Although the tale of Kaka-no-Kukedo, the birthplace of the primary deity of Sada Shrine, is a more riveting tale, I included another Izumo-no-Kuni Fudoki legend in this story. The Fudoki (like 8th century encyclopedias of Japan) in part set out to determine names for all the major geographical features of the country, which included assigning fortuitous kanji (Chinese written characters) for them. Quite often, the names they chose required some mythological background.

This is case, a village derived its name from a little bird.

Read about this bird’s role in Japanese culture here.

The Cettia diphone, clumsily translated as the Japanese Bush Warbler or Japanese nightingale, is simpler to refer to as the known here as uguisu (鶯). In ancient times, it used to be called a houki-dori, a Houki bird (法吉鳥). The legend states that Umugi-hime (sometimes known as Umuka-hime while her sister Kisagai-hime is sometimes known as Kisaka-hime) changed into a Houki bird’s form and flew to that place. Hence, it was called Houki Village (法吉郷).

Years later, the written characters remained, but their pronunciation changed to Hokki. This district of Matsue remainds under that name, and also retains an uguisu as its symbol.

There is, of course, a shrine dedicated to Umugi-hime, though it has changed locations from Uguisu Valley to a spot with a better vantage point. Seeing as she and her sister made their big appearance in the Kojiki when they answered Onamuji’s mother’s pleas and healed his burns and brought him back to life, it is a shrine popularly associated with mothers’ love.




Nearby, there is a pond called Takido. It is said to have salt water because it is connected to the sea, and because many fish get lost there, you can catch quite the haul. Specifically, it is said to be connected to Kaka-no-Kukedo, but given the distance, I can’t help but find this a bit fishy.

Despite the self-proclaimed connection to uguisu (and for that matter, saltwater fish?), the area is probably better known for a good firefly viewing spot in summer.

Back when I found out I was going to live in Matsue, I read eight of Lafcadio Hearn‘s books in the span of a month to know about the city as he observed it back in the Meiji period. Eight books was a bit excessive. However, this passage from “Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan” (available for free here on the Gutenberg Project) stuck out and stuck with me:

But of all places, Kaka-ura! Assuredly I must go to Kaka. Few pilgrims go thither by sea, and boatmen are forbidden to go there if there be even wind enough ‘to move three hairs.’ So that whosoever wishes to visit Kaka must either wait for a period of dead calm—very rare upon the coast of the Japanese Sea—or journey thereunto by land; and by land the way is difficult and wearisome. But I must see Kaka. For at Kaka, in a great cavern by the sea, there is a famous Jizo of stone; and each night, it is said, the ghosts of little children climb to the high cavern and pile up before the statue small heaps of pebbles; and every morning, in the soft sand, there may be seen the fresh prints of tiny naked feet, the feet of the infant ghosts. It is also said that in the cavern there is a rock out of which comes a stream of milk, as from a woman’s breast; and the white stream flows for ever, and the phantom children drink of it. Pilgrims bring with them gifts of small straw sandals—the zori that children wear—and leave them before the cavern, that the feet of the little ghosts may not be wounded by the sharp rocks. And the pilgrim treads with caution, lest he should overturn any of the many heaps of stones; for if this be done the children cry.
(Lafcadio Hearn, 1894)

There are two famous caves in Kaka-no-Kukedo, the caves of Kaka. The more broadly advertised one is the “Shin-Kukedo” (“new cave,” or a pun on “cave of the god”), which is where the legend of Sada-no-Okami’s birth took place. The less advertised but nonetheless very well know cave is the “Kyu-Kudedo” (“old cave”), as Hearn described. Today, it is still almost exactly as Hearn described. He is one of many writers who have been attracted to these caves.

This description left such an impression on me that as soon as I heard it still existed, I made it my goal to take the boat tour out to see it. The 50-minute tour runs eight times a day March through November, however, just as in Hearn’s day, it can easily be cancelled if it’s too windy. Going far out to sea, or trying to navigate through the cave, is difficult in rough waters.

I had to try a lot longer than Hearn did to finally make this trip.

Every time I’d make plans with my friends, something would fall through. Either we didn’t plan in time to make it before the end of the season, or there was suddenly pouring rain the day we decided to go, or someone would suddenly fall ill. A few friends who had originally volunteered to go later admitted that they were afraid to go because they might see a ghost there. With so many things out of my control keeping me from getting there, it was tempting to think that maybe it really was haunted.

