Although the messengers from heaven met Okuninushi at Inasa-no-Hama beach, the rush to go ask his son Kotoshironushi for the land, and Kotoshironushi’s relinquishing of it is celebrated every year in two rituals at Miho Shrine, home to Kotoshironushi, also popularly known as Ebisu.

Both rituals bring together the whole neighborhood and draw crowds from around the area, and the entire process goes on for hours, including purification rites for the people taking roles and kagura dances performed by the miko (shrine maidens).

Morotabune Shinji is celebrated every December 3rd, and reenacts the rush to the shrine with two boats of lightly dressed men racing each other around the harbor and liberally splashing water on each other with their oars. Yes, the water and weather are both very cold. However, I am told that the men taking part are so absorbed in the moment that they don’t notice the biting cold.









The other is Aofushigaki Shinji, on April 7th. The 7th of every month is a holy day for Miho Shrine, with their treasure storehouse only open on the 7th day of the month, with a few items on display each time it is open. The April 7th ritual reenacts how Kotoshironushi hid himself in the bushes and the water after agreeing to hand over the lands. While this is not necessarily a suicide, it is thought of as a sort of rebirth, and there are many somber elements of the ritual that take place before the boats are even involved. A number of roles are performed by community members which require the adults and children involved to eat special food, or be lead blindly, or not be allowed to have their feet touch the ground, and the majority of other people involved guide, carry, or form chains around the processing members to keep them out of reach of the onlookers. It makes for a rather mysterious atmosphere.






Previously, we had a very info-heavy entry attempting to clarify the multiple identities of a some of the locally beloved gods. By the Kojiki, they are Okuninushi (enshrined at Izumo Taisha) and his son Kotoshironushi (enshrined at Miho Shrine), but by popularly accepted knowledge, they are the two most ubiquitous lucky gods of prosperity, Daikoku and Ebisu. Miho Shrine is a short distance from a favorite fishing spot of Ebisu’s. It is nestled between a historic little harbor and Edo-esque town filled with dried and drilled squid to snack on, and the thickly forested mountains found throughout the Mihonoseki cape. Notice anything strange in that last picture? Usually, a shrine will only have one honden (main hall where the deity is enshrined). Miho Shrine, as you might have noticed, has two! It is the only example of Taisha-tsukuri style shrine architecture with two honden, one for each of the primary deities celebrated there. The current buildings were constructed in 1813, and they became National Important Cultural Property in 1981. As previously discussed, one of the two deities is Kotoshironushi/Ebisu, the god of fishing (and by extension, commerce). He is also thought of a god of music, so a number of instruments, such as lutes and drums, are kept as treasures within the shrine. The other is Mihotsu-hime, a goddess of harvest. This is a shrine of keeping people well fed, obviously. Makes a lot of sense in Shimane, which historically could rely on its own local seafood and rice production most of the time. That is why an emblem of the shrine is a of a red sea bass (tai, which Ebisu is often illustrated carrying) with a stalk of rice. Because Ebisu loves fishing, the ema (prayer boards) are dangled like fishing poles instead of merely hung by looped strings.

This isn’t the same because the tai doesn’t have a stalk of rice, but it’s one of the sights you can find along Mihonoseki’s Aoishi-datami path.

Mihotsu-hime is recorded under this name in the Nihonshoki. She is a considered a wife of the Lord of the Lands and a daughter of the subduer of the Yamata-no-Orochi. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably already know her by her Kojiki name, Suseri-bime, subduer of bugs! So, by that logic, Kotoshironushi shares a place with one of his step-mothers. I haven’t come across anything that suggests they don’t get along, so it’s probably safe to say the arrangement has been working out well. One of the fun things about Taisha-tsukuri architecture is that the style of the posts on top of the shrine indicate whether it is a male or a female deity inside. This is how you can tell who dwells in which honden! Before the Daikoku and Ebisu stuff came into the wider story of San’in region mythology, Miho Shrine and Izumo Taisha already had ties, as Miho Shrine plays a key role in the story of Izumo Taisha. That story, “Kuni-yuzuri,” will be the final one I cover in my manga renditions. First, we’ll have a short Fudoki myth about a shrine that upstages Miho Shrine with its number of honden!

Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815) illustration of Daikoku and Ebisu (Museum of Fine Arts Boston–click for source!)

We’ll start out with a fun fact: “Shimane” is written as “island” (島) and “root” (根), as it is like the root of the islands of Japan. As many cultural innovations entered Japan from the Asian continent through this area, this name makes some sense. Hideki Yukawa, the first Japanese recipient of the Nobel Prize, took it a bit further and said that Mihonoseki, the Cape of Miho at the northeast end of Shimane Prefecture, is where one can find the roots of the Japanese soul.

According to the Izumo-no-Kuni Fudoki (see below), this place is named after Okuninushi’s son Mihosusumi. Mihosusumi’s mother Nunagawa-hime was from the land of Koshi (modern day Ishikawa Prefecture), and according to their local mythology, Mihosusumi eventually returned to the Noto Peninsula. According to another Fudoki legend, the Cape of Miho was literally taken off the tip of the Noto Peninsula and dragged through the Sea of Japan and attached to the Shimane Peninsula. These myths, as well as archeological evidence, suggest there were strong ties between ancient Izumo and ancient Koshi.

After city mergers, Mihonoseki became a district of Matsue City, the capital of Shimane Prefecture (technically, Mihonoseki-cho). It happens to border another district within the city called Shimane-cho. Don’t get too confused yet–we have many other confusing bits to sift through in this entry!

Specifically, who or what are these local deities and how are they related?!

Although I try to keep things simple by saying I write manga interpretations of the Kojiki, I draw material from more than just the legends as they are written in that book (and even then, every translation into modern Japanese, English, or illustratration has its own spin on the Kojiki’s contents). The Kojiki was completed in 712, and was a mash of clan myths from around Japan mainly compiled by a nobleman named O-no-Yasumaro. It was written in Chinese characters that more or less fit Japanese pronunciation, which is why the deities have such clunky names with kanji you’d rarely see used together like that.

The 48 Fudoki, records of individual provinces under the imperial court’s rule, underwent compilation starting in 713, the year after the completion of the Kojiki. In addition to geographical, economic, and ecological data, the Fudoki also expanded on Shinto mythology. Of them, only the records of Izumo Province remain mostly intact today.

A few years later, in 720, the Nihonshoki was finished. This had more of a national history textbook approach and political basis with a different sort of mash of writing in Chinese style. It also included Shinto mythology, and O-no-Yasumaro likely contributed a lot to this project. However, there are some differences, and many of the same gods are recorded under different names than were used for them in the Kojiki.

Jump ahead about nine or ten centuries, and Shinto evolved into something almost indistinguishable from Buddhism in general practice. Many famous Shinto deities merged with Buddhist deities, many of which had Chinese or Indian origin. Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods, a jolly group of folk favorites, were not a home grown group, but they were so beloved that at some point in the Edo era their personas merged with Shinto deities as well. The lines between canon and fanon were blurred past the point of no return outside of scholarly circles, and despite the efforts of Kokugaku (“nativist studies” looking for the heart of Japan) scholars and Meiji Period policies to forcefully seperate Shinto and foreign influences like Buddhism, these mashed identities persisted.

That leaves us today with all the following phrases being more or less correct:

“Okuninushi, the Lord of the Land who ruled over the lands of Japan, is the god at Izumo Taisha.”
“Okuninushi’s son is Kotoshironushi, who is the god at Miho Shrine.”
Daikoku-ten and Ebisu-ten, two of Japan’s favorite lucky gods, reside at Izumo Taisha and Miho Shrine respectively, on either end of the Shimane Peninsula.”

1856 illustration of Daikoku and Ebisu by Utagawa Kunimori II (Museum of Fine Arts Boston–click for source!)

Daikoku-ten is originally an Indian deity called Mahakala (among other names), and came to Japan via China with most of the other lucky gods and has a few funny similarities with Okuninushi like being able to write their names in synonomous ways (大国 and 大黒 can both be read “Daikoku”) and that they both get along with rats (recall that Okuninushi was rescued by them, and Daikoku is often pictured with them because where there are rats, there is grain–they are a sign of prosperity and plentiful food).

