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Takachiho Gorge, Kyushu.


Kyushu (九州, Nine Provinces) also called Tsukushi (筑紫島, Lands End) in the kojiki and nihongi is one of the four main islands of Japan, the islands older name of Tsukushi could also be read as ‘Stone Carvers’ due to the stone effigies of people, animals and shields which ring many barrows on the island.1

It is stated in the nihongi during the events of Emperor Keiko’s life that the common people of Tsukushi called a drinking cup an ‘Ukushi’.2

Mythical Associations

According to the kojiki this island is the fourth of the Great Land of Eightfold Isles to have been born by Izanami and Izanagi1, whereas the nihongi says it was the third to have been created.2

The Kojiki elaborates more stating the island is made up of one body with four faces. Each face of the island was inhabited by a kami. The North face called Tsukushi (Lands End) is inhabited by Shirahiwake, with South face called the land of the Bear Folk inhabited by Takehiwake.

The North-West face is called Toyo (Abundance) inhabited by Toyohiwake, according to a fudoki named as such by Emperor Keikō after seeing the abundance of yams growing here. The South-West face is called Hi (Firelight) inhabited by Takehimukaitoyokujihinewake, according to a fudoki named as such due to occurrence of mysterious supernatural fires which occur here.1

Later in the narrative of the kojiki and nihongi it is said that this island is the location of the Tachibana River, where Izanagi cleanses himself after venturing into Yomi to see his deceased wife.12

We see it briefly mentioned again in the nihongi with connections to the kami Isotakeru. He wished to fill the islands of Japan with trees, and it is said the island of Kyushu was the first island he did this to.2

Reign of Emperor Sujin

During the reign of this Emperor, it is said that Izumo Furune was spending time here when the Emperor sent for the Sacred Treasures that were under his care in Izumo Shrine.2

A Place of Exile

Kyushu during its history became a place associated with exile, and being posted here, no matter how elaborately disguised it may have been; was seen as exile by those sent there.5

Those that were exiled there (and the date they were sent) include:

Heian Period

In 941AD Fujiwara no Tadabumi was given the task of putting down a revolt led by Fujiwara no Sumitomo and Taira no Masakado. During his attempts to quell the revolt he was helped at sea by Ono no Yoshifuru who saw to Sumitono’s pirates being defeated.

This led to Sumitono seeking refuge on Kyushu where Tadabumi eventually tracked him down in Iyo Province where he killed him.6

Azuchi-Momoyama Period

During this period the Battle of Mimikawa occurred. On one side was Ōtomo Sōrin who wished to bring Kyushu under his rule as a Christian state.4


The island has links to the Yōkai known as the Hyōsube, small dolls which became alive and vengeful after being dumped in a river close to Shiomi Jinga Shrine in Saga Prefecture. Additionally the natural phenomenon known as the Shiranui has links to the island.3


1. Yasumaro. O, translated by Gustav Heldt. (2014) “Kojiki. An Account of Ancient Matters”. New York: Columbia University Press.
2. Aston. W.G. (1896) “Nihongi Volume 1: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to AD697”. Tuttle Publishing.
3. Yoda, H. and Alt, M. (2016) “Japandemonium: Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopaedia of Toriyama Sekien.”. New York: over Publications, Inc.
4. Yoda, H & Alt, M. (2012) “Ninja Attack: True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws” Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing.
5. Miller, R. A.. (1981) “The Lost Poetic Sequence of the Priest Manzei”. Monumenta Nipponica. Vol.36 No.2 pp.133-172
6. Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth (2002) “Japan Encyclopedia”. London: Harvard University Press.

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