Izumo Province

Hear about Izumo Province on Episode 9 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Izumo Province
Izumo Province.

Izumo Province

Izumo Province (出雲国), also known as Unshū (雲州), was an old Province of Japan, located in what is now Shimane Prefecture.1 It formed one of the eight Provinces of the San’indō.12

The Province was formed of several districts, two known as Ou and Aika. Miyake no Omi Kanatari and Izumo no Omi Hiroshima came from these districts and were the compilers of the Izumo Fudoki.4

Mythological Accounts

There is a story concerning how this area was originally too small and so a Shinto Spirit made it larger. The tale is known as the ‘kunibiki shinwa‘ (国引神話 – Land Pulling Myth) and can be found in the Izumo Fudoki.

The tale relates how the Spirit Yatsukamizu Omitsuno finds this place too small, comparing it to a strip of narrow cloth. And so he looks across the ocean and finds places whose land is in excess.

First he sees Silla, and taking land from it using a hoe and dragging it with rope to Izumo he ties it to Kozu, which becomes Kidzuki Cape. He ties the rope to Sahime Mountain, the rope became Sono Long Beach.

Next he took from Saki Country, and tying it to Taku is became Sada Country. Then was Yonami Country, which he took from and tied to Unami, which became Kurami Country. Finally he took from the Tsutsu Cape in Koshi Province. The land he tied to Izumo became Miho Cape, and the rope he used became Yomi Island, the rope he tied to Hikami High Mountain.

Now satisfied he shouted ‘Owe!’ which is apparently why one district in Izumo Province was called Ou. He then thrusts he staff into the ground on an earthern mound to the north-east of the District Office in Ou.4

The burial place of Izanami, known as Hibayama, is purported to be located on the boundry of this province and Hahaki. Additionally, the Ifuya Pass is located here. This being the fabled location for the entrance of Yomi. The Spirit known as Takehiratori is said to be the ancestor of the Royal Representatives here.3

Yayoi and Kofun Periods

This area has been shown to have had a unique culture all the way back in the Yayoi Period. Late Yayoi evidence of an Izumo Alliance which branched east from Izumo to the Hokuriku Region and north to the Oki Islands. In the Kofun Period, this unique culture left behind special distinct tombs, and can be traced up to the Nara Period.4

Later Periods

The area was once though as an area which rivalled the Yamato Court as a religious and politcal center. Overtime it was successivley controlled by the Sasaki, Yamana, Kyōgoku and Amako families until the 16th Century.

In the early Edo Period, the Horio family built a castle here at Matsue and by 1634 it had passed to the Kyōgoku, who were later surplanted by Matsudaira in 1638.

The Matsudaira served as daimyo in this area until the Meiji Restoration. They ruled over the Matsu, Hirose and Mori domains which this province was divided into in 1684.1

Haji Clan

This family emphasised ties to Izumo, their ancestral home, likely due to the importance it had gained in the Kojiki and so they consilidated their geneology with the Izumo Magistrates.

They claimed to originally have held the title of Omi, but this was usually left for Izumo Magistrate family. It is perhaps their ties to this family which made them state this claim. Reliable sources show us they held title muraji which was appropriate to their status.

It is likely they came from Izumo to Yamato during the 5th century as the Yamato Court arose here. Legends say they came directly, but archaeological evidence shows they slowly emmigrated leaving settlements in Mimasaka and Harima Province.5

Nature

The Izumo Fudoki, and other contemporary sources, talks of a possible vine known as the ‘frosty kurodazura’ (霜黒葛) however no known modern equivelant is known.1

Footnotes

1. Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth (2002) “Japan Encyclopedia”. London: Harvard University Press.
2. Kodansha. (1993) ”Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia”. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.
3. Yasumaro. O, translated by Gustav Heldt. (2014) “Kojiki. An Account of Ancient Matters”. New York: Columbia University Press.
4. Carlqvist, A. (2010) “The Land Pulling Myth and Some Aspects of Historical Reality”. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 37, No.2, pp.185-222.
5. Borgen, R. (1975) “The Origins of the Sugawara. A History of the Haji Family”. Monumenta Nipponica. Vol.30 No.4 pp.405-422

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