In Japan, in 365 AD, the Yamato Empire flourished, gaining strength and fame with each passing year. The emperor Nintoku was a fierce warrior well-known for his conquests.
In Nintoku’s army, there was a soldier named Tawara Toda. He was a poor and simple villager who was devoted to his land and emperor even though he was considered the joke of the army.
Nintoku’s guards whipped him regularly, yet every night before sundown, in his prayers he would ask Lord Buddha to protect his emperor and keep his land from harm.
Neighbouring the Yamato Empire was the Izumo empire. The Izumo were a barbaric race; they fought without following the rules of war and the Yamato tried to avoid conflict with the Izumo.
One day, Nintoku found out from his faithful minister that the Izumo king, Nakarni, had ordered his army to attack the Yamato Empire! Nintoku summoned his army chief and ordered him to prepare for a counter attack.
When Tawara Toda got this information, he went up to the king’s throne and said: O, great one! This time, let me battle for you and for my race! I know I am the laughing stock of my people for they believe I am a fool, a weakling. But, my esteemed emperor, I tell you this today, I live and breathe and die for my civilisation. Please trust me just this once.
Hearing this, Nintoku was furious. He wasn’t a very compassionate man. “What! You?” Nontoku yelled. “A village simpleton who doesn’t know even the basic strategies of war! Going onto the battlefield without being trained in the barracks! Go away now before I command my guards to destroy your family and burn down your house!
And that night as the army bugles sounded in the small village of Sumero, by the shadows of a gentle moon, Tawara Toda’s house was destroyed.
Tawara Toda had lost almost everything he had ever held dear. As further punishment, Nintoku let Tawara Toda join the war against the Izumo, hoping that the village idiot would die during the war.
The war was bloody and unforgiving. Soldiers from both sides lost limb and life.
Tawara Toda wasn’t given any weapons to fight with. So he attacked the Izumo soldiers with his bare hands. He lunged toward an Izumo officer who was attacking one of his friends. He attacked any Izumo warrior in sight like a lion which kills every gazelle within his territory. He fought this battle to show Nintoku how strong he was in war and to protect the Yamato Empire.
Tawara Toda continued to fight bravely but he was being weakened by the Izumo warriors who stabbed him repeatedly with swords and daggers. His leg also got injured. But he kept on fighting.
Then once again Tawara Toda was stabbed in the armpit by an Izumo officer. Tawara Toda cried out in pain. Despite the unbearable pain in his side he managed to lunge at the officer who stabbed him. His hands went straight for the officer’s neck but before he could strangle him, another Izumo warrior stabbed Tawara Toda in the back.
Tawara Toda howled in pain. His eyes hunted out the culprit. With the little life that remained in his bleeding body, he leapt upon the Izumo warrior who had stabbed him and yelled, “By the spirit of my long dead ancestors, I promise you, you despicable, lowly Izumo, you shall NOT see the dawn!” And with this, he gave a crushing blow to the Izumo’s neck.
The morning was breaking into a pale pink sky, and Nintoku’s army would soon win the war.
From his royal perch, Nintoku had been watching the gallant way in which the village simpleton, Tawara Toda had fought for his people and his army. And now he saw the crumpled body of the brave soldier breathing his last breaths.
With tears in his eyes, Nintoku told his army chief to blow the bugle of victory for the brave soldier.
Listen all, this is an important announcement! We, the royal army of the Yamato, under the leadership of the brave emperor, Nintoku, do hereby declare, Tawara Toda to be the finest, bravest, and most devoted soldier in the history of the Yamato empire! May his spirit find eternal peace.
Upon hearing these words, Tawara Toda’s spirit left his body and became one with the Buddha.