Look! My socks have the White Hare of Inaba crossing the Sea of Japan!

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These were a gift from Kimono-sensei. Water, as a motif, is often expressed in this sort of traditional pattern. The Hare is based on a local legend and is found over and over and over in Shimane Prefecture and still more in Tottori Prefecture. For as much as I am inundated with this White Hare, and for as much as I tend to prefer dull socks over expressive ones, I was excited about these. Thanks, Kimono-sensei! They’ll be a nice San’in souvenir some day.

One of the first San’in souvenirs I got for myself was a magatama–that is, a common shaped bead of ancient, but not precisely known origin. These have been a sign of spiritual power since early times in Japan, and there are large collections of them in museums that have been unearthed from 8th century dig sites and beyond.

While not unique to the San’in region, this area was a major producer of the carved beads, especially those made from agate. The Tamatsukuri Onsen (玉造温泉) area is so called because many magatama were made there (玉造 means “jewel making”). Besides workshops to carve your own magatama, there are many gift stores throughout Matsue–and nearby places like Izumo Taisha–that specialize in magatama and related stone accessories. Although green agate, and to some extent, red agate are most representative of the region’s production, you can find these so-called power stones carved out of many other types of stones as well, varying in quality to suit low and high budgets.

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Although the agate products are very, very shiny, I got a lapis lazuli one to commemorate my stay in Matsue (the stone being one of my favorites, and the shape being characteristic of the region). I like it, but I do feel a little self-conscious when I wear it here. I feel like I’d look more like a tourist than a local…

However, as a local, there’s a t-shirt I’ve had my eyes on for a long time. It sums up so much about the quirkiness of the region succinctly.

Allow me to introduce the best Shimane t-shirt I’ve ever bought in Tottori:

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The scowling character is Yoshida-kun, from Frogman’s flash animation cartoon Eagle Talon. This cartoon is known throughout the country, and although he is not from here, Frogman has a passion for Shimane Prefecture. So much so that he’s volunteered Yoshida-kun, one of the team of characters bent on somewhat Pinky and the Brain style world domination, to be a PR ambassador for the prefecture’s tourism attractions, landscape, and culture. Granted, that means he makes simultaneously proud and sarcastic comments about how well kept of a secret Shimane is.

In a Land of the Rising Yura-kyara, where mascots teetering around with big smiles and silly dances have taken over much of mainstream culture, Yoshida-kun is a refreshing dose of cynicism. No offense to Shimanekko, who is quite adorable and deserves to win 1st place in one of the upcoming national popularity contests, but the landscape of local mascots could stand to have more characters like Tottori’s Katsue-san, a starving mascot who represents a 16th century historical event.

Shimanekko, who also has the best dance! Click for source.

Besides Toripy, Tottori’s office bird-pear (or is it pear-bird?), the least populated prefecture of Japan has an unofficial mascot who has had a place in the hearts of the Japanese public since the 1960’s, long before happy, round mascot characters began their dominion over the islands. That is none other than Kitaro, as well as much of the rest of cast of Gegege no Kitaro. This is because the creator, folklorist and adventurer and historian and story teller and veteran and one-armed artist Mizuki Shigeru, is from the port town of Sakaiminato on the western tip of Tottori. The city is laden with reminders of this.

In addition to my Yoshida-kun t-shirt, there is a partner t-shirt featuring Tottori and Kitaro, captioned “Tottori is to the right of Shimane.”

However, long before that, I picked up a Tottori souvenir featuring another iconic member of the cast: Medama Oyaji (“Old Man Eyeball”), Kitaro’s father.

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There’s no shortage of clever Medama Oyaji products both in Sakaiminato and throughout the San’in region, and there is no shortage of other Gegege no Kitaro t-shirt designs. Actually, there are a number of nicer shirts and ties with more subtle use of the ghastly cast, so you could get away with looking very dressed up until people take a double-take at the spooky imagery.

Granted, you can get away with anything on a tie, I guess. The Shimanekko ties are not surprising in the least, but a co-worker’s Hello-Kitty-meets-One-Piece tie did surprise me a little. It might still be a little while until we see Yoshida-kun ties or Shimanekko kimono accessories, though. When it comes to items I wouldn’t just wear around the house, there are still many options, such as traditionally dyed indigo items or even Orochi Jeans. Next I think I have my eyes on a peony-dyed item from Yuushien Garden, because there’s nothing like Daikonshima in spring.

Although the legend of the White Hare of Inaba (Inaba-no-Shirousagi) takes place mostly in eastern Tottori, the Izumo region celebrates the story in its myth and En-musubi-filled atmosphere. For instance, there are a handful of gift shops around Matsue and Izumo specializing in stones, especially Izumo magatama comma-shaped jewels. These tama were often produced in the region out of local Izumo agate, and are a very characteristic souvenir, so you find them in the major tourist areas–in front of Izumo Taisha, or around Tamatsukuri Onsen (literally “jewel-making hot springs”), Matsue’s samurai street Shiomi Nawate or Kyomise shopping district. However, you never find one of these stores without little stone rabbits sold right next to the array of magatama.

Click photo for source and shop info (Japanese)


Click photo for source and shop info (Japanese)


Click photo for source and shop info (Japanese)

Speaking of Tamatsukuri Onsen, the resort area in southern Matsue is not only lined with fancy hotels, charming shops, and free foot hot springs in the river and its own En-musubi power spot, but it also has little statues featuring legends and characters from the Kojiki, such as this one of Onamuji and the white (or hairless) hare.

