Amanoyasugawara in Takachiho

This is the 200th entry in this blog that was launched in October, 2010!!!

One of my dreams came true! I've been so desperate to visit Takachiho (高千穂), a town of Japan myths.

Takachiho district in Miyazaki Prefecture is said to be the place where, Ninigi (ニニギ), grandson of Amaterasu (アマテラス), descended from Taka-amahara (高天原) to the peak of Takachiho to govern the world. The mission is called "Tenson Kohrin" 天孫降臨" -天孫(Tenson: grandchild of AmaterasuNinigi降臨 (kohrin: descending from heaven).

It's still controversial where Takachiho is. In fact, there are numerous places (self-)proclaiming "Takachiho as the place where Ninigi descended" all over Japan. Surprisingly candidate exists even in Korea!!! Among them, Takachiho in Miyazaki Prefecture is widely recognized as highly likely the place...

To support Ninigi, several deities accompanied to complete his mission. That includes : Amano-koyane (天児屋命- ancestor deity of Nakatomi clan) , Futodama (フトダマ- ancestor deity of Inbe clan/忌部氏 and a son of Takami-musubi/タカミムスビ), Amano-uzume (アマノウズメ- ancestor deity of Sarumeno-kimi/猿女君), Ishikoritobe (イシコリトベ- deity specialized in mirror-making)

When Ninigi was commanded by Amaterasu to rule (= conquer) the world, Amaterasu bestowed him the three Sacred Treasures of Japan (Imperial regalia of Japan) that consist of Yata kagami/八咫鏡 (mirror), Ameno-murakumono-tsurugi/天叢雲剣 (sword) and Yasakanino-magatama/八尺瓊勾玉 (jewel). Then a couple of more deities are appointed to support Ninigi that are Omoikane (オモイカネ- a deity of intelligence), Ameno-tajikarao (アメノタヂカラヲ- deity of power) and Amano-iwatowake (あまのいわとわけ - a son of Futodama).

Let's assume that Takachiho in Miyazaki is the place of "Ninigi-descending" and move on to the other chapter in Japan myths, named Iwato Kakure (岩戸隠れ). 

Amano-iwato shrine (天岩戸神社), as the name says, is believed to be the place where Iwato Kakure took place. Amano-Iwato (天岩戸) literally means "The cave of the sun goddess" or "heavenly rock cave".

As a result of ritual celemony called "Ukei" (see more in detail in my old entry) made between Amaterasu and her younger brother, Susanowo, that Susanowo claimed himself to be the winner with no clear justification... Susanowo, a winner of a game, plunged himself into a series of unbearable, reckless and rowdy acts in Amaterasu's territory. Japan myths denote that Susanowo buried irrigation ditches along rice fields (causing rice drought to death), scattered his excretions (shxts) in Amaterasu's Palace (disgusting!!!) and so on. Amaterasu, however, didn't blame him and that stirred Susanowo's acts even worse.

One day when Amaterasu was in the weaver's building and knitted the robe to dedicate to the deity, Susanowo made a hall in the ceiling of weaver's building and threw the flayed (skin-peeled) horse through the hole. One of weavers is terrified with that and she passed away.

That was beyond Amaterasu's mercy. Instead of punishing him, Amaterasu decided to hide herself in the Ameno-Iwato cave named Gyoboga-iwaya (仰慕窟). The darkness and disasters overwhelmed an entire world because Amaterasu is considered to be a deity of the Sun(light).

Gyoboga-iwaya (仰慕窟)
Millions of deities got together at the Amano-yasugawara (天安河原) to solve the problem.

Omoikane (オモイカネ), a deity of intelligence, raised several ideas and asked other deities favors to performed several ritual ceremonies.
(1) Naganakidori (= long crowing roosters 長鳴鶏) are gathered.
(2) Find Amatsumara (天津麻羅: a specialist in metalsmith) to support Ishikoritobe to make Yata kagami (Imperial regalia. See above) from rocks and irons found in the upper stream of Amano-yasugawara.

Amano-yasugawara - a place to supply rocks and irons
(3) Tamaoya (玉祖命: literally means "ancestor deity of jewel") made Yasakanino-magatama (another Imperial regalia).
(4) Amano-koyane  and Futodama performed "Futomani (太占)", a traditional Shinto system of divination.
(5) Dig sakaki (Cleyera japonica tree/サカキ) in the soil, cut branches and hang Yata kagami, Yasakanino-magatama and fuhaku (= weaving/布帛) up on branches of sakaki tree. Futodama used this decoration as Gohei (=wooden wands/御幣)

Sakaki tree branches
(6) Amano-koyane addressed Norito (祝詞/= liturgical texts or ritual incantations). 
(7) Ameno-tajikarao stood by the side of Amano-iwato.
(8) Amano-uzume (female deity) performed an explicit dance that bursted all the participated deities into laughter. 

Her performance caught Amaterasu's attention!

Amaterasu opened the gate of Amano-iwato just a little bit and wondered. 

"What's going on outside of the world without me (sunlight)???"

Amano-uzume replied to Amaterasu that even superior deity have appeared at last since you've hidden yourself in the cave and we are grateful for that.

Amano-koyane and Futodama brought the mirror in front of Amaterasu. When Amaterasu saw her own face on the mirror, she misunderstood that what she sees in the mirror is the superior deity they mentioned. She, then, opened the door further to gaze superior deity. Now the space Amaterasu made is wide enough for Ameno-tajikarao to drag her out from the cave to outside of the world.

As soon as Amaterasu came out from the cave, Futodama fastened shimenawa (= enclosed rope/注連縄, meaning "Keep OUT") and begged Amaterasu not to hide herself again.


Eventually the world is lightened. 

When thinking about the cause of the disaster, it was all due to a series of unbearable misbehaviours of Susanowo. Numerous deities sentenced him a guilty to force him to shave his beard (a symbol of the power then) and tear all of his nails off from hands and feet as punishment. He was, eventually, exiled from Amaterasu's homeland (heaven).

Omoikane (思兼神) and numerous deities (八百萬神) are enshrined there
Whew!!! This is the introduction and background info about Amano-iwato.

In 1970 two shrines are combined and collectively called Amano-iwato shrine. It is comprised of two palaces - East (東本宮) and West Palace (西本宮).

Needless to say, the enshrined deity in Amano-iwato shrine on both palaces is Amaterasu, however, they employ different names of Amaterasu - Amaterasu-ohmikami (天照皇大神 - ancestor deity of the Sun in Japan Royal family) in East and Oh-hirume in West. Oh-hirume,大日孁尊, means 大/great, 日孁/noble miko serving to the Sun.  孁 is considered to be the same as 巫 in the past, meaning miko (巫女).

The West palace started its history as a place to worship Amano-yasugawara and the cave where Iwato Kakure took place.

Torii and hall in the cave
It's not clear when the shrine was launched but they say that the history started when Ninigi, who recalled what happened to Amaterasu there (Iwato Kakure), visited there and enshrined his grandmom, Amaterasu there.

Amano-yasugawara lied by the Iwato river - 500 meter away from the West Palace of Amano-iwato shrine. When there is a heavy rain, it is not accessible due to the increased mass of Iwato river. That happens from time to time, especially when typhoon arrives.

Visitors build a pile of pebbles there. Based on Wiki in Japanese, such custom started spontaneously after the World War II.

That really gives mysterious vibe there.

Thank you for reading (or scrolling down) to the end of 200th entry made by Shinto otaku!!!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on the 200th post! This is such a beautiful place, many of the names you mentioned I only know from Naruto :D I've finished watching the series/reading the manga... ^_^


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