At last, towards the end of last year’s season, the tour finally (barely) worked out! Sort of… the waves were too high to do the full tour, so we had a slight discount. I was not going to let that chance slip me by, though, so I did the partial tour.

It departs from Marine Plaza in northern Matsue, near an active fishing port and a popular camping island called Katsurajima.

The first stop is the old cave, where the spirits of departed children are said to be hard at work. The boat stops a little ways away, and those who wish to see it can go down a long tunnel with alcoves filled with Jizo statues (at which, the tour operators leave incense while passengers are look around), and then walk around the cave. Jizo is a Buddha of mercy often thought of as a patron of children.

The waves only reach so far inside, and the cave goes fairly deep, beyond where the light can reach. As far as my eyes could make out, the countless little towers of rocks and Jizo statues and offerings went as far back as there was space to put them. A bat flapped around towards the interior parts of cave, and all was quiet.

For as many tries as it had taken me to observe this place, there were many, many grieving parents from who knows how far who had come here to leave a gift for their child, and perhaps construct a tower of rocks to spare them a bit of labor. Among the Jizo statues, there were recent, old, and likely many decades worth of perserved silk flowers, origami cranes, juice boxes and bottles of tea and cans of soda, shoes, toys, and other personal belongings. Although I can see why others would see it that way, I did not find this place creepy. However, there was a weight of sadness and sympathy coupled with a curious wonder at how far these parents had come out of their way to give their children whatever comfort they could.

After that, we went back through the tunnel and to the boat to continue on to a place of new life. Recorded in the 8th century Izumo-no-Kuni Fudoki as the birthplace of Sada-no-Okami, primary deity at the influential Sada Shrine, it is only accessible by boat.

However, if the waves are too high, it’s not accessible at all. I had to settle for seeing the outside and imagining the supposedly wonderous view of light from the inside. It seems the best time of year to go is during a short period of time in midsummer when there are special sunrise tours to see the sun rise through the view of the hole. I guess it’s hard to say I did the tour when I only got to see the cave from outside. And apparently this year they’ve started offering an 80-minute tour of several other caves in the area, too! Maybe if I had just been a little more patient…

But hey, watching the waves crash against the rocks was neat and all.


I even got a good view of Mato-jima, the “target island” Baby Sada practiced his archery on!

And riding the waves out there was fun!

While this is the main stage of this legend, there is a spot further inland that I’ll introduce next time.

Continued from Part 1





This is not a joke I made up. It states in the legend that the wrong bow came back first, yet no one seems to find this odd after her brazen declaration.








That is a joke referencing a popular deity in Amaterasu’s story whom I have not introduced in my comics.

That concludes the Fudoki specials! The next story, cutting back to the Kojiki plot, will be the final one in this series.

Learn about the sites associated with this legend!
The marine caves of Kaka-no-Kukedo
Hokki Shrine
Sada Shrine: The basics
Sada Shrine architecture
Sada Shin Noh, UNESCO Intangible World Heritage at Sada Shrine

Or start reading the next story!
Amaterasu demands that Okuninushi give up his land

(Note: This is local mythology that fits in alongside the Shinto legends known throughout the country, but it was recorded in the Izumo-no-Kuni-Fudoki (Chronicles of Ancient Izumo, 713-733 AD) as opposed to the Kojiki (711-712 AD) or Nihonshoki (720 AD).)

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

This is local mythology that fits in alongside the Shinto legends known throughout the country, but it was recorded in the Izumo-no-Kuni-Fudoki (Chronicles of Ancient Izumo, 713-733 AD) as opposed to the Kojiki (711-712 AD) or Nihonshoki (720 AD). This is the legend of a spot in northern Matsue, along the coast of the Sea of Japan.


Recall how they rescued crispy Onamuji.










To be continued…

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.

—–

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.

Ginger has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes across many cultures, and Japan is no exception. In fact, the variety of ginger grown in Izumo’s Shussai region around the bed of the Hii River was mentioned in the 8th century records of the region, the Izumo-no-Kuni Fudoki. The Fudoki were like encyclopedias of every region of Japan, and were a massive project. Despite the years of work poured into them, most have been lost or are largely incomplete. Only the Izumo-no-Kuni Fudoki is mostly intact, so we know about 8th century life in this region in the most detail (and on that note, the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo, near Izumo Taisha, is a must-see for ancient history nerds).

