Basic Information

Translation: Uwabami means 'python' [7]
Type/Species: Great Serpent, Uwabami
Slayer: Wada Heita Tanenaga
Origin: Japanese Legend

About Heita's Uwabami

The uwabami are monstrous serpents that occur in the myths and legends of Japan. [6] For a long time, one uwabami plagued the province of Settsu, [1,7] dubbed Heita's Uwabami after the hero who slew the beast, Wada Heita Tanegara.

Heita's Uwabami preyed upon the people of the region during the rule of Hojo Yoshitoki (1205-1225 AD). [2] So large was the beast that even knights on horseback would fall prey to its appetite. [5,6] When Heita heard of the dragon's terrible deeds, he hunted it down and finally slew him by a waterfall. [1,7]

Another legend states that Heita joined a hunting party that went into the mountains. Heita's Uwabami attacked the hunters, swallowing Heita whole. Members of his hunting party, Izumi Kojiro Chikahira and Wada Kojiro Yoshishige, controlled the beast as Heita cut his way out of the monster from within. [9] The artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi commemorated these events in a work of art. [10]

A third version claimed that Heita battled Uwabami, finally skewering him with a polearm. [8] The artist Utagawa Kuniteru I created a woodblock print in 1848 that commemorated this slaying. [8]

Finally, the fourth version of the battle between Heita and his Uwabami took place in 1203 A.D., when Heita was 21 years old. Like the second version, Heita was out on a hunt, but this time it was with a fellow soldier. While in the mountains, they encountered a terrifying serpent, and Heita slew the monster deep within a cave, despite the darkness. [11] A Kabuki play commemorates this battle, as does a print by Katsukawa Shuntei. [11]

Physical Description

Heita's Uwabami was one of the fabulously enormous serpents that were colloquially called uwabami. [7] The monstrous serpent was thicker than any tree, [3] and so large that with one gulp he could swallow a man on horseback. [4]

Many uwabami were portrayed as flying through the air, [6] often surprising travelers who have little time to escape before being encased into his mouth. [4] The depictions of Heita's Uwabami generally do not include wings and generally show him as an earth-bound serpent. [6]

Quick Facts

  • The story of Heita's Uwabami has many variations.
  • Heita's Uwabami was just one of the giant serpents in the legends of Japan. [6] This particular uwabami appeared during the rule of Hojo Yoshitoki (1205-1225 A.D.), [2] though one versions of the legend dated the dragon's appearance to the year 1203 A.D. [11]
  • In one account, Heita's Uwabami plagued the province of Settsu for a long time before Heita battled the dragon and slew him by a waterfall with his sword. [1,7]
  • In another version, the serpent swallowed Heita alive and whole while he was out hunting. Heita had to cut his way out of the monster. [9,10]
  • Another version described Heita battled his Uwabami, and skewered the dragon with a polearm. [8]
  • A Kabuki play commemorates yet another variation of this story. Heita, a 21-year-old warrior, was on a hunt with a fellow soldier. They encountered a monstrous serpent in the mountains, and Heita battled the beast inside a dark cave. [11]

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