Kidomaru the Robber,
Raiko the Brave, and the Goblin Spider
by Yei Theodora Ozaki
You have just read of the brave knight Raiko's exploits at Oyeyama and
how he rid the country of the demons who haunted the city of Kyoto and
terrified the inhabitants of the Flower Capital (as that city was
sometimes called) by their terrible deeds.
There are other interesting stories about him and his fearless
warrior-retainers which you may like to hear.
It was not long after Raiko's exploits at Oyeyama that the country rang
with the name of Kidomaru, a robber and highwayman, who, by his
notorious deeds of cruelty and robbery, had caused his name to be feared
and hated by all, both young and old.
One evening Raiko with his attendants was returning home from a day's
hunting, when he happened to pass the house of his younger brother
Yorinobu. The warrior had had a long day out; and having still a good
distance to ride before he would reach his own house the thought of a
good meal and friendly company, just then, when he was tired and very
hungry, was pleasant to contemplate in the lonely hour of twilight. So
he called a halt outside the house and sent in word to his brother that
he, Raiko, was passing by, and that if Yorinobu had any refreshment to
offer his brother, he would call in and stay the night there, as he was
tired out on his way back from a day's hunt.
Now in Japan an elder brother or sister commands respect from the
younger members of the family, and so Yorinobu was very pleased that
Raiko, his elder brother, had condescended to call upon him.
The servant soon returned with the message that Yorinobu was only too
pleased to receive Raiko; that he had ordered a feast to be prepared
that evening in honour of an unusual event, and as he was alone, nothing
could be more opportune or give him greater joy than that his elder
brother should have chanced to come by. He humbly begged Raiko that he
would deign to share the feast, such as it was, and to pardon the
poorness of his hospitality.
Raiko was very pleased with his brother's gracious reception. He quickly
flung the reins to his groom, dismounted from his horse, and entered the
house, wondering what could be the occasion of Yorinobu's ordering a
banquet for himself. When the warrior was shown into the room he found
Yorinobu seated on the mats drinking saké, as the servants were
bringing in the first dishes of the dinner. When the salutations were
over, Yorinobu handed Raiko his wine-cup. Raiko took it, and having
drained it, asked what his brother meant by the feast he had promised
him and what was the occasion of it. Yorinobu laughed as if with
triumph, and wheeling round on his cushion pointed out into the garden.
Raiko then looked in the direction indicated by his brother's hand, and
saw, tied up to a large pine tree, a young man who could not be much
over thirty and of extraordinary strength. The face of the captive
expressed hate and ferocity, his body was of an enormous build, while
his arms and legs were like trunks of pine trees, so large and brown and
muscular were they. His hair was a rough and matted shock, and the eyes
glared as if they would start from their sockets. Indeed to Raiko the
wild creature looked more like a demon than a human being.
"Well, Yorinobu!" said Raiko, "the occasion of your feast is to say the
least unusual; it must certainly have given you some sport to catch that
wild creature; but tell me who he is that you have got tied up out
"Have you not heard of Kidomaru, the notorious robber?" answered
Yorinobu. "There he is! One of my men captured him out on the hills; he
found him asleep. The town has long been clamouring for him. He has a
big score to settle at last. For to-night I intend to keep him tied up
like that, and to-morrow I shall hand him over to the law! Come, let us
be merry, for the dinner is served!"
Raiko clapped his hands when he heard of the great feat Yorinobu and his
men had accomplished in catching the fearful robber, the terror of whose
lawless deeds had long held the people of Kyoto trembling with fear and
dread. The outlaw Kidomaru was caught at last and by his own brother
Yorinobu! This was an event of rejoicing and congratulation for the
"You have certainly done a meritorious service to your country," said
he, "but it is ridiculous to tie such a creature up with a rope only.
You might just as well think of tying up a wild cow with a fine
kite-string. It would be less dangerous. Take my advice, Yorinobu, put a
strong iron chain round him, or the murderer will soon be at large
Yorinobu thought his brother's advice wise, so he clapped his hands.
When the servant came to answer the summons, he ordered him to bring an
iron chain. When this was brought, he went into the garden, followed by
Raiko and his men, and wound it round Kidomaru's body several times,
securing it at last to a post with a padlock.
Kidomaru up to this time had rejoiced at his light bonds. He was so
strong that he knew he could easily break a rope, and he had waited but
for the nightfall to make good his escape under cover of the darkness.
