izumo


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Izumo, the origin of Japan where important rituals are held.

Once upon a time the god Okuninushi-no-kami ruled the land of Izumo, but the sun God Amaterasu-omikami thought that her child should govern the land of “Ashihara-no-nakatsu-kuni,” the present Izumo.

※There are several interpretations of Ashihara-no-nakatsu-kuni, but we will refers to Izumo this time.

Amaterasu-omikami sent Amenohohi to the land and ordered him to make all Gods obey, but Amenohohi eventually became loyal to and a follower of Okuninushi-no-kami, and never returned home.

After that, Amaterasu sent Amenowakahiko, but he fell in love with a daughter of Okuninushi-no-kami, and built a new home there for them to live. Amaterasu then sent a Japanese pheasant to check on what was going on, but Amenowakahiko shot the bird.

Seeing that the pheasant didn’t return, Amaterasu sent two powerful Gods, Takemikazuchi and quick-footed Amenotorifune, to solve the problem by force.

These two Gods landed on Inasa-no-hama, the beach at Izasa in Izumo, planted their swords in the sand, and sat cross-legged on the edge of each sword.

They said angrily, “We were sent by Amaterasu and she says that “Ashihara-no-nakatsu-kuni” (or current Izumo) should be governed by her child, what do you think?”
Okuninushi-no-kami replied, “I can’t make that decision, my son Kotoshironushi will get back to you, because he is out fishing and catching birds at Miho-no-misaki point.” Takemikazuchi let Amenotorifune go to Kotoshironushi’s and asked about giving control of the land away to Amaterasu’s child, and he replied “If you insist, I’ll give control of the land to Amaterasu’s child.”

Okuninushi-no-kami’s other son Takeminataka showed up holding a big rock and said, “If you want this land, let us see which of us is the strongest.” He threw the rock, and grabbed Takemikazuchi’s arm.

At that moment, Takemikazuchi’s arm turned into a sharp sword of ice. Takeminataka was surprised. Takamikazuchi then grabbed his arm and tossed Takeminataka, causing him to run away in terror.

Takemikazuchi chased after him and cornered him in the Shinano Province (currently lake Suwa).
Takeminataka begged for his life and said, “I won’t leave Suwa and I’ll give you Izumo, just spare me my life!”

Takemikazuchi went back to Izumo and told Okuninushi-no-kami about it. Okuninushi-no-kami said, “As you insist, I’ll give you the land, but I want you to build a big temple like the one Amaterasu has in Takaamahara.”

Takemikazuchi accepted his offer and built a big shrine for him.

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Demanding the sovereignty, negotiating with power, and making deals are all what great and unique Gods have done during the creation of Japan. What can we learn from this great story?

This myth is written in “Kojiki” and “Nihonshoki,” the oldest Japanese chronicles published during the Nara period (592-710).
Sometimes Gods fight with an eight-headed dragon or visit the underworld to chase after their dead wives, which sounds unrealistic, but this “Kuni-Yuzuri myth” actually feels very human-like to us.

Okuninushi-no-kami tried to resist Amaterasu’s offer and told his children what to do.

When Kotoshironushi was fishing and contemplating the offer, Takeminataka challenged him to see which of them is the strongest. These two children are depicted in contrast.

It’s fun to read how Takeminataka is cornered in Shinano and it’s the highlight of the story.

In the end, Okuninushi-no-kami had to give up the land and negotiated a new shrine to be built.
This newly built shrine is said to be the Izumo-taisha Shrine.

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It’s an interesting tale in which someone can see that Gods have issues like territorial and negotiation conflicts that are repeated throughout our history.

How about walking on the beach of Inasa-no-hama while thinking about Amaterasu, who desperately wanted Izumo, Kotoshironushi, who would easily gave up the land, Takeminataka, who tried to save the land and ended up losing Izumo, and Okuninushi-no-kami who accept the agreement.

Okuninushi is “Daikoku-sama,” who is famously known for his fat appearance, holding a beetle, and sitting on a straw rice bag. Kotoshironushi is “Ebisu-sama,” who is famously known for his appearance, holding a sea bream and a fishing rod. Don’t you think it’s interesting that these two Gods are actually family?

※This article is featured by “Izumo Guide,” a website introducing recommended places to visit at Izumo.
For more info about sightseeing in Izumo, click here (Written in Japanese only).

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AUTHOR

HATSU

HATSU

Editor / Writer

I’m from Mie Prefecture, and a big fan of Yomiuri Giants, Japanese baseball team! I rarely stay at home every weekend, and love to go outside. I feel Japanese locals and the world will be connected soon! I’m trying to make a fun world!

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