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.






Continued from Part 2




Recall who Kotoshironushi is here.

Recall the Cape of Miho here.

The Hii River has shown up in many legends, as it was home to the Yamata-no-Orochi and a love-struck crockasharkagator swam up it. Back then, it fed out into the ocean, but after centuries of land reform and water control, this part of the Hii River is now Lake Shinji, the Ohashi River, Lake Nakaumi, and Miho Bay.



It was actually much more complicated than that. Kojiki scholars have spent a lot of time on this passage.



Continued in Part 4

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!