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Tales of Okuninushi

The Trials of Okuninushi

When Okuninushi arrived in the Underworld, he met Suseri-hime, the daughter of Susano-o. They fell in love, and she took him to meet her father.

Susano-o decided to test Okuninushi. First, he decided to have him sleep in a room filled with snakes. Suseri-hime was worried about him, so she took her scarf and brought it to him, saying, “If any snake should try to bite you, wave this scarf three times.” So he did as she said, and the snakes froze in place and didn’t bite him. He was able to spend the night in the room without incident.

Next, Susano-o had Okuninushi stay in a room filled with centipedes and bees. So once again, Suseri-hime came to his aid. She gave him another scarf and said, “If any of these insects should come after you, wave this scarf three times.” When he did as she said, they became still and didn’t bite or sting him, and he was able to spend the night in that room without incident.

Susano-o then took Okuninushi to a big field. He shot an arrow into the air, and then told Okuninushi to bring it back to him. As Okuninushi went into the field, Susano-o set it on fire. Flames soon surrounded him. Just as he was about to give up hope, a mouse ran up to him and said, “Once inside, it’s big and hollow, but the entrance is narrow and tight.” Okuninushi realized what the mouse meant, and he stomped on the entrance to its nest. A large hole opened up and Okuninushi fell in.

The flames safely passed, and after some time, the mouse went out and found the arrow that Susano-o had shot into the field. Okuninushi brought the arrow back to Susano-o, and they went back to Susano-o’s home together. Then they went into a large room and sat down, after which Susano-o said, “Take the lice out of my hair.”

So Okuninushi started looking through Susano-o’s hair, and what he found was not lice, but a whole lot of centipedes! Once again, Suseri-hime came to help him, bringing him the berries of a muku tree and some red clay. Then she whispered in his ear, “Chew these berries and put this clay in your mouth, and then spit them out together. My father will think you are catching and chewing up all the centipedes in his hair.” So he did, and Susano-o believed that Okuninushi was indeed chewing up the centipedes and spitting them out, and he felt very fond of him for it. He became very drowsy and eventually fell asleep.

“Now! Let us run off together!” Saying this, Okuninushi tied Susano-o’s long hair to the rafters of the room, and blocked the entrance to the house with a large boulder. Then, he took Susano-o’s sword, bow and arrows, and harp, and carrying Suseri-hime on his back, he fled. As he did so, the harp struck a tree, and the ground shook and a great noise was heard. This awoke Susano-o, and as he got up, he brought his entire house down around him.

Susano-o chased them all the way to Yomotsu Hirasaka, the entrance to the Underworld, but he was unable to catch them. So he shouted, “Take my sword and my bow and arrows, and use them to drive away your brothers! Then build a palace for yourself and Suseri-hime that reaches all the way to the heavens!” In this way, Okuninushi was able to drive away his evil brothers and start forming the lands that would make up Ashihara-no-nakatsukuni. He ruled this land until he turned control of it over to Ninigi, Amaterasu’s grandson. In exchange for this, a grand shrine, Izumo Taisha, was built for him. He is still enshrined there to this day.

Okuninushi had also married Yagami-hime, and she had followed him back to the land of Izumo. When she was rejoined with Okuninushi, she found that he had also married Suseri-hime. Fearing Suseri-hime’s jealousy, she placed the baby she had given birth to in the fork of the branches of a tree and journeyed back to Inaba.

Izumo Taisha, where Okuninushi is enshrined.

This statue of Yagami-hime is at Yunokawa Hot Springs, where she is said to have bathed during her journey.

Visiting Locations featured in these stories

The rabbit that Okuninushi and his brothers encountered came from the Oki Islands, a group of islands about 50 kilometers off the coast of Shimane in the Sea of Japan. The land of Inaba, where Yagami-hime was from, is in the eastern part of Tottori Prefecture, as is Cape Keta, where Okuninushi and the rabbit met. A sculpture that recreates this meeting can be found on the grounds of Izumo Taisha, as that is where Okuninushi is enshrined. Yomotsu Hirasaka, the entrance to the Underworld, once again makes an appearance in a Shimane-related myth. It can be found in the Higashi Izumo area of Matsue City.

While Yagami-hime was on her way to Izumo, it is said that she stopped and bathed in the waters of a hot spring she found bubbling out of the ground in a valley. Not only did the waters refresh her from the long journey she had taken, but they also made her even more beautiful than she already was. This hot spring is Yunokawa Hot Spring in the Hikawa area of Izumo City. It is one of many hot springs throughout the prefecture that are said to have been enjoyed by both regular people since ancient times and by the gods even before that. Yunokawa Hot Spring is also famous for being one of the three “Bijin no Yu”, hot springs in Japan well known for their promise of beauty for those who bathe in their waters. Also in Hikawa is Mii Shrine, which has three wells on its grounds that are said to have been used by Yagami-hime when she gave birth to the child she had with Okuninushi.

Oki Islands Izumo Taisha Yomotsu Hirasaka Yunokawa Hot Spring Mii Shrine Oki Islands Cape Keta

Oki Islands

The islands which are about 50 km north of the Shimane coastline.
A high-speed shuttle boat, ferry, and airplane run from/to Matsue City and other cities.

Izumo Taisha

195 Kizukihigashi, Taisha-cho, Izumo City, Shimane

Yomotsu Hirasaka

Iya, Higashi Izumo cho, Matsue City, Shimane

Yunokawa Hot Spring

Gakutou, Hikawa-chou, Izumo City, Shimane

Mii Shrine

2518 Naoe, Hikawa-cho, Izumo City, Shimane

Oki Islands

The islands which are about 50 km north of the Shimane coastline.
A high-speed shuttle boat, ferry, and airplane run from/to Matsue City and other cities.

Cape Keta

Hakuto, Tottori City, Tottori