When I’m not spending winter being a history nerd, I’m spending it whining about the cold. However, since incorporating more ginger into my diet, I’ve found I’m not as bothered. In addition to heating properties, I also drink ginger tea to soothe my throat after days of relentless interpreting or going all-out at karaoke. It tastes a little strong to drink ginger tea straight and it takes some getting used to, but I am a big fan of the local brands–they are so much more potent than the generic ones! You only have to drink it once when you have a bad cold to be a believer.

This is because Izumo Ginger–more properly referring to as Shussai Shouga–is like ginger with a power-up in both health and taste. This might make you think of a burly root that looks like a body builder, but it more so resembles a young maiden. The color is fair and the fibers are finer than they are in other types of ginger, making for a softer texture when used in recipes.

Click for source.

No one knows for sure why the ginger grown around this spot is super ginger in a pretty package. Some think it’s because of the properties of the soil or the waters of the Hii River floating in from the Chugoku Mountains on their way to Lake Shinji, but even the farmers aren’t entirely sure.

This spot is very close to Yunokawa Onsen, one of the top beauty onsen of Japan. Therefore, the Michi-no-Eki (like a rest stop and local products center rolled into one) is filled with ginger products–everything from ice cream (no surprise) to cookies to curry. Mmm, curry. Yum. The thought is that taking a dip in the onsen and enjoying cooking with the ginger warms you up through and through, and the warm and fuzzy feeling is aptly described by the Japanese onomatopoeia: poka-poka~~

I live closer to Matsue Shinjiko Onsen instead, and with it the furthest east station on the Ichibata Railway line, Matsue Shinjiko Onsen Station. There is a cafe facing the taxi stand called “Gallery Fleur.” This is my recommended spot to chill (or warm up) while waiting for a train to Izumo.

This is where I go for ginger curry. I repeat: yum.

While I’m still on the topic of ancient history, Japan is often criticized for not having much in the way of cheese, but they already had their own version of cheese back in the 8th century–and I bring it up because it’s one the menu here. It was called so, was soft and slightly crumbly and full of protein, and had a slightly sweet taste. It’s usually much darker than this. Even though I tend to be apprehensive about offensive cheeses, my inner history nerd could not pass up the desire the try it. This felt like a large serving, but it was alright. It reminded me of other cheeses and yogurts, but it’s hard to compare to anything specific.


Fleur also sells an array of decorative items (the layout is different every time I go), and a number of Shussai Shouga products, including the ginger tea I like available by the single pouch instead of in bulk like it would be sold in local product centers and gift stores. The lady who runs the place is very nice and frequently throws in something extra, like ginger candies. They also have a lot of information about Ichibata Yakushi Temple and the Izumonukuni Shinbutsu Reijyo pilgrimage, which combines both Shinto and Buddhist sites.


You can find Shussai Shouga candies, baked goods, teas–or even ginger wine!–at retail-centric places, or purchase the ginger stalks and root whole for pickling in soy sauce as a topping to go with rice. Although I prefer the straight ginger-flavored products, there is a type of ginger red tea in tea bag form that makes me giggle: “Izanami‘s Tears.” I guess being an inhabitant of Yomi made those tears pretty spicy.

The title is a bit of a mouthful, and it’s also in reference to a mouth–the shita in Oni-no-Shitaburui means “tongue.”

Why? Because the ogre (oni) is flapping his tongue around like water.

See the face?

Welcome to one of my favorite hiking spots in the San’in region, found in the heart of Okuizumo!


This is a roughly 3km long V-shaped valley, with a boulder-filled river at the bottom of the V.





Knowing the legend of the goddess Tamahime and the wani (crocodile… shark… thing) that loved her as recorded in the 8th century Izumo-no-Kuni Fudoki records, I went looking for what was left of this lovestruck and stuck beast.


This rock was supposed to be mean something… but I totally forgot what!




Rather than the archaic word wani, the area is now named after a Japanese beast of a different variety, an oni. They are horned creatures sometimes translated as “demon,” but I would prefer to call them ogres. Just because they don’t typically get along with humans throughout folklore doesn’t mean they’re evil, after all. But even if they’re misunderstood, you probably wouldn’t want to run into one all alone in the woods.

