Ancient Japan

Shinto Creation Stories

The Conquest of the Land of Reed-Plains

   Masa-ya-a-katsu-katsu-haya-hi ama no oshi-ho-mi-mi no Mikoto, 1 the son of Ama-terasu no Oho-kami, 2 took to wife Taku-hata-chi-chi-hime, 3 daughter of Taka-mi-musubi no Mikoto. 4

   A child was born to them named Ama-tsu-hiko-hiko ho-no-ninigi no Mikoto. 5 Therefore, his august grandparent, Taka-mi-musubi no Mikoto, treated him with special affection and nurtured him with great regard. Eventually he desired to establish his august grandchild Ama-tsu-hiko-ho-ho-ninigi no Mikoto as the Lord of the Central Land of Reed-Plains. 6 But in that Land there were numerous Deities which shone with a luster like that of fireflies, and there were evil Deities which buzzed like flies. There were also trees and herbs all of which could speak.

   Therefore Taka-mi-musubi no Mikoto assembled all the eighty Gods, and inquired of them, saying,

   "I desire to have the evil Gods of the Central Land of Reed-Plains expelled and subdued. Who should we send for this purpose? I pray you, all you Gods, do not conceal your opinion."

   They all said, "Ama-no-ho-hi no Mikoto is the most heroic among the Gods. Should we not try him? "

   Taka-mi-musubi no Mikoto then complied with the general advice and commanded Ama-no-ho-hi no Mikoto to go and subdue them. This Deity, however, curried favor with Oho na-mochi no Mikoto, 7 and three years passed without his making any report. Therefore his son Oho-se-ihi no Mikuma no ushi 8 (also called Take-mikuma no ushi) 9 was sent. He, too, yielded compliance to his father and never made any report.

   Taka-mi-musubi no Mikoto therefore again summoned together all the Gods and inquired of them who should be sent. They all said, "Ame-waka-hiko, 10 son of Ame no Kuni-dama. 11 He is a brave person. Let him be tried."

   After this advice, Taka-mi-musubi no Mikoto gave Ame-waka hiko a heavenly deer-bow and heavenly feathered arrows, and so dispatched him. This God also was disloyal, and as soon as he arrived took to wife Shita-teru-hime, 12 the daughter of Utsushi-kuni-dama 13 (also called Taka-hime or Waka-kuni dama). Accordingly he remained, and said, "I, too, wish to govern the Central Land of Reed-Plains." He never reported the result of his mission.

   At this time, Taka-mi-musubi no Mikoto, wondering why he was so long in coming and making his report, sent the pheasant Na-naki 14 to observe. The pheasant flew down and perched on the top of a many-branched cassia-tree which grew before Ame-waka-hiko's gate.

   Now Ama-no Sagu-me 15 saw this and told Ame-waka-hiko, saying, "A strange bird has come and is perched on the top of the cassia tree."

   Then Ame-waka-hiko took the heavenly deer-bow and the heavenly feathered arrows which had been given him by Taka-mi-musubi no Mikoto, and shot the pheasant so that it died.

   When the arrow passed through the pheasant's breast, it came before the place where Taka-mi-musubi no Kami was sitting. Then Taka-mi-musubi no Kami seeing this arrow said, "This arrow I formerly gave to Ame-waka-hiko. It is stained with blood,—it may be because he has been fighting with the Earthly Deities."

   After saying this, Taka-mi-musubi no Mikoto took up the arrow and flung it back down to earth. This arrow, when it fell, it hit Ame-waka-hiko on the top of his breast. At this time Ame-waka-hiko was lying down after the feast of first-fruits, and when hit by the arrow died immediately. This was the origin of the general saying, "Fear a returning arrow."

   The sound of the weeping and mourning of Ame-waka-hiko's wife, Shita-teru-hime, reached Heaven. At this time, Ame no Kuni-dama, hearing the voice of her crying, straightway knew that her husband, Ame-waka-hiko, was dead, and sent down a swift wind to bring the body up to Heaven. Immediately a mortuary house was made in which the body was temporarily deposited. The river-geese were made the head-hanging bearers 16 and broom-bearers. 17

   One version is: "The barn-door fowls were made head hanging bearers, and the river-geese were made broom bearers."

   The sparrows were made pounding-women. 18

   One version is: "The river-geese were made head-hanging bearers and also broom-bearers, the kingfisher was made the representative of the deceased, the sparrows were made the pounding-women, and the wrens the mourners. 19 Altogether the assembled birds were entrusted with the matter."

