Category Archives: Jinja


Wakahirume (Wakahime) was the daughter of Isanami and Isanagi. She is the lady of waka poetry and song. She lived a life full of music and beauty, and did much in service to her people. This remarkable woman has left her name in Wakayama prefecture. Wakahime was a central figure in the chronicles of Wosite. She knew all the major players in the history of early Yamato in the Land of Wosite. Wakahime was forever young as waka “young” implies. Waka also means poetry, and she was known for her poetry. She taught the Awanouta song, also called Wakauta, to promote good speech and good health. She was skilled in the technology of extracting ni from the red cinnabar sand to make the vermillion coating for wooden structures such as torii. For this, she is remembered as Niutsuhime, lady of niu. She spread the technology of agriculture to her people. And, because she was always smiling and laughing, she is an aspect of Ebisu, one of the “Seven Lucky Gods.” This is the story of Wakahirume.


Tukuba yama, Mount Tsukuba, photo by N. Hiraoka

Wakahirume was the first child born to Isanagi and Isanami. It was in Tukuba (Tsukuba) that she was born in mid-day, hiru, so that she was named Hiruko, Hirukohime. Her parents were the seventh Amakami, leaders of Yamato, the land where Wosite prevailed. Her younger brother Amateru became the eighth Amakami. Hiruko was a happy, healthy baby. But she was born when Isanagi was 40 and Isanami was 31, extremely unfortunate years for a baby. Out of concern for her well-being, her parents found foster parents in Kanasaki and his wife Yesinasu. They had lost their own baby and were overjoyed to have Hiruko to raise. They immediately built a beautiful home for her called Nishinomiya. Nishinomiya is far west (nishi) of Tukuba. It lay in the region called Hirota that includes the Rokkō Mountains (Mukoyama). Hiruko grew up in a loving environment in which she learned the art of waka poetry. Waka contains Kototama sound energy of Universe. She became so skilled that she was called Wakahirume, or simply Wakahime. Nishinomiya is a town near present-day port-city of Kobe. Today, Nishinomiya Jinja is a magnificent shrine with huge grounds. Hiruko must have enjoyed growing up there.

Nishinomiya Jinja. This is where Hiruko spent her childhood. In the main hall is enshrined Hiruko Ebisu Okami, and this is the central jinja of all Ebisu jinja.

Kishiyi (Kii)

Hiruko Wakahime was joyfully reunited with her parents when she reached adulthood. At that time, they lived at Wakauta-yama, in Kishiyi (now Wakayama in the Kii Peninsula). By this time, her brothers Amateru and Tsukiyomi had been born. A bit later, youngest brother Sosanowo was born in the southern part of Kishiyi known as Sosa. Later there was a disastrous fire in which Isanami died. The name Sosa changed to Kumano which refers to this sadness and the place where Isanami had built her miya. Sosanowo was still a young child, and Wakahime and her husband raised him.


Around the time when Amateru became Amakami, Wakahime learned the true story of the Wakauta (also known as Awauta and Awanouta) which her parents had composed and taught. She went around the land teaching the song so that the people could speak a common language and communicate better, thus aiding in the kuni-umi nation-building effort of her parents. Wakahime understood the deep meaning of Wakauta which can be summarized as  Hi-tsuki, the cycles of Sun and Moon. Moon (tsuki) in its monthly cycle grows full and then diminishes. Sun (hi) in its daily cycle waxes at sunrise and wanes at sunset. Sun represents male and Moon, female. Throughout the cycle of life, we must accept this waxing and waning, and keep smiling.

Majinai Uta                

Wakahime was staying with Amateru and Mukatsuhime at Isawa no Miya in Mie-ken. One day, people of Kishiyi put out a call to Amateru’s government for help with eradication of homushi insects that were infesting the rice paddies of Kunikakasu. In response, Wakahime, Mukatsuhime, and other women of waka went to Kishiyi and used their Kototama powers of uta (song) to repel the pests. They sang the Majinai-uta with total success. They taught the Majinai-uta to the people so that they could repel insects themselves and save their crops. The people were so grateful that they presented miya to Mukatsuhime and to Wakahime. The miya Himae was given to Mukatsuhime. Wakahime received Tamatsushima at seaside of Wakayama city. Jinja shrines stand in those locations even today, more than two thousand years later. As Toshinori-Kami, Wakahime is kami of harvest and the calendar (toshi, year).

 Tamatsushima Jinja, where Wakahime lived, perhaps on this yama. Enshrined here as Wakahirume no Mikoto, her alternate name is Niutsuhime Okami. Tamatsushima Jinja is connected by tradition and ritual to Niutsuhime Jinja.
Hiruko Ebisu at Himae Jinja, Mukatsuhime’s miya.

