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.

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

Continued from Part 2
















Continued in Part 4

Continued from Part 1


Historically, there was tension between the Izumo and Yamato regions. We’ll touch more on this in a later story.









Continued in Part 3


A.K.A. Onamuji–refresh yourself on the stories of Okuninushi starting here and here.













According to the Kunibiki legend, there’s a good reason why Mihonoseki looks like Koshi.

Continued in Part 2

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

You’ll notice Japan has a lot of “Top 3” lists. There’s not really any ranking within these lists–if something is in the top three, it does not mean it’s a kind way of saying third place, it means it shares first place with two others of its kind. Of course, you’ll notice that has expanded into “Top 100” lists, at which point I think it’s getting a little out of hand, but there are probably already hundreds of “Top 3” lists to begin with. I guess it just means that you can find a “Top 3” list to suit any of your needs.

And if beauty onsen happen to be among your needs, allow me to introduce you to one of those “Top 3”, Yunokawa Onsen, south of Lake Shinji and five minutes away from Izumo Airport! (Not be confused with Yunokawa Onsen in Hokkaido!)

Click for source

This post is following up two other posts introducing the other places associated with this myth.

This post is following up two other posts introducing the other places associated with this myth.

I cannot take credit for this discovery–rather, Princess Yagami herself was said to have found spied this onsen on her way to Izumo, and she happily refreshed herself from the long journey so she could look beautiful in front of her husband–but we all know how that worked out. Stories go on to saw that she stopped there on the way back as well and nursed her broken heart, but was able to start fresh both body and soul afterward–with lovely silky smooth and springy skin, of course.

But hold up… where in the Kojiki did it say that? Or in the Nihonshoki, the more political history-book like of the two? Or was it in the Izumo Fudoki?

This legend is much more recent, perhaps as late as the Edo period. A lot of people were coming up with new interpretations of the Kojiki around those times, so in wider culture, you tend to be left with a mash-up of interpretations about just which kami is actually which kami. Although there have been movements to go back to the original text and reanalyze it in purely linguistic methods (which, depending on whether you’re reading for the character for their meaning or their sound, could give you very different results!), the interpretation of the Kojiki has constantly been evolving, and this piece of cultural canon is so attached to the original Kojiki story that, at least in terms of general cultural use, it’s not worth trying to separate them.

The crystal clear water is rich in sodium and calcium, and it is classified as both a sulphate and chloride type onsen. Chloride onsen tend to warm up your body even faster, so although this lets your skin soak in the minerals, just make sure to stay hydrated and don’t pass out! But that applies at every onsen, though you’ll notice some are especially hot while others are more lukewarm. At least when I went, it was just right for a rather lengthy evening soak outside in the cool night air.

Nestled among the mountains, it’s the perfect spot for a quiet onsen getaway, though if you’re just in for a brief stop, there is a day-trip onsen for ¥500 at Hikawa Bijin no Yu. On your way out, be sure to stop at the Michi-no-Eki (like a rest stop, only much nicer) next to the statue of Yagami by the entrance to the onsen area. Izumo is also famous for ginger, which also has body warming properties, so in addition to ginger products on sale, they also serve ginger curry–that way you can warm yourself up from inside and out! The ginger tea or candy is easier to take home, though~

I must be a bit biased because I continue to mention Tamatsukuri Onsen almost every time I mention an onsen–the bath of the gods may not be in this particular “Top 3” list, but it was listed as one of the “Top 3” onsen in Sei Shonagon’s ever-famous “Pillow Book” record of courtly Heian life. That means we have two top onsen just south of Lake Shinji which the gods are said to frequent, and they’re a very short car-ride away from each other.

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).

Continued from Part 10






Recall how the White Hare served as matchmaker for these two.




This son would wind up being named after “a fork in a tree,” Ki-no-mata-no-kami.

For as long as this story was, there are surprisingly few places to introduce associated with it–but places exist nearby nonetheless! After all, Shinto shrines can be associated with very surprising things.

I’m planning on some more short stories, especially with material from the Izumo Fudoki, to intersperse with the following Kojiki stories. Okuninushi will continue to be a main character–after all, being the lord of the land has a way of propelling one into main character status in many legends.

Learn about the sites associated with this legend!
Akaiwa Shrine, Shimizui, and Ishinomiya Shrine
Oiwami Shrine, Tono Shrine, and Mii Shrine
Yunokawa Onsen
And good old Yomotsu Hirasaka, the entrance to Yomi

Or start reading the next story!
The short story of a lovestruck (and stuck) Crocasharkagator
(Or you can continue following Okuninushi’s adventures)

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