E79 The Plague of Emperor Sujin


Show Notes for episode 79 of our Podcast – The Plague of Emperor Sujin.

Story Notes

The Plague of Emperor Sujin

These notes are taken from the corrosponding page concerning the Emperor, with some ommisions.

Emperor Sujin (崇神 天皇) was the 10th Emperor of Japan also known as Mimakiiribikoiniye (御眞木入日子印恵命) or Mimaki Irihiko Isachi. He ruled from 97-30BC.

The nihongi states that he was intelligent, fond of manly devices in youth and as a man was circuspect in his behaviour and a man of wide culture.


Emperor Sujin was the son of Emperor Kaika and Ikagashikome.

He took as Empress Mimakihime and together they had Emperor Suinin, Izanomawaka (nihongi: Ikatsuruhiko), Kunikatahime, Chijitsukuyamatohime, Yamatohiko and Igahime.

Sujin had an addition two concubines and another six children.


Emperor Sujin ascended the throne in 97BC. This was after being made heir to the throne in the ’28th year, Spring, 1st month, 5th day’ of his fathers reign. He is said to have been 19 years old at the time.


It is said a plague occured during his reign killing many people.

Suijin request punishment from the kami and fearing the power of Amaterasu and Ohokunidama (Ōkuninushi) seperates their worship with Amaterasu worshipped in Kasanui in Yamato and Ohokunidama was entrusted into the care of Nunakinobime.

Through divination he communes with Miwa no Ohomonomishu (Ōkuninushi).

Kojiki Version

In the Kojiki the kami says that if he appoints Ohotataneko as chief of his shrine then the plague will pass, after having this man found and finding out he was a descendant of Ōkuninushi he is made High Prirest of this kami on Mount Mimoro.

He then has a man called Igakashikowo to make offerings and to worship the kami of earth which helped to firther abate the plague affecting the land.

Nihongi Version

In the Nihongi the kami states that if the kami were worshipped correctly then the plague would pass. This did not happen and so after being contacted again he is told to locate Ohotataneko and make him head of his shrine. This would cause the plague to abate but would also make the lands over the sea give submission.

Ohotataneko is found and he relates how he is the son of Ōkuninushi.

The Sacred Regalia

According to a tale from the Jinnō Shōtōki, in the 6th year of his reign he summoned the kami Ishikoridome to create a new Sacred Mirror and a desendant of Amenomahitotsu to make a new Sacred Sword. These were made in Uda, Yamato.

He takes the replicas to place them in his hall for divine protection. The originals being entrusted to Toyosukiiribime who built a sacred enclosure in Kasanui in Yamato to worship them in.

Later Toyosukiiribime was instructed by Amaterasu to journey the provinces with the Sword and Mirror.

Kami of Sumizaka and Ohozaka

The Emperor orders Igakashikowo to worship with red-coloured shields and spears the kami of Sumisaka in Uda and with black-coloured shields and spears the kami of Ohosaka. Offerings of cloth were also made to the hills and rivers. And finally the entirety of the plague disappated.

War with Takehaniyasu

Ohobiko, Takenumakahawake, Hikoimasu and Kibitsuhiko are sent out to subdue the surrounding provinces.

Kojiki Version

On his way, at Herazaka, Ohobiko finds a girl who sings a song which goes as follows:

Now then! Oh Prince Mimakiiri! Oh Prince Mimakiiri! Ignorant that they, to steal and slay one’s life, cross backwards and forwards by the back-door, cross backwards and forwards by the front door and spy,— Oh, Prince Mimakiiri!

The girl then vanishes when questioned and so he returns to tell the tale to the Empeor. The Emperor believes this means his half-brother Takehaniyasuhiko plots against him and so Ohobiko is tasked to raise an army to stop him.

Hikokunibuku joins him and they set sacred jars at the Pass of Wani before departing. In Yamashiro Province, on the banks of the Wakara River they find Takehaniyasu waiting for them.