Koto and waka 

Wakahime was very good at playing the ancient koto. The 3-stringed koto was called kadakaki. The koto with 5 strings was the isuki koto, and the 6-stringed koto was called the yakumo koto. Because of her skills, Wakahime was called both Shitateruhime (shita, lower), and Takateruhime (taka, higher). Ōnamuchi’s daughter Takako became a student of Wakahime as well as her assistant, and Takako received the name Takateru from Wakahime. Another student was Okurahime, grand-daughter of the metalsmith Kanayamahiko.

Mawariuta and Marriage       

One day, a messenger from Amateru came to Tamatsushima. He was Achihiko, great-grandson of Toyoke-Kami. Wakahime immediately fell in love with him. She wrote him a love song in the form of a mawariuta. A mawariuta is a palindrome, which reads the same backward and forward. Poor Achihiko was befuddled, not knowing how to compose mawariuta. He asked Kanasaki for advice, and he was told to resign himself to marrying the determined Wakahime. And so they were married. His new name, Omoikane, refers to his wondering what to do. Their miya was the Yasu no Miya on the eastern shore of southern Lake Biwa in the land of Ōmi near the Yasukawa river. It may now be the jinja called Gosha Jinja in Ōmi Hachiman. Shitateruhime (another name for Wakahime) and her husband Omoikane are gosaishin. After Isanami died in the fire, Wakahime and Omoikane took in Sosanowo, her young brother. They also fostered Oshihomimi, the son of Amateru, while raising four children of their own including their sons, Takano and Tajikarawo.

Nihu no Kami, Niutsuhime

Wakahime is known as Nihu no Kami (or Niu no Kami) and has been enshrined as Niutsuhime no Mikoto. Niu is red earth containing cinnabar crystals. Cinnabar (mercuric sulfide) melts to yield mercury, an important material for practical uses. Painting buildings, torii, and ships with niu protected the wood, as seen in vermillion torii of jinja. Wakahime sang the Awauta for successful metal casting, as told in the Aya of Awauta no Kana (metals). She may have learned metallurgy from her grandfather Toyoke who was very knowledgeable in this subject, as in many others. For this, she is known as Niutsuhime. Her main shrine is the splendid vermillion Niutsuhime Jinja in the foothills of Koyasan.                 

Niutsuhime Jinja, Ichinomiya of Ki no Kuni. When Kobo Daishi was seeking a place for his Shingon temple, Niutsuhime’s son Takano no Kami (or his reincarnation) led Daishi to the site. Daishi called it Koyasan (an alternate reading of 高野 Takano) in appreciation. Koyasan temple and the Wakahime shrines mutually protect each other. Niutsuhime no Okami (Niu Myojin) is enshrined in the first honden. In the second is her son Takano-mikoto. This is the main shrine of 108 where she is enshrined. In the Niu Daimyoujin Norito of the Tenpo period (729-749), Niutsuhime Okami is named as Wakahirume no Mikoto, sister of Amateru Omikami.
The two honden for Niutsuhime and her son Takano no Mikoto.
Vermillion torii and bridge


Wakahime was also known as Wakahirume, which contains both her birth name Hiruko and her honor name of Wakahime. She was also regarded as Nihu no Kami (Niu no Kami, Niutsuhime), Tosinori Kami, and as Ebisu the laughing god. Wakahime touched the lives of many of the important kami people of Wosite. She is an unsung heroine of Wosite. How ironic, for she promoted the songs of Wosite!

 Wakahirume spent the last part of her life with Mukatsuhime, her sister-in-law, in Nishinomiya near the Rokkō mountains. There is a shrine, the Koshiki-iwa Jinja, for Wakahirume in the Rokkō mountains. Wakahirume enjoyed the overlook of scenic Wakanoura Bay 和歌の浦 in Kii (Wakayama), and she may have passed away there, a lovely place for a lovely lady.

Waka-no-ura Bay
Wakanoura Bay, Kii Province, by Utagawa Hiroshige



Iwate Shrines of Seoritsuhime

DSC03537 Mt Iwate C

Seoritsuhime is the guardian spirit of rapids, rivers, and purification. She was also an accomplished woman of the Wosite World. Yamanomiya has posted a series of reports on Seoritsuhime shrines in Tono and Hanamaki, Iwate. The series begins with the post, Iwate Shrines of Seoritsuhime .

This post begins a series on eight shrines of Seoritsuhime in Iwate prefecture. At the core is a group of five related shrines in Tōno. They are as well connected geometrically, Genbu claims. There is a legend in Tōno about three sister megami (female kami). Three of the shrines represent the sisters, the fourth the mother. All are shrines of Seoritsuhime.