You can imagine how great was his anger at Raiko's interference, which
was the cause of his being treated with so much severity that his
projected escape would now be difficult.
"Hateful man!" muttered Kidomaru to himself. "I will surely punish you
for what you have done to me! Remember!" and he threw evil glances at
But the brave warrior cared little for the wild robber's malignant
glances; he only laughed when he noticed them, and, as the chain was
drawn tighter round the robber, he said: "That's right! That chain will
hold him sure enough! You must run no risk of his escaping this time!"
Then he and Yorinobu returned to the house, and dinner was served and
the two brothers made merry the whole evening, talking over old times,
and it was late before they retired to rest.
Now Kidomaru knew that Raiko slept in Yorinobu's house, and he made up
his mind to try to slay him that night, for he was mad with wrath at
what Raiko had done to him.
"He shall see what I can do!" growled Kidomaru to himself, shaking his
rough and shaggy head like a big long-haired terrier. He waited quietly
till every one in the house had gone to rest and all was silent. Then
Kidomaru arose, cramped and stiff from sitting tied up so long. With a
mighty effort he flung out his great arms, laughing defiance at the
chain that bound him. So great was his strength that no second effort
was needed; the chain broke and fell clanking to the ground at once, and
Kidomaru, like a large hound, shook himself free from his bonds. Softly
as a mouse he approached the house and climbed on to the roof, and with
one tremendous blow from his huge fist, he broke through the tiles and
the boards to the ceiling. His plan was to jump down upon Raiko while he
lay sleeping, and taking him unawares suddenly to cut off his head. But
the warrior had lain down to rest expecting such an attack, and he had
slept but lightly. As soon as he heard the noise above him, he was wide
awake in an instant, and to warn his enemy he coughed and cleared his
throat. Kidomaru was a man of fierce and dauntless character, and he was
not in the least thrown back in his purpose by finding that Raiko was
awake. He went on with his work of making a hole large enough in the
ceiling to let himself through to the room beneath.
Raiko now sat up and clapped his hands loudly to summon his men, who
slept in an adjoining room. Watanabe, the chief man-at-arms, came out to
see what his master wanted.
"Watanabe," said Raiko, "my sleep has been disturbed by something moving
in the ceiling. It may be a weasel, for weasels are noisy creatures. It
cannot be a rat, for a rat is not large enough to make so much noise. At
any rate, it seems impossible to sleep to-night, so saddle the horses
and get all the men ready to start. I will get up and ride out to the
Temple of Mount Kurama. I want all the men to accompany me."
Perched between the roof and the ceiling, the robber heard all this, and
said to himself: "What ho! Raiko goes to Kurama! That is good news!
Instead of wasting my time here like a rat in a trap, I will set out for
Kurama immediately and get there before those stupid men can, and I will
waylay them and kill them all." So Kidomaru crawled out on the roof
again, let himself down to the ground, and hurried with all the speed he
could make to Kurama.
A large plain had to be crossed in going from the city to Kurama, and
here a number of wild cattle had their home. When Kidomaru, on his way
to Kurama, came to this spot, a plan flashed across his mind by which he
could steal a march on Raiko. He soon caught one of the big oxen a blow
on the head. Three blows one after the other, and the ox fell dead at
the robber's feet. Kidomaru then proceeded to strip off its skin. It was
very hard work, but he managed to do it quickly, so strong was he, and
then throwing the hide over himself he lay down completely disguised, a
man in a bull's hide, and waited for Raiko and his men to come.
He had not long to wait. Raiko, followed by his four braves, soon came
in sight. The warrior reined in his horse when he came to the plain and
saw the cattle. He turned to his men and said: "Here is a place where we
may find some sport. Instead of going on to Kurama, let us stay here and
have some hunting! Look at the wild cattle!"
The four retainers with one accord all gladly agreed to their chief's
proposal, for they loved sport and adventure just as much as Raiko and
were glad of an excuse to show their skill as huntsmen. The sun was just
rising, and the prospect of a fine morning added zest to the pastime.
Each man prepared his bow and arrows in readiness to begin the chase.
But the cattle, thus disturbed, did not enjoy the sport. Man's play was
their death indeed. One of their number had been killed by Kidomaru, and
now they were attacked by Raiko and his men, who came riding furiously
into their midst, shooting at them with bows and arrows. With angry
snorts, whisking their tails on high and butting with their horns, they
ran to right and left. In the general stampede that followed their
attack, the hunters noticed that one animal lay still in the tall
grass. At first they thought it must be either lame or ill, so they took
no notice of it, and left it alone till Raiko came riding up. He went up
and looked at it carefully, and then ordered one of his men to shoot it.
