Monthly Archives: November 2016

Rokkosan:  Mukoyama and Mukatsuhime


The modern city of Kobe lies between the Rokkosan 六甲山 mountains and the sea. In a previous post, we wrote about the megaliths of Rokkosan. These mountains are the locale of a fascinating story with both historical and linguistic interest.

Hotsuma History.  During the times of Amateru Amakami in the Hotsuma Tsutae document, the mountains were known as Mukoyama, and the peak as Mukatsu-mine. The land of Muko was the domain of the Kanasaki family. When Isanami and Isanagi were unable to keep their first-born daughter Hiruko, they sent her to Kanasaki for fostering. There, Hiruko was lovingly raised and taught the art of waka poetry. Hiruko became so skilled with the kototama word power of waka that she became known as Wakahime. The area of Muko is called Hirota, perhaps because of her fostering. For his kindness, Kanasaki is known as Sumiyoshi Kami.

Wakahime was the elder sister…

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Amakami Family. Part 3. Sake and Sukunami-kami

sasake ha tokoyo349-Revised

In the last passage of Part 2 as well as in the earlier post about Hinamatsuri, Isanagi and Isanami have miki sacred sake on their wedding day. At the time of Ukemoti (see Amakami Part 1), there was a sacred drink, a kind of rice soup, but not sake. Here is the story of sake’s discovery by Sukunami-kami, not long before the hutakami’s wedding. Sukunami must have remembered Ukemoti and the sacred rice soup when he gave the name sasake to the new beverage.

In Woshite literature, liquor or rice wine, sake, is called sasa. In fact, the word sasa was used in the Middle Ages, especially by women. And, as a special representation of the elegant olden days, it has been transmitted to us even now.

The poem above begins with line 349 of Hotuma Tutae and it continues the passage given in Part 2:

                       sasake ha tokoyo

inokuti no        sukunami-kami no

take-kahu ni     susume ka momi o

iru o mite         miki tukuri some

susume keri     momohinaki yori

sasanami to     na o tamahu yori

na mo sasake   sono kami ima ni


The story takes place in Tokoyo-kuni, Yamato. The kami Sukunami ruled over the Inokuti area. Sukunami means small, gentle waves. One day when Sukunami-kami was still young (a momohinaki). he saw a susume sparrow with a grain of rice in a take-kahu bamboo stump. The sparrow was making a new drink, a rice wine.  

The praise or honor name Sasanami-kami was bestowed (tamahu) on Sukunami-kami. Sasanami means waves that lead to brightness and prosperity. Recall that sa means clear and bright, and sasa is used in praise and honor names. Later, even the mountain of Inokuti received the praise name Sasake-yama. Sasake means a mind/spirit that brings brightness and abundant grace. The wine became known by the praise name sasake, or simply sake. It also became the sacred sake miki which Uhitini and Suhitini sipped on their wedding day, a custom which still continues today.

It is a pity that Sasanami-kami’s name has been lost to history.

In the above poem we see the word susume used in two ways, as a noun and as an verb. First, in the phrase susume ka momi o, it refers to the sparrow with the grain of rice. Later, it appears in susume keri, a verb phrase which means “to recommend.” Here, keri occurs as an auxiliary verb to the verb susume. keri often appears in haiku and tanka. If you dine in Japanese restaurants you may have heard of osusume, the recommendation of the chef. Did you ever connect it with the sparrow? This poem does!

There will be a related post,, on a visit to Sasaki Jinja, a shrine associated with sake and Sukunami-kami, although few today know this story.

Updated 2016.11.08