Hikokunibuku begs the other side to fire first (this is because it was the custom for each side to let fly an “initial arrow.” The arrow was considered “specially important and was shot off reverently with prayers to the Kami.) Takehaniyasu shoots first and misses, Hikokunubuku returning fire and killing Takehaniyasu with his shot causing his army to rout and flee.

The army is hunted down and killed and the two return to give a report to the Emperor.

Nihongi Version

When Ohobiko relates this tale to the Emperor, Yamatotohimomosobime understands the songs meaning and that Takehaniyasu means to attack him. She further says she saw his wife Atabime takes soil from Mount Kagu and turns it upside in her neckerchief saying that it represented the land of Yamato.

Takehaniyasu and Atahime then arrive with their armies, coming from two directions. Atahime through Ohosaka and Takehaniyasu through Yamashiro.

Isaserihiko (Kibitsuhiko) intercepts Atahime, defeating and killing her and her men.

Ohohiko and Hikokunifuku head to Yamashiro after setting sacred jars. Again Takehaniyasu shoots first and misses, and Hikokunifuku shoots and kills Takehaniyasu.

Yamatotohimomosobime later kills herself with chopsticks.

Choosing an Heir

In the 48th year of his reign, he orders his sons Toyokiiribiko and Ikume (Emperor Suinin) to have a divine dream as he does not known who to choose as sucessor. Toyokiiribiko dreams he faces east of Mount Mimoro, flourishing a spear eight times and swinging a sword eight times. Ikume says he stood atop Mount Mimoro and placed a cord around all four corners of the land to drive away sparrows eating grain.

And so it is decided that Toyokiiribiko will rule over the Eastern land and Ikume was made crown prince.

Sacred Treasures

In the 60th year of his reign the Emperor wished to see sacred treasures brought to earth by the kami Takehiratori which were being held in the Izumo Shrine and Takemorosumi is sent to collect them.

At this time a man known as Izumo Furune was in charge of their care, but he was in Tsukushi when Takemorosumi arrived for the items. And so Furune’s younger brother Ihiirine entrusted them to his brother Umashikarahisa and his son Ukatsukunu to take them to the Emperor.

After Furune return he was angry at his brother and so invites him to the Yamiya pools to see the mo plants there. There Furune killed his brother in anger. Umashikarahisa and Ukatsukunu make report of this to the court and Furune is then killed by Kibitsuhiko and Takenumakahawake.

End of his Reign

With the plague over the Emperor creates a new census (the first having been done in his 12th year), as well as beginning tax on men for animal skins and game and on women for textiles.

Pools were constructed to give the people water in areas that were scarse.

The land of Imna makes tribute to the Emperor.

Emperor Sujin died aged 120 according to the Jinnō Shōtōki and Nihongi whereas the Kojiki states he died age 168.

Sumikko no Heather

In Heathers corner today she has for us a cultural note on the colour of Blue and Green in Japan.

The blue lights of Japan.

Green means go, right? Well, in Japan it’s more like blue means go.

It was really surprising to learn that signal lights in Japan are red, yellow, and ao (blue).

If you want to read more, here’s a couple of interesting articles including an example of the old “bluest shade of green” traffic light!

Header Image: Skull from Pixabay.


  • Japan’s Blue Traffic Lights
  • Why Does Japan Have Blue Traffic Lights instead of Green
  • Aston. W.G. (1896) “Nihongi Volume 1: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to AD697”. Tuttle Publishing.
  • Chamberlain, B. H. (1932) “Translation of the Kojiki.” Kobe: J.L. Thompson & Co.
  • Ponsonby, F. (1959) “The Imperial House of Japan.” Kyoto: Ponsonby Memorial Society.
  • Varley, H.P (1980) “A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns: Jinnō Shōtōki of Kitabatake Chikafusa.” New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Yasumaro. O, translated by Gustav Heldt. (2014) “Kojiki. An Account of Ancient Matters”. New York: Columbia University Press.

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Heavenly Spear