The sites visited include:

  • Kitakami River source: Yuhazu no Izumi at Mido Kannon, Iwate town
  • Sakuramatsu Jinja and Fudo Taki, Hachimantai
  • Ishigami Jinja, Tōno
  • Kamiwakare Jinja, Tōno
  • Hayachine Jinja, Tōno
  • Rokko-ushi Jinja, Tōno
  • Izu Jinja, Tōno
  • Tsuzuki Ishi, Connected Rocks, Tōno
  • Hayachine Jinja, Hanamaki

Toyouke Ōkami


Toyoke-sama.  Our beloved Toyoke-sama is also known as Toyoke Kami and Toyouke Ōkami 豊受大神. Toyoke-sama was arguably the greatest kami of Hotsuma. He is remembered as the father of Isanami and grandfather of Amateru. Amateru came to study with him when he was sixteen. Toyoke-sama imparted to the future Amakami of Yamato the wisdom of the ancestors known as the To-no-Wosite teachings of the Ame-naru Michi, the Way of Universe. 

The teaching is for all, and especially for leaders of society, to embody high principles of human behavior: honesty, integrity, and caring for the welfare of others.

Hutakami.  Toyoke’s daughter Isako became Isanami, spouse of Isanagi. The couple are known as Hutakami (Futakami), the kami couple of myth and legend. The Hutakami went throughout the land of Hinomoto teaching the Awa no Uta, the Song of Universe, containing all 48 of the syllables of Wosite language, promoting speech for improved communication and cooperation as well as for promoting good health and vitality.

Takamimusubi.  Toyoke was descended from Ta-no-Kunisatsuchi. Toyoke’s imina birth name was Tamakine. This means he was a man of tama spirit. We notice the many local words beginning with Ta. Tamakine became the fifth Takamimusubi in Hitakami which we now call Tohoku. Hi-taka-mi means to see the sun high in the sky. A remnant of Hitakami remains in the name of the major Tohoku river, Kitakami-gawa, whose old name was indeed Hitakami-gawa.

Taga.  The center of Hitakami was at Tagajo (Taka-jo), east of current Sendai. You can get there after a short train ride. You will be shown the remains of a former government center. There is still a large stone inscribed in more recent times, called the Keta-tsubo. On this rise may have been located the Yamate-miya of Toyoke. Nearby are several shrines named Taga Jinja. One of these, we believe, is the original shrine of Toyoke. This shrine spun off the Taga Taisha in Ōmi (now Shiga-ken). Why Ōmi? Ōmi was the center of Yamato under the care of Isanami and Isanagi.

We visited Taga Taisha. It is a large shrine that hosts a million devotees on New Year’s Hatsumode. By looking for the oldest part of the keidai precincts, we found Toyoke’s hokora next to Amateru’s.

Tanba.  Toyoke lived to a ripe age. When he was quite along in years, there was a disturbance in the region we call Kyotango in Kyoto-fu near the Japan Sea. Amateru asked Toyoke-sama to manage the situation from a base in Miyazu. Toyoke-sama transferred from Hitakami to Tanba and all went well and the people prospered. Toyoke-sama taught how to raise the five grains such as rice, wheat, and beans, and also how to raise silkworms for weaving.

When Toyoke-sama felt his lifeforce dwindling, he called for a tomb to be dug in the mountain of Kujigatake. He would prepare for his last breath. When Amateru heard about his grandfather, he rushed to his side. He entered Toyoke’s tomb and received the final teaching. Thus Amateru was initiated into the high level of wisdom. Then Amateru was sent out and the tomb sealed. The people were in such grief that Amateru stayed for a while to comfort them.

Toyoke’s tomb is said to be on Mt. Kujigatake (Kushi-gatake, also called Manai-gatake) where there is a manai spring. At the foot of Kujigatake is a shrine called Hinumanai Jinja. Toyoke Ōkami is the revered deity. The monument shown above mentions Five Grains. It is said that half-way up the mountain is an altar rock for the offering of five grains and other foods.

When Amateru himself came to the end of his life, he had a tomb built nearby. Amateru’s trusted friend, Sarutahiko, was the last to see Amateru in his tomb.

Futomani.  Toyoke-sama is the author of the Futomani Motoake chart which was employed as an aid for teaching cosmology and as a guide for decision-making. Amateru complemented the Futomani by selecting its 128 waka. We wouldn’t be surprised if Toyoke-sama also organized the Wosite syllabary into the neat, logical system that it is.


