Kurohime – Tale of a “black princess” and a black dragon

View with a room: The Torii River and Mount Kurohime in their snowy glory | C.W. NICOL PHOTOS

View with a room: The Torii River and Mount Kurohime in their snowy glory | C.W. NICOL PHOTOS

“The year 2012 is the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese and Japanese 12-year cycle. I’ve always been rather fond of dragons, what with having been born in Wales, whose national flag centers on a red dragon.

Since 1980, though, I have made my home in northern Nagano Prefecture, at the foot of a mountain whose name is Kurohime, which means “black princess” in Japanese. As legend has it, this dormant volcano is home to a black dragon, a shape-changer who, in the form of a handsome young lord, once won the heart of a princess.

The story goes thus: The fair maid’s father sets this suitor many cruel tasks, and though he completes all of them, mean old dad still denies the dragon his daughter’s hand. At this, the young lord reverts to his dragon-self and wreaks havoc with fire and water across the land. Distraught, the princess pleads with the dragon to save her people — and as the price of their salvation she is taken away to the mountain today named in her honor as Kurohime.”

— Excerpt from C.W. Nicol’s “A breath of fire for nature this new Year of the Dragon

From another version of Kurohime recounted by Richard Harris in “Hiking in Gifu: Black Princess Mountain “:

“With its variety of hiking trails and plethora of natural hot springs, the cluster of ancient volcanoes straddling the Nagano-Niigata border makes for an enticing destination, and Kurohimeyama 黒姫山 is a fine introduction to the area.

The original Kurohime was, apparently, the beautiful daughter of a local lord who became entangled in an improbable liaison with a young Samurai who turns out to be a giant snake. What Freud would have made of all this I can only guess, but in one version of the story the princess accepts her herpetic husband with equanimity, and the two ascend the mountain to live happily together. In another version she drowns herself in a pond.”

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