Otsu (大津市 Ōtsu-shi) is a small village in Japan. It is located about five miles from Kyoto, and is considered a central and strategic location in Japan. The village is quite near Osaka, the birthplace of Hiro Nakamura, and both are in the Kansai or Kinki region of Japan.
According to legend, the hero Takezo Kensei defended the village from bandits and, in so doing, fell in love with the daughter of the village's swordsmith. In 1671, Hiro Nakamura inadvertently prevents Kensei from defeating the bandits, and the village is razed. (Four Months Later...)
After being thrown by Sylar's telekinesis, Hiro quickly teleports before crashing into the building behind him. He finds himself outside Kyoto, Japan in 1671. Hiro hears the sound of a few Japanese soldiers, readying their bow and arrows and preparing to attack. He starts to run from the soldiers, but stops after he sees his hero arrive from over a nearby hill. The two sides begin to battle but are frozen in awe as a solar eclipse occurs above their heads.
Hiro lands in a grassy meadow. As he looks around , he spots a group of Japanese archers raising their bows toward him — he turns to run, but realizes that it is Takezo Kensei, poised behind Hiro, that they are about to attack. After an eclipse occurs overhead, Hiro sees the arrows fired and stops time before they hit him. After moving out of the way, he sees his hero almost hit by arrows as well. He puts his hand on the horse of the rider and teleports them both to safety.
Hiro and Kensei teleport to a field, where the horse bucks and throws Kensei to the ground. After exclaiming, Hiro finds a sword drawn on him. Kensei asks how it happened, and remarks that fifty ryo is not worth dying for. As he runs away, he tells Hiro that he can tell Takezo Kensei that he can keep is money, dropping his sword. As Hiro wonders who the real Kensei is since the fake Kensei is running away, a man in armor with a crossbow comes around Hiro's back and asks how he made the Japanese soldiers scatter. He remarks that if he put an arrow through the leader's heart, he would have been very rich. The armored man asks Hiro if he is a monk since he is dressed strange and wears glasses like a doctor. Hiro takes his glasses off, and proclaims that he is Kensei's biggest fan and how he stole his sword. When Kensei takes his mask off to reveal he is Caucasian, Hiro puts his glasses back on and asks if he is really the hero Kensei. Kensei replies that he is known in Japan as Kensei, but no one has ever called him a hero before.
Hiro walks with Kensei and wonders aloud that the stories his father told him were about a gaijin (a modern Japanese term for non-Asian foreigner). As Kensei urinates, he mentions how the name "Kensei" means "Sword Saint", and that it intimidates others. Kensei came up with the name on his way from England. When Hiro asks (in English) if Kensei is English, Kensei begins to talk in English to Hiro about how he was allowed into the country, and stayed to look for his fortunes. Hiro argues that Kensei does not fight for money, but for honor, to which Kensei adds so long as it is honor he can spend. Kensei explains that he hires men to dress as him, ride a horse into a town and to shout about he's "fearsome ol' Kensei" while he picks off the black guards from a tree branch. Hiro finds these tactics dirty, while Kensei finds them to be smart. Hiro explains that he is from the future, and he read The Trials of Takezo Kensei, wherein Kensei loved the swordsmith's daughter and saved Otsu from Whitebeard. Hiro smells smoke and finds that the village of Otsu is burning.
Hiro wanders through the refugees of Otsu and realizes that the future may not be the same as he knew it, wondering, "no cars, no Ando, no me. Great Scott." Kensei tells him not to worry, that there is always sake. Hiro tells Kensei that he's supposed to be a hero, but Kensei retorts that being a hero never "filled anyone's sack with salt and saffron." Hiro tells him that for his heroism, Kensei was rewarded with more riches than the emperor, and married the most beautiful girl in Japan, the swordsmith's daughter. A young woman smacks Kensei in the face, telling him that they gave him everything to protect Otsu, and the bandits that burned the town took her father hostage. Kensei tells Yaeko that he tried to fight, but Hiro got in the way. Yaeko takes the sword (as both Kensei and Hiro exclaim "my sword!"), explaining that her father gave it to him as payment for their protection, and leaves. Hiro chases after her, but she leaves, saying someone has to save her father. Hiro tells Kensei that he must save the swordsmith and make Yaeko fall in love with him, but is punched by Kensei, who tries to find a drink.
Hiro asks around looking for Takezo and finds him drunk. Hiro dunks Takezo's head in a trough and tells him that he needs to go after Yaeko and save her. He explains that before he came back in time Takezo was supposed to be a great warrior and that she would become his princess. Takezo tells Hiro that he looks like a fish when he talks and Hiro dunks his head in the trough again. Hiro laments that he already ruined the past and that if Takezo won't be a hero then he'll have to. He takes Takezo's outfit and rides off.
Yaeko fights with a number of swordsmen accusing them of not being worthy of the title Samurai. The leader tells Yaeko that he needs her father, but doesn't need her. Hiro, dressed as Takezo Kensei, calls out to the men demanding that they leave Yaeko alone. The leader asks Hiro how he can boast of his swordsmanship when he doesn't even have a sword. Hiro tells him that he doesn't need a sword because he has all of their swords. He uses his ability to stop time and take all the swords from the men. The men take aim with their bows and Hiro laughs and tells them they shouldn't. Before they can fire, Hiro stops time again and takes their bows and arrows from them. He tells them to leave before he takes their clothes next. The men run off as Hiro suggests they refer to this as "The Battle of Twelve Swords." Yaeko, believing Hiro to be Takezo, thanks him. Hiro asks Yaeko to ride back with him.
