Ōkuninushi

Hear about Ōkuninushi on Episode 62 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Ōkuninushi
Ōkuninushi and Sukunabikona

Ōkuninushi

Ōkuninushi (大国主神 – Great Land Master1) is a Shinto kami mentioned in the Kojiki as the son of Amenofuyukinu and Sashikuniwakahime, due to this he is a decendant of Susano-o.1

The Nihongi list several alternative narratives for Ōkuninushi. In one it states he is the son of Susano-o, which is contracted by the Kojiki and other alternative narratives in the Nihongi.

Another version states he had in total, 181 children. During his life he worked with Sukunabikona and together they made the ‘sub-celestial world.’ They also determined how to heal the diseases of man, how to protect against calamity from birds and creeping things. After all of this work Ōkuninushi stepped back to ask if the country they had made is well formed; to this Sukunabikona states some areas are complete, but there are areas of Japan still to finish. After this Suknabikona heads to Cape Kumano and leaves Ōkuninushi to head to the land of Tokoyo. Ōkuninushi mthen travels around Japan to find the areas still to be completed.

Finally finished he declares he will govern over all the land, asking if there was one who could govern with him. The deity Ōmiwa apears from the sea that he had been helping him all this time. If not for him he could not have subdued the land as he was Ōkuninushi’s guardian kami. After leaving the ocean Ōkuninushi asks where his guardian kami wised to live, and so he makes for him a shrine on Mount Mimoro in Yamato.2

A different version tells of how Ōkuninushi was pacifying the land in Obama in Isasa, Izumo Province. Here he came across a dwarf who came from the sea dressed in wren feathers. Ōkuninushi takes the small deity into his hand only to see them jump up to bite him on the cheek. He goes up to Heaven to ask about this event, Takamimusuhi saying this deity was Sukunabikona; his wicked child who would not follow instructions.2

Other Names

This deity has many alternative names used throughout the Kojiki and the Nihongi. These are detailed below with an explanation associated with their meaning.

  • Ōanamuji (大穴牟遅神 – Great Iron Mines Noble)  – This refers to mines between the realm of humans and the underworld. The Engi Rites list shrines for this deity across Honshu.1
  • Ōnamochi (大己貴神 – Great Name Bearer1)
  • Ashiharashikoo (葦原色許男, 葦原醜男 – Grim Man of the Reed Plains) A deregetory name given by Susano-o. This name also seen in Fudoki, when Amenohihoko wrests land from him in Harima. The shiko element (grim, ugly, foul) can refer to defilement from the underworld, but can also express respectful ackowlegement of anothers power and authority.1
  • Yachihoko (八千矛神, 八千戈神 – Eight Thousand Spears) Name relates to the iron he possesses.1
  • Utsushikunitama (宇都志国玉神, 顕国玉神 – Daylight Land Soul) – Refers to land beyond the mouth of mines leading to the underworld.1

Footnotes

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.

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