The man obeyed, and taking his bow, shot an arrow at the recumbent
animal. The arrow did not hit the mark; for, to the astonishment of the
four hunters, the hide was flung aside and out stepped the robber
"You, Raiko! It is you, is it?" exclaimed he. "Do you know that I have a
spite against you?" and with these words he darted forward and attacked
Raiko with a dagger. But Raiko did not even move in his saddle. He drew
his sword and, adroitly guarding himself, exchanged two or three strokes
with the robber, and then slashed off his head. But wonderful to relate,
so strong was the will that animated Kidomaru that though his head was
cut off, his body stood up straight and firm till his right arm, still
holding the dagger, struck at Raiko's saddle. Then, and not till then,
it collapsed. It is said that the warriors were all greatly impressed by
the malevolent spirit of the robber, which was strong enough to stir the
body to action even after the head had been severed from the shoulders.
Such was the death of the notorious robber Kidomaru, at the hands of the
brave warrior Raiko who was awarded much praise for the clever way in
which he drew Kidomaru out as far as Kurama to kill him. He had
understood from Kidomaru's evil glances that the robber planned to kill
him, and he thus avoided causing trouble in his brother's house. In this
instance, as always, Raiko displayed wisdom and bravery.
No sooner, however, was Kidomaru killed, than news was brought to the
capital that another man had arisen who imitated Kidomaru in his daily
deeds of robbery and other wicked acts. This robber's name was
One bright moonlight night, Kakamadare was waiting on the plain between
Kyoto and Kurama for travellers to come that way, hoping that luck would
bring some rich man into his clutches. Presently he heard some one
coming towards him playing on a flute. Thinking this somewhat strange,
he hid himself in the grass and waited to see who would appear. The
sweet music drew nearer and nearer, and then the player came in view.
The light of the moon made everything as clear as day, and the robber
saw a handsome samurai of soldierly aspect, dressed in beautiful
silken robes and wearing a long sword at his side.
"Now's my opportunity; I'm in luck to-night," thought the robber, as he
rose from his hiding-place and stealthily followed the flute-player. As
he kept step by step behind him, Kakamadare drew his sword in readiness
several times to cut down his prey, and waited for the chance to strike.
All at once the samurai turned and looked steadily at the robber, who
began to tremble. Then the knight calmly and coolly resumed his playing,
as if utterly indifferent to the danger which threatened him. Once more
the robber followed, with the intention of cutting the man down, but the
opportunity for which he waited never came; each time his hand went up
with his sword, it as quickly fell to his side. A spirit of high and
noble purpose seemed to emanate from the knight, which cowed the man
behind and made him weak. For so great is the virtue of the sword that
in Japan it is an acknowledged fact that all noble swordsmen had this
power of subduing lesser natures by the spiritual grace which went forth
from them. Indeed the belief in the occult power of the sword was great,
and it was said that no bad man could keep the possession of a fine
Kakamadare could not strike. He could not tell the cause of his
weakness. He thought that it might be the influence of the music. He
found himself listening to the gentle strains of the flute, and admiring
the skill with which the man played. He noticed the firm and fearless
air of the knight as he walked and his great nerve. The man knew himself
to be followed by a robber, yet he showed not the least concern.
Kakamadare tried to turn back now, but he found that he could do
nothing but follow the man in front of him. In this way the strange pair
reached the town. Kakamadare now made a great effort to break the spell,
and was on the point of turning back and trying to escape from the
strange, compelling presence, when to his astonishment the samurai
suddenly wheeled round upon him and said: "Kakamadare, I thank you for
your trouble! You have given me a safe escort!"
At this the robber became so terrified that he fell down on his knees
and was unable to move or speak for some moments. At last, so soon as
his tongue found utterance, he said: "I know not who you are, but I beg
you to forgive me! I would have killed you!"
He then confessed everything to the knight. He told him of his many
deeds of robbery and violence which had made him feared and hated by the
people, who thought that he must be a demon, for so cruel and relentless
was he that he never showed mercy even to the poorest peasant. "I have
never met any one like you," Kakamadare went on to say. "I promise to
give up my life as a robber, and I beg you to take me into your service
as one of the humblest of your retainers."
