Emperor Sujin

Hear this tale on Episode 79 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.


Emperor Sujin
Artistic renderring of Emperor Sujin.

Emperor Sujin

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)1 or Mimaki Irihiko Isachi.2 He ruled from 97-30BC.2

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.1

Family

Emperor Sujin was the son of Emperor Kaika and Ikagashikome.12345

Both the nihongi and the kojiki mostly mention the same family members for Emperor Kaika. Though the kojiki does mention two extra children.

He took as Empress Mimakihime and together they had Emperor Suinin, Izanomawaka (nihongi: Ikatsuruhiko1), Kunikatahime, Chijitsukuyamatohime, Yamatohiko134 and Igahime.34

With his concubine Tohotsunoayumemekuhashi he had Toyokiiribiko134 and Toyosukiiribime.34

With another concubine called Ohoamahime he had Ohohiriki34, Yasakanoiribiko, Nunakinobime and Tohochinoiribime.134

Reign

Emperor Sujin ascended the throne in 97BC according to the Jinnō Shōtōki and Ponsonby.25 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.1

His palace was located in Midzukaki in Shiki.12345

Plague

It is said a plague occured during his reign killing many people.134 The nihongi saying it started in the 5th year of his reign.1

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.1

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

Here the kojiki and nihongi differ slightly.

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.34

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.

Two people known as Yamatototokamiasachihara maguhashihime and Ohominakuchino Sukune then have a dream saying that placing Ohotataneko as head priest of Ohomonomushi and Ichishinonagaochi as head priest of Ohokunidama would lead to peace. (Both of these kami names are names for Ōkuninushi)

Ohotataneko is found and he relates how he is the son of Ōkuninushi. Igakashikowo is then sent to make offerings. The Emperor later takes pottery made by Igakashikowo and 80 Mononobe to worship the kami. Land and housing is then given for the worship of the kami and the land became abundant.

Later in the 8th year of his reign Ikuhi is appointed the Brewer of Ōkuninushi and presents sake to the Emperor with a song.1

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.5

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.134

The nihongi says that the shields and spears all totalled eight in number and that this order to make these offers came to him in a divine dream.1

War with Takehaniyasu

Ohobiko, Takenumakahawake, Hikoimasu134 and Kibitsuhiko1 are sent out to subdue the surrounding provinces. Again the tale differs depending on the text consulted

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 becasue 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.34

Nihongi Version

The Nihongi elaborates on where the four men are sent, though one of the names differs. Ohobiko to the north, Takenumakawake to the Eastern Sea, Kibitsuhiko to the Western Road and Tambanochinushi to Tamba Province.

The song differs slightly and goes as follows:

Ah! Prince Mimakiiri!
Unaware that some are stealthily
Preparing to cut
The thread of thine own life,
Thou amusest thyself like a lady!

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.1

Follwing the war, in the 17th year of his reign he decrees ships to be built to alevate those who suffer from having to travel over land.1

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.1

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.1

End of his Reign

With the plague over the Emperor creates a new census (the first having been done in his 12th year1), 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.134

The land of Imna makes tribute to the Emperor.15

Emperor Sujin died aged 120 according to the Jinnō Shōtōki and Nihongi15 whereas the Kojiki states he died age 168.34 He ruled for 68 years.15

His misasagi is located alongside the Yamanobe Road (Isonokami).134

Footnotes

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

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