Motoake chart from Julian-Way

The son of Toyoke-sama also attended the lessons with Amateru, and he became the sixth Takamimusubi.

ukesuteme     ne no kuni ni kite     tamakine ni …

Ukesuteme came to Ne no kuni to see Tamakine …   from Hotsuma Tsutae Aya 15

Another Kunisatsuchi, Ta’s brother, Ka-no-Kunisatsuchi, had gone to China, and he had a descendant named Ukesuteme. Ukesuteme came to Hitakami to study with Toyoke accompanied by the sister of Isanagi from the land of Ne. Shirayama-hime (Kokori-hime) and Ukesuteme both excelled in acquiring the wisdom of To.

ukesuteme korohin kimi to      tinami ai

After Ukesuteme returned to the Korohin mountains and married the ruler of Akagata, they had a son. Consequently, admired for her wisdom as for her nurturing, she became known as Nishi no Haha, Mother of the West. In China, the Mother of the West has the name Xi Wangmu. She is one of the Seven Immortals. In Taoist paintings she holds the Peach of Immortality in her hand. In the Wosite literature, it is written that she received peach branches from Toyoke-sama to plant in Korohin.

Alternate identities.  Another name for the kami of food is Ukanomitama. And Toyouke’s most popular identity is Inari, the kami of the rice fields. The Inari shrines are the most plentiful in Japan, grounded in folk religion. Inari devotees may not realize the connection with the sage of Hitakami.

Toyouke at Ise and Moto-Ise Shrines:  Probably due to Toyouke’s reknown as provider of Five Grains and foodstuffs, his name has morphed into the female Toyouke-hime no kami at the Geku Outer Shrine of Ise Jingu. And yet, the chigi of the honden is cut vertically in male sotosogi fashion! As it is at the Moto-Ise shrines Hinumanai Jinja and Manai Jinja Okumiya of Kono Jinja (below).


Remembering Toyoke-sama

Let us remember Toyoke-sama who served the people of Hinomoto during their critical developmental period. Toyoke-sama, the great sage, set society’s tone of compassion based on a deep connection with Universe.  And, in remembering Tamakine Toyoke-sama, we do not forget our own tama nature.


Sasaki (Sake) Jinja

The Wosite story behind Sasaki Jinja relates it to the first sake and the kami Sukunami,


There is a shrine called 沙沙貴神社(ささきじんじゃ)Sasaki Jinja in Azuchi city, Shiga-ken. The current Sasaki Shrine faces a mountain. In olden times a shrine was on the mountain called Inokuti-yama. Its honor name was Sasake-yama, Splendid Mountain. Both names Inokuti and Sasake are found in the poem. Later, Sasake-yama changed to Sasaki-yama. Now it is called Kinugasa-yama.

In other words, the name of the mountain changed from Inokuti-yama (猪口山) to Sasake-yama to Sasaki-yama (沙沙貴山 or 佐々木山) to finally today’s Kinugasa-yama (繖山). [There are different ways of writing Sasaki in kanji characters, because after all it is a very ancient Woshite word from pre-kanji times.]

The enshrined kami of Sasaki Jinja is said to be Sukuna-hikona, a later historical personage and no doubt a distortion of the name Sukunami. 

307px-基礎自治体位置図_25381.svgHere is a map of Shiga which surrounds Biwako. The map shows the location of Azuchi (the small orange area) in Shiga (large pink area). The entrance of the current Sasaki Jinja looks northeastward to Inokuti-yama, now Kinugasa-yama. Probably the summer solstice sun would rise over Kinugasa-yama, as seen from the entrance.

The Sasaki clan seems to be the benefactor of this shrine, since their kamon family crest is displayed throughout the grounds. Do you suppose they know the origin of their family name?

Updated 2017.01.02


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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Iwaya Jinja 岩屋神社, Kyoto

岩屋神社(いわやじんじゃ),  京都府京都市山科区.

Hand-drawn ema

Iwaya Jinja is in Yamashina Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture.

Torii Iwaya


Yamashina Ward is in southeast Kyoto. On the ema of Iwaya Jinja is written ” ichinomiya of Yamashina.” This very old shrine was originally a sacred place on the mountain with two megaliths. This explains its name (iwa, boulders; iwaya, “house” of boulders). They are called ingan and yogan, female and male rocks where kami descend. You can see photos of them at the official site of the shrine, link given below. The 奥之院 oku-no-in is only 2 km from the main honden which is on a street off the old post road to Edo. But the path to oku-no-in is so rocky and difficult that we were dissuaded from taking it. If you wish to try it, go off grounds through the red torii in the back.

Path to Okunoin

The front torii of Iwaya Jinja faces south. The three main kami are Ameno-Oshihomimi-no-mikoto, his wife Takahatachi-hime-no-mikoto, and their son Nigihayahi-no-mikoto. Note, Oshihomimi was the son and heir of the 8th Amakami Amateru.

There are seven shrines on the precincts. Among them, the Daijingu honors Amateru Okami and his grandfather Toyouke Okami.

Toyouke sha

Also in Yamashina Ward is Himukai Jinja, 日向神社(現日向大神宮, currently named Himukai-daijingu Shrine). This shrine, too, is very old and it enshrines Toyouke and Amateru.

Iwaya Jinja Ema