E78 The Song the Sea God Sang
Show Notes for episode 78 of our Podcast – The Song the Sea God Sang.
The Song the Sea God Sang is said to be a critique on the connections that exist between humans and the kamui (gods of the Ainu). For this particular story it revolves around Repun Kamui the Sea God, though the identity of the kamui is not evident at first through the telling of the story.
However in the tale we see this kamui taking the form of a killer whale.
This kamui has twelve brother and twelve sisters. 6 tall brother, 6 tall sisters, 6 small brothers, 6 small sisters. Every day they would go out to sea and everyday Repun Kamui would carve knife sheathes.
In the mornings all would depart aside from the Sea God, the brothers with quivers on their backs. And at night they would return empty handed. In the evening they ate, the sisters cooking and the brothers making more arrows.
Eventually, one day, Repun Kamui took his golden bow and his golden arrow and went to see what his brothers and sisters were doing. The tall sisters ahd joined hands to make a ring, with the small sisters chasing whales into it.
The brothers took their bows, firing the arrows above and below the whales.
Repun Kamui saw a mother and child whale seperate in the ocean, and taking his bow he shot them both dead with one arrow. He threw one half of the whale into the sister’s ring and took the other whale and a half to the humans.
In the village of Otashut he left it on the beach and then returned home. But he was immediately visited by a sea-wren. The wren compained that the humans would not apprecitate what had been given, and would hack at it and destroy it.
However, Repun Kamui replied saying that he decided to give this gift to the humans, but now it is theirs and not his, and so they may do with it as they please.
He returned to his home, and saw the brothers and sisters complaining about the whale he had thrown to them. And so he turned his attention back to the humans.
Repun Kamui saw them, and their leader, all of whom were happy and leaping with joy at the bounty that had been given to them. The nispa (leader) was there, wearing six robes, holding a sacred sword high in the air. And all, including him raised their voices in worship.
Repun Kamui could see the wren had been wrong, and after a few days the Sea God saw upon in window sill a golden dish overfolowing with salmon, sake and ritual chopsticks (decorated with inau).
‘On behalf of the people of Otashut. In a spirit of reverence I offer this ritual sake.’ So said a messanger to the Sea God.
Repun Kamui learned that the village had been suffering from a famine, and this whale had saved them from starvation. And so the people were forever grateful to him.
And so the Sea God accepted the offerings and went back to carving his knife sheathes.
Another few days passed before the brothers and sisters finally returned. Upon seeing the home, and the offerings which has been made they prostrated themselves. The Sea God then decorated the house with the inau and invited kamui from near and far for a feast.
When the party was in full swing Repun Kamui rose to tell his tale of how he had helped the humans. The kamui proased him for this efforts and returned to their feast.
Again a few days passed before the feast came to a close and the assembled deity all took home some of the inau.
And so it is said that ever since this act from Repun Kamui that whenever people make sake they sent it with inau to the Sea God and to the brothers and sisters.
And Repun Kamui’s mind was at peace, knowing the people lived without trouble.
Sumikko no Heather
I encountered the phrase from the Netflix show “The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House”
The phrase is ichi-go, ichi-e
It can be roughly translated to “only this moment” or “one this lifetime”
It’s a moment that can’t be repeated.
Header Image: Beach Waves from Pixabay.
- Netflix – The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House
- Peterson, B. (2013) “The Song the Owl God Sang; the collected Ainu legends of Chiri Yuki.” BJS Books
You can listen to the full episode over on Anchor here: Japan Archives, or wherever you listen to Podcasts.
Be sure to check out Heather’s blog on lifes little adventures here: HeatherOverYonder.
We also started a Youtube channel for other creative endeavours!