If you have visited Shiga prefecture surrounding Lake Biwa, you may have heard its old name, Ōmi. What is Ōmi? Ōmi may be spelled out as Oumi, O-umi, where O is great and umi is body of water. In Wosite times it was called Awa-umi. The body of water is Biwako, Lake Biwa, but that is its modern name from the Edo period. The earliest civilization was centered at Ōmi. In fact, the area was called Naka-kuni, the center of the land. This is where Isanami and Isanagi made their home.
Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan. It clearly shows on maps of Japan. It is also one of the most ancient lakes in the world, 4.5 million years old. However, its maximum depth is only 104 m, so it is far from being one of the world’s deepest lakes. For comparison, Lake Baikal in southern Russia is the world’s deepest lake, 1,642 m. The deepest lake in the United States is Crater Lake in southern Oregon. Its depth is 594 m.
While hundreds of small rivers flow into Lake Biwa, there is only one outflow, the Seta river. The Seto river leads to the Uji River, then the Katsura and the Kizu. Further downstream is the Yodo River which exits into Osaka Bay.
Human beings have lived around Lake Biwa for more than 20,000 years, as archaeological evidence demonstrates.
Ashihara no Nakatsukuni
Ashihara no Nakatsukuni is a puzzling name for the land of Japan in the myths of the 8th century Kojiki document. Here is the Wosite explanation for this name. Nakatsukuni is another way of saying Naka-kuni. Ashihara means field of reeds, because the low-lying area around Lake Biwa was marshy and covered with reeds. Why was attention called to the reed fields? Wosite people were proud to have reclaimed the marshy land by draining excess water and planting rice fields. It may seem amazing that there was such engineering ability in those days.
Lake Biwa, Center of Wosite Civilization
The people of Wosite settled in the environs of Lake Biwa. When Isanami and Isanagi made it their center of unification, they called it Naka-kuni, the Center of the Land. And where, in Naka-kuni was the actual center? It may have been in the district of Takashima, now Takashima City of Shiga Prefecture.
Takashima City, Adogawa Town
Takashima City, on the left bank of Biwako, is made up of several towns including Takashima Town and Adogawa Town. If you have read our previous post on Kusuhiko’s forest, you will have seen that the forest is located in Adogawa, and a map of Takashima is shown. This location is marked by the red arrow in upper left of mep.
The discovery of the Hotuma Tutaye document was traced to this area. Mr. Yoshinosuke Matsumoto found a manuscript, of three chapters written in Wosite characters, which was entitled, Hotuma Tutaye, Sacred Treasure of the Mio Shrine, Sanjo Village, Takashima County, Province of Ōmi. The shrine and the village no longer exist. But Mr. Matsumoto eventually located all forty chapters of the Hotuma Tutaye at Hiyoshi Taisha.
The arrows in the above map of Ōmi point to six important Wosite shrines. They are, counter clockwise from upper left:
Yorogi Jinja, in Adogawa, Kusuhiko’s forest
Shirahige Jinja, in Takashima, with torii in Lake Biwa, Sarutahiko Sirahige
Hiyoshi Taisha, where all 40 ayas of Hotsuma Tutaye in Waniko Yasutoshi’s hand were stored
Sakunado Jinja, in Otsu, Seoritsuhime’s main shrine
Sasaki Jinja, in Ōmi Hachiman, Sakunami Kami of sake-making
Taga Taisha, in Taga, Isanagi Taga no Kami, Toyoke, and Amateru
In Summary, people have lived around Lake Biwa since ancient times. The Wosite civilization took root in Ōmi, and Isanami and Isanagi made Takashima their center of activity. There are many places associated with Wosite kami which are now Shinto shrines. The first Wosite document discovered by Y. Matsumoto, the Hotuma Tutaye, had once been kept in a shrine in Takashima.