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 kami 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.

Sumo

Nomi no Sukune
Nomi no Sukune wrestling Kuehaya by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

During the 7th year of his reign a man known as Kuehaya of Taima was declared so strong that he could break horns and straighten out hooks; Kuehaya claiming that no-one could beat him. One minister by the name of Nagaochi was sent to bring Nomi no Sukune and they were ordered to wrestle.

Both initially kick one another but 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.2

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.1

Human Sacrifice

In his 28th year Yamatohiko died and he is buried in Tsukizaka in Musa. His attendants were buried alongside him, alive and standing upright in the precinct of his misasagi. It took several days for them to die, the Emperor overhearing their weeping as they passed away. And after their passing crows and dogs came to feast on them.

The Emperor hearing their wails as they died asks what can be done about this custom.2

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.12

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.12

The mentioning of Nomi no Sukune is not seen in the pages of the kojiki, however it does state that the Haji Be were founded during this Emperors reign.13

One branch of the Haji lived near the site apparently that of Emperor Suinins tomb, which may have helped in joining the Haji Clan with the story of the haniwa in later records.3

Ancestry and Death

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
2. Aston. W.G. (1896) “Nihongi Volume 1: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to AD697”. Tuttle Publishing.
3. Yasumaro. O, translated by Gustav Heldt. (2014) “Kojiki. An Account of Ancient Matters”. New York: Columbia University Press.

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