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

Ōkuninushi and Sukunabikona


Ōkuninushi (大国主神 – Great Land Master1) is a Shinto kami.


The kojiki states he is 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.2

Ohotataneko is said to be his son through Ikutamayoribime in the nihongi.2 However, the kojiki says he is his decendant through Ikutamayoribime and their child Kushimigata.1

Work with Sukunabikona

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 then 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 kami 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 wished 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 kami 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 kami was Sukunabikona; his wicked child who would not follow instructions.2

Plague during Emperor Sujin’s Reign

Emperor Sujin

During the reign of Emperor Sujin there was a plague and so the Emperor communed with the Miwa no Ohomonomishu (Ōkuninushi)

The tale then differs depending on the kojiki or nihongi.

In the kojiki the kami says that if he appoints Ohotataneko as chief of his shrine then the plague will pass, after having this man found and finding out he was a descendant of Ōkuninushi he is made High Prirest of this kami on Mount Mimoro.1

In the nihongi the kami says if were worshipped correctly then the plague would pass. This did not happen and so after being contacted again he is told to locate Ohotataneko and make him head of his shrine. This would cause the plague to abate but would also make the lands over the sea give submission.

Two people known as Yamatototokamiasachihara maguhashihime and Ohominakuchino Sukune then have a dream saying that placing Ohotataneko as head priest of Ohomonomushi and Ichishinonagaochi as head priest of Ohokunidama would lead to peace. (Both of these kami names are names for Ōkuninushi)

Ohotataneko is found and he relates how he is the son of Ōkuninushi.2

Marriage to Yamatotohime

After the war against Takehaniyasuhiko in the reign of Emperor Sujin it is said Yamatotohime became married to him.

He never showed himself to her during the day, only coming at night. And so she asked to see him in the day time. He said he would do so and that he will for her in the morning in her toilet case. Shen she opens it in the morning she finds a small snake and is startled. Ōkuninushi becomes ashamed and so leaves for Mount Mimoro. Yamatotohime saddened that he had left her, she kills herself with chopsticks by stabbing herself in the genitals.2

Reign of Emperor Suinin

Emperor Suinin

During his reign it is revealed Ōkuninushi is the reason why his son Homutsuwake cannot speak. If the prince pays reverence to him at his shrine and also builds him a shrine in the style of the Emperors home he would give him the ability to speak again. Once he had prayed to the kami he could speak.

And so Unakami was sent to build the desired shrine for the kami.1

Other Names

This kami has many alternative names used throughout the Kojiki and the Nihongi. These are detailed below with an explanation associated with their meaning if we have one.

  • 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 kami across Honshu.1
  • Ōnamochi (大己貴神 – Great Name Bearer1)
  • Ohokunidama2
  • 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
  • Miwa no Ohomonomishu2
  • 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


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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