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Yūryaku was the 21st emperor of Japan, according to the traditional chronology of Japanese Emperors. Because he is supposed to have reigned several hundred years before real writing came to Japan, Yūryaku is virtually a mythological figure, and almost nothing can be said of any certainty about his life.

According to the Kojiki, a notoriously unreliable source, he is supposed to have reigned from 456 until his death in 479. He is said to have been the fifth and youngest son of Emperor Ingyō. After the murder of his elder brother, Emperor Ankō he emerged victorious in the struggle against his other brothers for the throne.

Yūryaku is said to have had three wives, and was succeeded by Prince Shiraka, his son by a wife named Kazuraki no Karahime, who became Emperor Seinei.

The only thing that keeps Yūryaku from residing entirely within the realm of myth is his original name before he became emperor. Both the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki chronicles agree that Yūryaku original name was Prince Wakatake (幼武), meaning "young warrior." This is very interesting because swords have been found in tombs from around the time he lived bearing the inscription "From King Wakatakeru," with the name Wakatake and Wakatakeru bearing remarkable resemblance.

Moreover, the Chinese record that around this time they received several embassies from a King Bu of Japan, boasting of his conquest of 115 barbarian countries and asking them for help in his war against the Korean state of Koguryo. Fascinatingly, the character the Chinese used to write "Bu" is the same as the second character in Wakatake (武). So this may well have been Yūryaku (which was a posthumous reign name anyway).

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