Kurotori Hyoe (黒鳥兵衛)

Hyoe KUROTORI was a legendary figure, who is said to have been lived in Echigo Province.

Summary

According to legend, in the late Heian period, Hyoe KUROTORU, one of Abe no Sadato's remaining retainers, went to Echigo Province and committed a number of atrocities, and even managed to defeat the Imperial army sent to subjugate him.

The Imperial Court, which was at a complete loss as to what to do, granted clemency to MINAMOTO no Yoshitsuna, who had been exiled to Sado Province, to have him subjugate Hyoe.

Hyoe KUROTORI resisted Yoshitsuna using sorcery, but he was gradually backed into a corner, so he entrenched himself in the camp of one of his supporters in what is now Niigata City. At that time, the place he had barricaded himself in was located in the middle of a muddy swamp, so it was not easy to walk around there, making it very difficult to attack.

MINAMOTO no Yoshitsuna was at a loss as to how to continue the attack, but one day he saw a pair of cranes land with branches of a tree in their respective beaks; the birds then put the branches on the ground and started to walk around the swamp with the branches gripped in their claws. Believing this to be 'a blessing from God,' he had his soldiers make kanjiki (round or lattice-type snowshoes that are made of bamboo or other materials and that are worn on the feet for use as walking aids to avoid slipping when walking on snow or damp ground). The attack was so swift that Hyoe KUROTORI was finally defeated and decapitated.

Influences after ages

It is said that this was the origin of kanjiki.
The place where Yoshitsuna and his soldiers fastened the thong of kanjiki was present Otate in Niigata City, Niigata Prefecture (literally, it means 'thong-fasten')

The place where Kurotori's decapitated head fell was present Kurotori, Niigata City.
(The name of the place, Kurosaki of Niigata City derives from this anecdote.)

Hyoe KUROTORI's head was kept in salt and buried in a place, where Kubi-zuka (burial mound for his head) was constructed.

The hokora (a small shrine), which was constructed on the scene to calm his spirit, is located in Hachiman-jinja Shrine in Otate, Niigata City.

Since Hyoe's buried head was once conserved in salt, the salty groundwater continuously springs out from the earth. And this is Otate-onsen Hot Spring.

It is said that sometimes, a roar echoes through the sky. People in the past said that it was the roar of Hyoe KUROTORI's decapitated body that was seeking for his head, and called this phenomenon 'donari' (roaring body) with fear.

As mentioned above, the legend of Hyoe KUROTORI is a spectacular military epic, which is extended widely in Echigo Province, and the places related to the legend can be found widely, from Kurosaki area of Niigata City (former Kurosaki-cho) to the northern part of Niigata Prefecture. From the Otate area, some ruins of ancient residences have been uncovered such as Otate Site and Matobe Site, however, the legend Hyoe KUROTORI is not based on the historical evidence and it is considered as a story created later.