Tsuruhime Ohori (大祝鶴姫1) had to take charge from an early age. At 16, with her priest father dying from illness and her older brothers killed by invading jerk-of-the-year Yoshitaka Ouchi, Tsuruhime was left with two options: submit to the aforementioned jerk, or declare herself a living god and start ripping new assholes.
She chose the latter.
The god in question was the deity of the family shrine on the island where she was raised. Her upbringing to that point had been your standard Japanese shrine maiden affair: tending the shrine grounds, helping with prayers, and hour upon hour of rigorous martial arts training. She put this training to use upon taking the helm of the temple, by gathering an army to drive the Ouchi fleet back into open waters.
Tsuruhime’s reaction could best be translated as “FUCK THAT SHIT.”
She replied with equal graciousness by cordially murdering him in front of all his men. She then continued her application to the Party Crasher Hall of Fame by tossing grenade after grenade into the fleet until the Ouchi gave up and ran away. Presumably yelling “YOU COME TO MY HOUSE?!” as she did so.
So that’s the fun part of the story. But with this last little bit, the whole thing turns on a dime and here’s where I start dissecting: according to legend, two years later, the Ouchi returned and Tsuruhime’s fiancee was killed in action. Overcome with grief, she committed suicide by drowning herself. The end, roll credits.
So, yes: historical Japan is no stranger to ritual suicide, and this certainly could have happened. But the “badass warrior chick turns on a dime and kills herself over some guy” ending is a recurrent trope in these stories and it’s often pretty hard to take at face value. The two most egregious ones in my memory (both potential future RPs) are:
- Artemisia I, badass pirate/captain under Xerxes I. Riding high on a number of victories, she ostensibly got into an unrequited romance, and killed herself by jumping off a cliff. Except this was apparently tacked onto her biography around 13 centuries after she died.
- The poet Sappho – you know, lesbian icon, namesake of sapphism, THAT Sappho? – was said to have killed herself by jumping off the same damn cliff, also over a dude. Of course, some sources claimed she was married to a man named Cercylas from Andros – a dubious claim, since that means ”Penis, from Men’s Island.”
Some sources also claim Sappho was married to a man named Cercylas from Andros – a dubious claim, since that means ”Penis, from Men’s Island.”
Regardless, the citizens of Japan celebrate her legend, and it’s a great one. She’s often referred to as the Joan of Arc of Japan, but hey, she stands well enough on her own.
- Her Japanese name is spelled according to Japanese convention, with the surname first and the given name second. The rest of the writeup, however, uses the English convention of referring to her by her given name. ↩
- Her outfit is the one in which she is regularly depicted, in both art and parades. The armor is the one that is held in Oyamazumi Shrine.
- The grenades she’s using are called horokubiya (焙烙火矢), which literally translates to “cooking pot fire arrow.”
- The symbol on the sail behind her is the crest of the Kono clan, for whom she fought.
- Her birth name was just “Tsuru.” At some point, probably when she took the reins of the shrine, she went through a ceremony to become a “hime” — an honorific title literally meaning “princess,” which was often bestowed to upper-class women. From then on, she was Tsuruhime, or “crane princess.” Ohori is the family name. In Japanese they’re usually reversed, so you’ll see her name as Ohori Tsuruhime a lot.
- Tsuruhime regularly shows up in TV shows and other media – most recently, an anime/game series called Sengoku Basara. I haven’t seen it. Maybe you have! Let me know what you think if you do!
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Next Time on Rejected Princesses
Despite what her biography title might suggest, she did not actually lead a platoon of nuns.