Nomi no Sukune

Nomi no Sukune
Nomi no Sukune by Kikuchi Yōsai.

Nomi no Sukune

Nomi no Sukune (野見 宿禰) was said to have been a descendant of the god Amenohohi in the 14th generation and great-grandfather to Haji no Mino. Originally from Izumo Province he would go on to found the Haji Clan and oversee the Haji Be.

He is said to have lived during the reign of Emperor Suinin. In the 7th year of the emperors reign a man known as Kuehaya was declared the strongest man at court. One minister stated Nomi no Sukune as a potential rival to Kuehaya and they were ordered to wrestle. Kuehaya is killed after being kicked in the ribs and groin, and Nomi no Sukune was then given his lands and allowed to stay at court. This story is likely a fabrication and a way to show how the Haji took over land in Yamato from older less influential familes.

These exploits have seen him credited with founding sumo, though not of modern rules.

Additionally. at this time it is said that the practise of burying peoples retainers with them after their death was still carried out. Their retainer still being alive at this time. When Empress Hibasuhime died, the Emperor asked then what should be done. Several ministers stated the practises of old (burying retainers alive) should still be continued as had been done when Yamatohiko passed away.

However, Nomi no Sukune stepped in with another idea saying human sacrifice was contrary to a benevolent government. And so he took 300 potters and made images in clay. The Emperor liked what had been created, dubbing them haniwa and this became the replacement of human sacrifice. For his work he was given the name of Haji ‘master potter’ and was put incharge of pottery workers (Haji Be) and funerary rites.

This particular event is recorded in the Nihongi but not the Kojiki.

Though the Nihongi states he became the founder of the Haji Clan, not all branches of the family claimed descent from him. The Shinsen Shōjiroku, written in 815 states three branches of the Haji claimed him as an ancestor, with three others claiming Umashikaraine or Iirine as their ancestors, both of these men also being 12th generational descendants of Amenohohi. Later in 1106 Sugawara no Tsuratsune wrote the Kanke Godenki, inside he tried to rectify the family tree, placing Umashikaraine and Iirine as ancestors of Nomi no Sukune.

The Harima no Kuni Fudoki says Nomi no Sukune eventually died when travelling between Yamato and Izumo Province.

Shrines to Nomi no Sukune are known to have been maintained by shuku villagers.1

Footnotes

1. 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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