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).

The road to hell is lined with good intentions, they say. Good intentions and flowers.

Following Part 1 of the trip to Higashi-Izumo, I took a short hike from Iya Shrine to Yomotsuhirasaka, otherwise known as the entrance to Yomi. There was no chance of getting lost, what with all the signs pointing to the underworld of filth and death (though that being said, there are two ways to get there–I took the spookier route on the way back to civilization).



Once you leave the main road and go up a steeper neighborhood road, Higashi-Izumo gets even more quaint. Who would expect the entrance to Yomi to be among such charming farming villas? Strangely quiet farming villas, but charming none the less.

Then I found Yomi, up the hill and at the end of the forest, next to an eeriely silent pond. There were two or three large orange and white koi swimming very slowly, but the surface of the water was never disturbed. Hmmm. Did Izanami keep pet fish?


And then I entered. Well, not Yomi itself, but the area that seals it.

There is a carved stone to state what the area is, and next to that is a regular-looking tree with an obscure label. It’s none other than the peach tree Izanagi took peaches from to throw at his pursuers from Yomi! Though the time I visited was not the season for peaches, it was looking fairly lively among the deathly atmosphere.


There is series of boulders after that, but I’m willing to bet it was the tallest one that Izanagi used to seal the entrance.

Suspiciously enough, you can walk all the way around this boulders–though Yomi is thought of a cave, these don’t lead to any apparent cave above ground! Was Izanagi’s aim that terrible? Well, I guess he deserves a little credit for moving it in the first place, and we can’t criticize a job half-way done. That entranced is used later on in the Kojiki anyway, so maybe it was Oonamuji’s mother who moved it out of its original place–oops, that’s a spoiler!

I choose the largest boulder based on the surroundings. Similar to how torii signify a separation between the mundane world and the pure space of a shrine, those trees seem a little suspicious. This is, however, just my own opinion and desire to find ways to tie up plot holes.

My spookiest experience of the day came right after I left Yomotsuhirasaka.

Having finished re-telling the story of Izanagi and Izanami, introducing some places associated with them should now make more sense. Some of places have not only been listed in the Kojiki and Nihonshoki, but have also been listed in the Izumo Fudoki. The Fudoki was like Japan’s first encyclopedia, written 713-733, and today the Izumo Fudoki is the only one remaining nearly fully intact. That means most of these places are really old and have fairly reputable roots, though it is worth noting the Shinto scholars’ impact in the Edo era (1603-1868) on cementing these places’ claims to Kojiki fame.

Manai Shrine (in red) is a shrine to Izanagi, Iya Shrine (blue) and Kamosu Shrine (purple) are both Izanami shrines, Izanami’s grave on Mt. Hiba (green) and final resting place of her soul on the restricted grounds of Kannoyama (yellow) are both relatively close by, but Yomotsuhirasaka (orange) in the Higashi-Izumo part of Matsue was what I was most interested in visiting.

Simply put, I live near the entrance to the underworld.

I started my Higashi-Izumo daytrip at Iya Station, where there is a friendly little place to kill time while waiting for the train, full of tourist information and ice cream and chatting old ladies and books–lots and lots of old books! This is the NPO known as Higashi-Izumo Machi no Eki: Metora, run by a kind lady happy to make your visit to hell–I mean, Higashi-Izumo–pleasant and well-informed. She named the place after a local kabuki actor from the Meiji era, Oonishi Seitarou, whose stage name was Metora (“Lady Tiger”).


The neighborhood is old and quiet, and definitely feels like a small town (which used to be a distinct municipality from Matsue, until a merger in 2011). It was a pleasant walk with a little Jizo shrine, flowers, and fish to discover–which I found so pleasant that I almost didn’t notice Iya Shrine when I passed by!





Iya Shrine, as stated before, is an Izanami shrine.

That being said, it’s not the most decadent shrine–even is the main building in which she is enshrined is hidden behind a bunch of trees, and the parts that you can walk right up to are very sparsely decorated.

Not that I am complaining–the atmosphere was very other-worldly, as Shinto shrines are set apart to be. Notice the mirror? In Shintoism, mirrors are frequently used instead of idols. Go ahead and take a minute to ponder that. Unlike shrines in more metropolitan areas, the torii here looked and felt old–just like the stone gaurdians at the entrance with their faces worn off by time. The gohei were also noticably unkempt.


Perhaps that atmosphere is appropriate, seeing as it can be considered a shrine of the dead–which I also find highly interesting, considering death is such a taboo impurity in Shinto shrines. Speaking of impurity, let’s take a trip to the entrance to Yomi in the next entry!

Continued from Part 5

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Here ends Izanagi and Izanami’s tragic love story, though the siblings have plenty of battles ahead of them.

Learn about the sites associated with this legend!
Iya Shrine
Yomotsu Hirasaka (the gates to Yomi)
Kamosu Shrine
Manai Shrine

Or start reading the next story!
Start reading Susano-o’s story and how he fought the Yamata-no-Orochi.

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

Continued from Part 4










Continued in Part 6 (the conclusion)!

Continued from Part 3

Continued here in Part 5!

Continued from Part 2

Continued here in Part 4!

Continued from Part 1



Yes, you could think of Yomi quote simply as “hell”–as in, the place everyone is doomed to go to once they leave the world of the living.


In same ways, being in Yomi is like still being alive, because you have a body and there is food to eat, but unlike the living world, it’s unclean and filled with not very handsome creatures. In Shinto, cleanliness is practically a moral code, so that makes it a despicable place.







Continued here in Part 3!