Ebisu, however, is the only Lucky God who is native to Japan, supposedly born without outside cultural influence. Good for him, at least we have that much straight. Besides the story that he washed up to shore (thereby implying having come from somewhere else anyway? That’s my question!), there are a lot of different stories about his origins. If we accept that he is Kotoshironushi, Okuninushi/Daikoku’s son, then he is the son of the Lord of the Land, and he and his father are best buds. If we accept that he is Izanami and Izanagi’s son Hiruko, the leech-like baby they didn’t make very well and sent away at sea, then he is a deity who overcame terrible hardship as a child, eventually grew bones, and became a cheerful god who brings great luck to fishers.

Other stories about his traits are also very inconsistent. For instance, it’s fairly commonly accepted that Ebisu does not attend the gods’ meeting at Izumo Taisha every October because he is deaf and does not hear the summons. However, it is also said that Ebisu is a god of music because he loves a good jam. Which is it? If Ebisu were really Kotoshironushi, he’d be like a bratty teenager ignoring his father telling him to do something by not attending that meeting.

As Japan has fishing villages just about everywhere, Ebisu is a favorite and highly revered god throughout Japan. Although Miho Shrine is said to be the head of all 3,385 shrines that honor Kotoshironushi, or by extended definition Ebisu, it’s hard to think that he spends much time there. He is known as a traveling god who spontaneously washes up on shore (sometimes in forms we would think not-so-lucky, like drowned corpses) to bless the local fishing industry.

At the very least, we can say with some confidence that he enjoys fishing. Mihonoseki boasts of a favorite fishing spot of his, a tiny island off the very eastern tip of the peninsula (now called Jizo Cape, where the historic Mihonoseki Lighthouse stands). On a clear day you can see both the Oki Islands and Mt. Daisen and there, and it is also said to be the spot at which he first washed up to the islands of Japan.


Literally, the Douzen islands (Chibu, Ama, Nishinoshima) are the “front islands” and Dougo (Okinoshima) is the “back island.” By the way, they’re all part of a fantastic Geo-Park and visiting them was one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken.

Hence, Miho Shrine is located nearby. Given the now inseverable connections with Daikoku and Ebisu, it is known as katamairi (visiting only one side) when you pay a visit to either Izumo Taisha to the west or Miho Shrine to the east, but ryomairi (visiting both sides) when you double your luck by visiting both.

However, Ebisu/Kotoshironushi does not get Miho Shrine to himself. We’ll take a closer look at this unique double-shrine in the following entry.

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2018/3/5 UPDATE: This blog is no longer updated. However, I would like to include a comment from Bluedon here for more/better information:

I just wanted to point out that Koshi is hardly limited to modern-day Ishikawa Prefecture. It also covered what is now Fukui, Toyama and Niigata Prefectures, hence why the latter three were later called Echizen, Ecchuu and Echigo.

Nunakawa-hime (Nunagawa-hime) is actually from what is now Niigata Prefecture. Her name is linked with 沼川郷, a region which is now known as Itoigawa City. Many shrines in the Itoigawa are dedicated to her, her husband, and their son, including Nunagawa Shrine, Nou Hakusan Shrine, and countless Suwa Shrines.

Legends about Nunakawa-hime’s use of jade were what led to the rediscovery of jade in Itoigawa and the discovery that in fact all Jomon period jade in Japan had originated in Itoigawa.

Continued from Part 3









Refresh yourself on their story here.


Okuninushi’s troubles with Susano-o start here.



We’ll end here on that ambiguous note for now, but there are still two more stories to come!

In the meantime, we’ve got some explaining to do about all these mysterious identities, as all of them are wrapped up into the local San’in culture.

Learn about the sites and culture associated with this legend!
Daikoku and Ebisu, the lucky gods
Ebisu’s home, Miho Shrine

Or start reading the next story!
The birth of Sada-no-Okami
(Or keep reading to the conclusion of Okuninushi’s story)

Or see the Kojiki a.t.b.b. masterlist!
The Kojiki Myths in Manga Form