The knight led the man home, and gave him some good clothes, telling him
that when he again got into straits and wanted money or clothes, he
might come a second time to the house, but that it was unwise to show
such contempt for others as to enter into an encounter where he himself
might be the injured party.
This kindness and mercy touched the man's heart, and from that day he
became a reformed man and a law-abiding citizen.
The knight was none other than Hirai, one of the warriors who
accompanied Raiko in his successful expedition against the demons of
Oyeyama. There is a saying that "Brave generals make brave soldiers,"
and it is quite true. Raiko was a man of great sagacity and courage, and
his band of braves and the knight Hirai, of whom we have just read, were
like their master. There were no men in the whole of Japan braver than
they. This proves the truth of the old adage.
There is another story about the General Raiko which you may like to
hear. The sword with which Raiko slew Kidomaru was called the Kumokiri,
or Spider-cutting Sword, and about the naming of this blade there is an
It happened at one time that Raiko was unwell and was obliged to keep
his room. Every night at about twelve a little acolyte would come to his
bedside, and in a kind and gentle way pour out and give him some
medicine to take. Raiko noticed that he did not know the boy, but as
there were many underlings in the servants' quarters whom he never saw,
this did not strike him as strange. But Raiko, instead of recovering,
found himself growing weaker and weaker, and especially after taking the
medicine he always felt worse.
At last one day he spoke to his head servant and asked him who it was
that brought him medicine every night, but the attendant answered that
he knew nothing about the medicine and that there was no acolyte in the
Raiko now suspected some supernatural snare. "Some malevolent being is
taking advantage of my illness and trying to bewitch me or to cause my
death. When the boy comes again to-night I will find out his real form.
He may be a fox or goblin in disguise!" said Raiko.
So he waited for the appearance of the acolyte, wondering what the
strange incident could mean.
When midnight came, the boy, as usual, appeared, bringing with him the
usual cup of medicine. The knight calmly took the cup from the boy and
said, "Thank you for your trouble!" but instead of swallowing the false
medicine, he threw it, cup and all, at the boy's head. Then jumping up
he seized the sword that lay beside his bed and cut at the impostor. As
the blade fell, the acolyte screamed with rage and pain, then, with a
movement as quick as lightning, before he turned to escape from the
room, he threw something at the knight, which, marvellous to relate, as
he threw, spread outwards pyramidically into a large white sticky web
which fell over Raiko and clung to him so that he could hardly move.
Raiko whirled his sword round and cut the clinging meshes and freed
himself; again the goblin threw a web over him, and again Raiko cut the
enmeshing threads away; once more the huge spider's web—for such it
was—was thrown over him, and then the goblin fled. Raiko called for his
men and then sank exhausted on his bed.
His chief retainer, answering the summons, met the acolyte in the
corridor, and thinking it strange that an unknown priest, however young,
should come from his master's room at that hour of the night, stopped
him with drawn sword.
The goblin answered not a word, but threw his entangling web over the
man and mysteriously disappeared.
Now thoroughly alarmed, the retainer hastened to Raiko. Great was his
consternation when he saw his master, with the meshes of the goblin's
web still clinging to him.
"See!" exclaimed Raiko, pointing to the threads still clinging to his
man and himself, "a goblin spider has been here!"
He then gave orders to hunt down the goblin, but the thing could nowhere
be found. On the white mats and along the corridors they found as they
searched red drops of blood, which showed that the creature had been
Raiko's men followed the red trail, out into the garden, across the city
to the hills, till they came to a cave, and here the blood-drops ceased.
Groans and cries of pain issued from the cave, so the warriors felt sure
that they had come to the end of their hunt.
"The goblin is surely hiding in that cave!" they all said. Drawing their
swords, they entered the cave and found a monster spider writhing with
pain and bleeding from a deep sword-cut on the head. They at once killed
the creature and carried it to Raiko.
The knight had often heard stories of these dreadful spiders, but had
never seen one before.
"It was this goblin spider then that wanted to prey upon me! The net
that was thrown over me was a spider's web! Of all my adventures this is
the strangest!" said Raiko.
That night Raiko ordered a banquet to be prepared for all his retainers
in honour of the event, and he drank to the health of his five brave
From that time the acolyte never appeared and Raiko recovered his health
and strength at once.
Such is the story of the Kumokiri Sword. Kumo means "spider," and
kiri means "cutting," and it was so named because it cut to death the
goblin spider who haunted the brave knight Raiko.