This particular oni is stuck in the river, and people say that this rocks looks like its face. Some people also loosely explain the name change as that the wani turned into an oni, but I don’t have any sources for this–it seems more likely that people just say that to tie up loose ends.

Though many locals know the love/hate story about the spot, the oni term is its common name, so after a nice hike you can enjoy lunch at nearby places with names like “Oni Soba” (because Izumo Soba is big here under any name).

Wait… what is that?


Aaaaaahhhh!!!!

Just another day in the myth-filled inaka.

This is local mythology that fits in alongside the Shinto legends known throughout the country, but it was recorded in the Izumo-no-Kuni-Fudoki (Chronicles of Ancient Izumo, 713-733 AD) as opposed to the Kojiki (711-712 AD) or Nihonshoki (720 AD). The manga this time is a single installment, and we’ll take a look at the associated geography in the following entry.


Don’t forget who Okuninushi is! He’ll continue to be important.
Why the ropes? That’s in reference to Kunibiki (start reading that story Fudoki story here.)



Recall that we first encountered these creatures in the story of the White Hare of Inaba. We’re fairly comfortable calling them sharks (in modern Japanese, same), but the word used in the archaic context is wani (translated from modern Japanese, “crocodile”).







Learn about the sites associated with this legend!
One of my favorite hiking spots in the San’in region, Oni-no-Shitaburui–where the crocasharkgator is stuck!

Or start reading the next story!
The rapid expansion of Okuninushi’s love life and rule over the land

(Note: This is local mythology that fits in alongside the Shinto legends known throughout the country, but it was recorded in the Izumo-no-Kuni-Fudoki (Chronicles of Ancient Izumo, 713-733 AD) as opposed to the Kojiki (711-712 AD) or Nihonshoki (720 AD).)

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

trials-shrines

Carrying on from where we left off, there was a gap of time between when Onamuji was revived the first time after his burning encounter with the red boar boulder, and when he was smashed inside a tree. As creative a murder method as that was, I can’t say I’ve found anything indicating which tree it is or what form it would be in now. Nor have I gone romping through the woods looking for suspiciously cut trees or tried replicating the set-up myself–as the saying goes in Japan, ii ko wa mane shinaide ne–“good kids won’t try this at home!”

In that time after his first revival, he was living with Yagami in semi-hiding in Owaimi Shrine, in modern-day Hino-cho, Tottori.

Click for source–and more photos! Pretty ginkgo leaves…

After his second revival, there was a brief detour I left out before Onamuji went to Ne-no-Kuni, but there wouldn’t have been any time to sit back and let his brothers start getting creative again. Speaking of wasting time, Suseri wasted no time in staking her claim on her husband, and then took his well-being into her hands right away.

On his first nights in Ne-no-Kuni, Susano-o had him sleep in rooms filled with poisonous pests, but Onamuji was protected by Suseri’s centipede, wasp, and snake-warding scarves. Since she lived among them it is not surprising that she’d have developed methods for keeping them from bugging her (ha!). She is still associated with this today at Tono Shrine in Daisen-cho, a shrine dedicated to her. Every April they hold a big festival to ward off poisonous pests and other unwanted bugs, and it is said that special sand from the shrine has this effect, too.

Though she was his second wife, Suseri would remain known as Okuninushi’s primary wife, and she was known for being quite jealous. Perhaps some of Okuninushi’s other wives stuck around longer despite Suseri, but Yagami was too delicate to last long. Later Japanese literature seems to suggest that another women’s jealousy was a legitimate cause of death, after all.

That may or may not make modern-day readers feel any more comfortable with Yagami abandoning a baby in the fork of a tree, though. Nevertheless, it seems it was a safe birth, and the child was well-adjusted enough to celebrated as a god of safe births and long life. Ki-no-mata was also known as Mii (referring to a well), and that is why a shrine in Izumo dedicated to him is called Mii Shrine. The three wells on the shrine grounds are said to have the provided the water Yagami used during childbirth. This page has a whole bunch of pretty pictures of the shrine, including of the wells and a statue of Yagami with newborn Ki-no-Mata/Mii.