Hiro and Yaeko dismount from the horse and Yaeko apologizes to Hiro for thinking that Takezo had just left with their money. He promises to rescue Yaeko's father. Yaeko praises his honor and bravery. They enter a clearing surrounded by cherry blossoms and talk about their beauty. Yaeko asks Hiro to take off his mask, but Hiro tells her that she disarms him and that he shouldn't. He tells her that his love for her will be legendary. After stopping time and taking off his mask, Hiro disappears.
Hiro looks for Takezo, who is angry that Hiro stole his armor. Hiro explains that he needed to use it to save Yaeko and to make people think that Takezo was a hero. Hiro explains that "Kensei" disarmed 11 men and rescued a beautiful woman. Takezo is skeptical, but Yaeko enters and thanks Takezo, telling him that he forgot his sword. She tells him that they must go rescue her father now. Takezo tells Hiro that apparently listening to him will earn him more reward and asks him to make him a hero. They exit and are confronted by the men from earlier. The men shoot Takezo with three arrows and leave with Yaeko. Hiro pulls an arrow from Takezo and soon notices that the wound heals itself.
Kensei awakens, and finds arrows in his shoulder. Hiro pulls the arrows from him, and Kensei finds his wounds heal. Kensei tells Hiro that he cursed him, but Hiro tells him that it's a gift. Kensei calls him the devil and rides away.
Hiro talks about Kensei's greatness to Yaeko, and finds Kensei sitting at a tree cutting himself. Kensei notices the wound heals, and Hiro tells him he has a power too. He demonstrates it to Kensei by teleporting, and Kensei is shocked. Hiro suggests that Kensei cannot be killed from injury from a sword, and Kensei suggests that he can be richer than the Pope from all the duels since he's unstoppable. Hiro grabs him and teleports him to a Japanese fortress.
Hiro tells Yaeko that Kensei is coming back since she is waiting. She wants to trust him, but he seems like two men: a brute and a gentleman. She recalls being under the cherry blossoms and how she felt like she was home. Kensei walks in full armor up to the two, and takes off his helmet, holding the fire scroll. Yaeko embraces him and kisses him, while Hiro looks on sad.
Hiro tells Kensei that he can continue his journey without his help, and that he must return to his life. Kensei tells Hiro that he needs him, but Hiro tells him that he could make things worse by staying in the past. Kensei tells him that it's been his honor, but Hiro tells Kensei it's been his honor. Yaeko wishes Hiro goodbye. As Yaeko and Kensei walk away, Kensei makes the cherry blossoms fall. As Hiro begins to travel back, he stops with a look of sadness, and yells at Kensei while running towards the couple.
After saving Charlie's life, Hiro asks where she wants to go. She said she wants to see where Takezo Kensei was born, Ostu. She then starts reciting random facts she memorized about the city. Hiro snaps her out of it and asks what was that. She tells him that her aneurysm is starting to rupture.
On August 27, 2007, yamagatofellowship.org began airing a five-part documentary about Takezo Kensei, narrated by John Rhys-Davies and directed by Yule Caise. Interviews are conducted with experts, including Professor Donna Dorn (from the University of Chicago, Japanese Studies), Curator Tatsuya Atsumi (of the Museum of Cultural History in Tokyo, Japan), and Professor Karen Chamberlin (from the University of Cambridge's Literature Department).
In Chapter 1, "The Battle of 12 Swords", despite Japan's isolationist stance, Whitebeard ravaged the country from within. Culminating in an attack on Otsu, the overconfident Whitebeard marched into the town with only a handful of men. He was met by Kensei, who singlehandedly defeated the entire company. The battle was to become known as The Battle of 12 Swords. Determined to defeat the rest of Whitebeard's army, Kensei set out on a journey to find Whitebeard's Hidden Fortress. These adventures became known as The Trials of Takezo Kensei.
In Chapter 4, Part 1, "Kensei and the Dragon", before his trials, Kensei fell in love with a beautiful princess who made him swear to defend Japan from Whitebeard. To prepare, Kensei sought the Dragon of Kiso Mountain, who taught exceptional sword skills to those who truly needed to be taught. The Dragon taught Kensei and made him a "sword saint", but demanded that Kensei give what he loved most. After Kensei's trials, he and the princess decided to marry, but the celebrations were short-lived--the enormous Dragon interrupted their marriage ceremony and demanded the princess. To protect his love, Kensei plunged his sword into his heart, then offered his heart to the Dragon.
In Chapter 4, Part 2, "Kensei and the Dragon", though Kensei died in the arms of his love, exactly what happened next to him remains a mystery. Legend says that the Dragon, moved by Kensei's love and honor, replaced Kensei's heart and brought him back to life. Likewise, the identity of the princess is uncertain. One unpopular theory is that she is Yaeko, daughter of the sword maker, resident of Otsu, and the creator of the Kensei scrolls.
- An interview with Tim Kring reveals that scenes that take place in feudal Japan are filmed in the Santa Monica Mountains and other outlying areas in California. Greg Beeman added on his blog that some scenes were shot in Ventura, CA.
- The modern-day city of Otsu is the capital of the Shiga prefecture.
- Otsu was founded October, 1st 1898, over two hundred years after Hiro supposedly visited there. Prior to that it was known as Awazu.
- In Saving Charlie, while in high school, Hiro believed that one day he would be buried in the ancestral mausoleum in Kyoto. (Chapter 3)