each moment in the last few weeks of his life was torture. After all, the events happened within such a short timeframe since his father parted from this earth.

His death poem said:

Today, taking my last sight of the mallards
Crying on the pond of Iware,
Must I vanish into the clouds!

It was too much for his consort. Hence, shortly after Ōtsu was killed, she also committed suicide immediately. Therefore, the tormented souls of Ōtsu and his consort parted this world in utter desolation. 


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