Ancient Japan

Shinto Creation Stories

Sosa no wo in Izumo

   Then Sosa no wo no Mikoto descended from Heaven and proceeded to the head-waters of the River Hi, in the province of Izumo. 1 At this time he heard a sound of weeping at the head-waters of the river, and he went in search of the sound. He found there an old man and an old woman. Between them was set a young girl, whom they were caressing and lamenting over. Sosa no wo no Mikoto asked them, saying, "Who are you and why do you grieve in this way?"

   The answer was, "I am an Earth Deity, and my name is Ashi nadzuchi. 2 My wife's name is Te-nadzuchi. 3 This girl is our daughter, and her name is Kushi-nada-hime. 4 The reason we're weeping is that formerly we had eight children, all daughters. But they have been devoured year after year by an eight-forked serpent and now the time approaches for this girl to be devoured. There is no means of escape for her and so we grieve."

   Sosa no wo no Mikoto said, "If that is so, will you give me your daughter "

   He replied, and said, "I will comply with your request and give her to you."

   Therefore Sosa no wo no Mikoto on the spot changed Kushi-nada-hime into a many-toothed close-comb which he stuck in the august knot of his hair. Then he made Ashi-nadzuchi and Te-nadzuchi to brew eight-fold sake, to make eight cupboards, in each of them to set a tub filled with sake, and so to await the arrival of the serpent.

   When the time came, the serpent appeared. It had an eight-forked head and an eight-forked tail; its eyes were red, like the winter-cherry and on its back firs and cypresses were growing. As it crawled it extended over a space of eight hills and eight valleys. Now when it came and found the sake, each head drank up one tub, and it became drunk and fell asleep. Then Sosa no wo no Mikoto drew the ten-span sword which he wore and chopped the serpent into small pieces.

   When he came to the tail, the edge of his sword was slightly notched, and he therefore split open the tail and examined it. In the inside there was a sword This is the sword which is called Kusa-nagi no tsurugi. 5

   In one writing it is said: "Its original name was Ama no Mura-kumo no tsurugi." 6

   Sosa no wo no Mikoto said, "This is a divine sword. How can I presume to keep it for myself?" So he gave it up to the Gods of Heaven.

   After this he went in search of a place where he might celebrate his marriage, and at length came to Suga, in the province of Izumo. Then he spoke, and said, "My heart is refreshed." Therefore that place is now called Suga. 7

   There he built a palace.

   One version says, " Now Take Sosa no wo no Mikoto composed a verse of poetry, saying,
Many clouds arise,
On all sides a manifold fence,
To receive within it the spouses,
The form a manifold fence,
Ah! that manifold fence!
   After this they had intercourse together and a child was born named Oho-na-muchi no Kami. 8

   Sosa no wo spoke and said, "The masters of my son's Palace are Ashi-nadzuchi and Te-nadzuchi. I therefore grant to these two Deities the designation of Inada no Miya-nushi no Kami." 9

   Having done so, Sosa no wo no Mikoto at length proceeded to the Underworld.

Translated by W.G. Aston, Nihongi (London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1896), 52-55

Edited by Richard Hooker



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Sosa no wo


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©1996, Richard Hooker

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Updated 6-6-1999