“But… but I have no money to pay for medical services. I’m a hare.”

Matsue is full of En-musubi power spots, both old and from only 1999 or so. A more recent example of a spot that everyone visits to collect their luck and take a photo at is along the banks of Lake Shinji on the grass lawn between the Shimane Art Museum and the water. It’s a very, very short walk between this famous spot and the perfect sunset viewing spot, so these “Lake Shinji Hares” get a lot of attention.

Because I see them all the time, both in print and in person, I never think to take pictures of them. The day I did go to take pictures of them, though, my camera was doing something weird and they all got over-exposed. There’s this sense of doom that the hares are taking over.

There is a custom of giving shijimi clam shells from Lake Shinji to the second rabbit for good luck in matchmaking.

“Give… me… your… SHIJIMIIIII…”

I don’t get it either.

The legend is also celebrated with a large statue on the ground of Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine. Hmmm… but what would little Onamuji be doing at Izumo Taisha?

Click photo for source.

Two thirds of the Kojiki myths take place in the San’in region. Though most of them take place in the Izumo region (primarily modern the cities/towns of Izumo, Matsue, Unnan, and little bits of Okuiizumo and Yasugi), the White Hare of Inaba–Inaba-no-Shirousagi–takes place primarily on the eastern end of modern day Tottori in what used to be known as Inaba Province. The name makes my inner Persona 4 fan smile, but the name typically only remains as a general area name rather than a town itself (though there are districts in larger cities in other prefectures called Inaba, too). The white hare itself is originally from the Oki Islands, which you can read more about in this entry. Izumo still has a guest mention in this myth, as Onamuji and his 80 brothers are originally from Izumo.

While the actual location of the hare’s entry point on the mainland and godly encounters are fairly definitive, I haven’t found any materials indicating his point of departure from Oki. Based on the point of the island located closest to the Tottori shore, Daft Logic says it would be a 109.449 kilometer journey in a straight line. What’s more, if the hare’s fur was already white, then it would have been winter at the time. Talk about a brisk journey! And how about counting those sharks/crocadiles? If we were to assume a meter for each of them, then that’s 109,449 sharks/crocodiles. I think it’s fairly safe to assume the hare wasn’t counting.

I decided to have this blog cover the whole San’in region instead of just the Izumo region specifically to include this story in the Kojiki narrative, but I have to admit I still have yet to visit eastern Tottori, the Oki Islands, or for that matter, anything west of Hamada in Shimane. The Izumo region is where I gather most of my material, and I’m a touch biased. I meant to take my own photos though, really! For this entry, you’ll have to bare with borrowed photos, and I’ll focus on other sights when I eventually get to Tottori-shi and the Oki Islands myself.

First off, a huge thank-you to Bernice at Made in Matsue for letting me use some of her photos. Please check out her entries for more photos of Hakuto Beach and Hakuto Shrine.

Hakuto Beach is where the white hare was said to arrive, lose his fur, get fooled by the 80 brothers, and finally have his encounter with Onamuji. The place where the potential suitors met Yagami-hime is likely close to there, and though it is not explicit, it’s probably okay to assume she lived in or somewhere around Menuma Shrine, which is dedicated to her.


Thanks, Bernice!


Thanks, Bernice!

Hakuto Shrine, the shrine across the road from the beach, is said to be the specific place where the hare met Onamuji and healed himself in the Mitarashi Pond. As this is a shrine dedicated to the hare, it is also an En-musubi shrine, as well as a shrine to go to ask for healing from skin diseases. This also the sight of the most photographed statue of Onamuji and the hare (there are a handful of other statues in the Izumo region, too).

Thanks, Bernice!


Thanks, Bernice!

According to this 6 minute Japanese video about visiting the shrine, a special En-musubi custom of the shrine is to purchase a bag of white stones (five for 500 yen), and try to toss them on top of the stone torii gate. If it lands on top, your wish will be granted for sure. Otherwise, just leave the stone with the rabbit for good luck. This is just one of many, many special shrine customs in addition to the usual omikuji, ema, and omamori customs common to just about any Shinto shrine. En-musubi customs are especially popular.

Those are the primary points to cover for where the legend actually is said to take place. The Izumo region, though it is home to Yamata-no-Orochi and Yomi legends as well as legends I haven’t even touched on yet, doesn’t let the Inaba keep its claim to Kojiki fame. No, the hare has left its mark everywhere on this side of the region. Apparently it was a well traveled little hare, but if it hopped across over 100,000 beastsworth of sea, I supposed it’s not surprising it if made a tour around other parts of ancient Japan.

Continued from Part 4








Onamuji’s adventures will continue in later stories from the Kojiki. In November, be on the look out for photos of places where this story took place, as well as the influence it still has on the San’in region! The white hare is everywhere.

Learn about the sites associated with this legend!
White Hare in Tottori
White Hare in Shimane

Or start reading the next story!
The Kunibiki (land-pulling) legend starts here.
(Or you can skip ahead to Onamuji’s next appearance)

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

Continued from Part 3








Continued in Part 5

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Continued in Part 4

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Continued in Part 3

















Continued in Part 2