   For eight days and eight nights they wept and sang dirges. 20

   Before this, when Ame-waka-hiko was in the Central Land of Reed-Plains, he was on terms of friendship with Aji-suki-taka hiko-ne no Kami. 21 Therefore Aji-suki-taka-hiko-ne no Kami ascended to Heaven and offered condolences for his death.

   Now this God was exactly like in appearance to Ame-waka hiko when he was alive, and therefore Ame-waka-hiko's parents, relations, wife, and children all said, "Our Lord is still alive!" and clung to his garments and to his girdle, partly rejoiced and partly distracted.

   Then Aji-suki-taka-hiko-ne no Kami became flushed with anger and said, "The way of friends is such that it is right that mutual condolence should be made. Therefore I have not been daunted by the pollution, but have come from afar to make mourning. Why then should I be mistaken for a dead person?"

   So he drew his sword, Oho-ha kari, 22 which he had in his girdle, and cut down the mortuary house, which fell to earth and became a mountain. It is now in the province of Mino, by the upper waters of the River Ayumi. This is the mountain of Moyama ("mourning mountain"). This is why people take care not to mistake a living for a dead person.

   After this, Taka-mi-musubi no Mikoto again assembled all the Gods that they might select some one to send to the Central Land of Reed-Plains. They all said, "It will be well to send Futsu-nushi no Kami, 23 son of Iha-tsutsu no wo and Iha-tsutsu no me, 24 the children of Iha-saku-ne-saku no Kami." 25

   Now there were certain Gods dwelling in the Rock-cave of Heaven, that is, Mika no Haya-hi no Kami, 26 son of Idzu no wo bashiri no Kami, 27 Hi no Haya-hi no Kami, 28 son of Mika no Haya-hi no Kami, and Take-mika-dzuchi no Kami, 29 son of Hi no Haya-hi no Kami. The latter God came forward and said, "Is Futsu-nushi no Kami alone to be considered a hero? And am I not a hero?"

   His words were animated by a spirit of indignation. He was therefore allied with Futsu-nushi no Kami and made to subdue the Central Land of Reed-Plains. The two Gods immediately descended and arrived at the Little Shore of Itasa, in the Land of Izumo. 30 Then they drew their ten-span swords, and stuck them upside down in the earth, and sitting on their points questioned Oho-na-mochi no Kami, saying, "Taka-mi musubi no Mikoto wishes to send down his August Grandchild to preside over this country as its Lord. He has therefore sent us two Gods to clear out and pacify it. What is your intention? Will you stand aside or not?"

   Then Oho-na-mochi no Kami answered and said, "I must ask my son before I reply to you."

   At this time his son Koto-shiro-nushi no Kami was absent on an excursion to Cape Miho in the Land of Izumo, where he was amusing himself by angling for fish.

   Some say: "He was amusing himself by catching birds."

   He therefore took the many-handed boat of Kumano, and placing on board of it his messenger, Inase-hagi, 31 he disspatched him, and announced to Koto-shiro-nushi no Kami the declaration of Taka-mi-musubi no liami. He also inquired what language he should use in answer.

   Now Koto-shiro nushi no Kami spoke to the messenger, and said, "The Heavenly Deity has now addressed us this inquiry. My father should respectfully withdraw—I will make no opposition."

   So he made in the sea an eight-fold fence of green branches, and stepping on the bow of the boat, went off. The messenger returned and reported the result of his mission.

   Then Oho-na mochi no Kami said to the two Gods, in accordance with the words of his son, "My son, on whom I rely, has already departed. I, too, will depart. If I were to make resistance all the Gods of this Land would certainly resist also. But as I now respectfully withdraw, who else will be so bold as to refuse submission?"

   So he took the broad spear which he had used as a staff when he was pacifying the land and gave it to the two Gods, saying, "By means of this spear I was at last successful. If the Heavenly Grandchild will use this spear to rule the land, he will undoubtedly subdue it to tranquillity. I am now about to withdraw to the concealment of the short-of-a hundred eighty road-windings."

   Having said these words, he at length became concealed. After this, the two Gods put to death all the rebellious spirits and Deities.

   One version says, "The two Gods at length put to death the malignant Deities and the tribes of herbs, trees and rocks. When all had been subdued, the only one who re fused submission was the Star-God Kagase-wo. 32 Therefore they sent the Weaver-God Take-ha-dzuchi no Mikoto also, upon which he rendered submission. The two Gods therefore ascended to Heaven."

   Ultimately they reported the result of their mission.

Translated by W.G. Aston, Nihongi (London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1896), 64-70

Edited by Richard Hooker



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The Coming of the August Grandchild to Japan


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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 9-20-97