There are more famous springs associated with Yagami and her journey, though! Those are yet to come.

The most recent installment of the Kojiki manga I wrote was rather long, but seeing as a lot of it takes place in the Underworld, I won’t be introducing that here (I staying in the world of the living, thanks).

That said, was Susano-o the lord of the Yomi, where his mother he so wanted to see was residing? Or is Ne-no-Kuni a different place? The interpretations of this vary. Some say he took over some sort of job for Izanami in the land of the dead, other say Ne-no-Kuni is different Underworld from Yomi and they just happen to share the same exit (which strikes me as funny that Onamuji/Okuninushi could escape so easily, seeing as Izanagi supposedly plugged that up). I’m inclined to say Yomi and Ne-no-Kuni are entirely different both just happen to be dark places under the normal realm, because although Izanami had become part of Yomi and, being a rotting corpse, could not reintegrate with this world, there was no such trouble for Okuninushi and Suseri. Whatever the case may be, the San’in region’s links to the Underworld(s) stand, and in addition to Yomotsu Hirasaka in southeastern Matsue, there is another cave in Izumo that, at least according to the Izumo Fudoki, claims a link to Yomi.

Back to the world of the living!

trials-shrines

Well, temporarily, seeing as we’re about to discuss the site of one of Onamuji’s deaths. Unwilling to settle for uncreative methods of killing their younger brother, the 80 nasty older brother kami first had him go boar hunting so as to run him over with a burning stone that is said to be a boar. This stone boar just so happens to be enshrined in Nanbu-cho, Tottori, or what would have been the land of Hoki back in the day (right in between Inaba, where they had all traveled to try to wed Yagami, and Izumo, where they were from).

Akaiwa Shrine, which literally means “red boar boulder” (赤猪岩), is dedicated to Okuninushi, and in the back of the shrine they have a fenced off boulder said to have been the one that burned him to death. It’s never said to have crushed him–it was the burns that did it. Such was how Umugi and Kisagai were able to heal him with skin treatments, which some say were based on ancient folk remedies used in real life. We’ll briefly touch of the two of them again in later stories.

Click for source–and more photos!


Here is the infamous boar… or… boulder. Boulders? Click for source, and more pictures!

Boars being boulders is not a terribly strange idea in the world of Japanese mythology. Ishinomiya Shrine, in the Shinji district of Matsue on the south banks of Lake Shinji, is another Okuninushi Shrine with similar features. The origins of the shrine can be found in the Izumo-no-Kuni Fudoki. Besides generally being an encyclopedia of all things Japan at the time they were written (8th century, same as the Kojiki and Nihonshoki), part of their purpose was to name all of the geographical features of Japan and provide reasoning for those names. We can perhaps assume this takes place once he’s already comfortably living at the foot of Mt. Uka. I’ve paraphrased the story below:

One day, Okuninushi, the lord of the land, went boar hunting with his dog. They were chasing two boars, but then those two boars turned to stone. The dog also turned to stone. The end.

So… cool story?

Beside the name left behind (Shinji (宍道) is derived from Shishiji, “the path the boars took” (猪の道)), we also have more boulders left behind!


It’s hard to tell, but there is quite a drop here–watch your step!


Okuninushi’s dog


Okuninushi’s dog


A boar… looks big enough to feed a lot of kami.


A boar… they don’t always look like this, but Shinji is still known for the boars that live there.

This story highlights yet another animal relationship Okuninushi had–he got along with dogs, too. Although images of Onamuji/Okuninushi with the White Hare of Inaba are the most ubiquitous, he is also frequently associated with rats, seeing as they saved his life. Therefore, some Okuninushi or En-musubi shrines tend to have rats–especially white rats–incorporated in to the art. As seen at Kanayago Shrine, though, they can also signify good luck just due to being numerous. (However, Kanayago, the god(dess) of iron-working, hated dogs.)

Back to the story of Onamuji being repeatedly picked on by his brothers and revived by his mother, when Umugi extracted milk from the clams, that wasn’t all she used–she also drew water from Shimizui–the “pure water well” nearby the site of the red boar boulder.

Click for source–and more photos!

Next time, we’ll look at some shrines associated with Okuninushi’s family (though I am not aware of any dedicated to his nasty brothers–or his saintly mother, for that matter).