Kusunoki Masatsura (1326-1348), the son of Kusunoki Masashige, was a samurai warlord who fought for the Southern Court in the sporadic wars of Japan's Nambokucho period, in which the Ashikaga shogunate's puppet Northern Court and the renegade Southern Court battled each other for control of Japan.

Made to swear an oath at the tender age of nine by his father to never give up fighting for the Southern Court's cause, Masatsura followed in his father's footsteps and carried on the family tradition of dying tragically when he fell leading the Southern Court's army in the Battle of Shijonawate in 1348.

On the eve of the battle, Masatsura was meditating in the Nyoirinji Buddhist temple on Mount Yoshino when he suddenly had a premonition of his impending death. Inspired by this vision, he pulled an iron-tipped arrow from his quiver and inscribed the following tanka poem on the wooden temple door:


kaeraji to
kanete omoeba
nakikazu ni iru
na wo zotodomuru

I have a feeling
I will not be returning,
so among the names
of those who died by the bow
I inscribe my own.

Within a few days, Masatsura lay dead on the battlefield. He was 22 years old.

English translation by yours truly.

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