Sacred Regalia

Hear about the Sacred Regalia on Episode 49 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Sacred Regalia
Conjectured image of the Sacred Regalia

Sacred Regalia

The Sacred Regalia (三種の神器) are the three Sacred Items of the Imperial Throne, consisting of the Sword Kusanagi (草薙劍), the Jewel Yasakani no Magatama (八尺瓊勾玉) and the Mirror Yata no Kagami (八咫鏡).

The Sacred Regalia is known to have been given by Amaterasu to her grandson Ninigi upon his descent to Earth.12 Eventually, the mirror was handed down to Emperor Jimmu, later bringing the Sacred Regalia to a palace erected in Kashihara where her undertook ceremonies to Amaterasu and was then proclaimed Emperor.2

The Jewel is now thought to reside with the current ruler, in a Shrine in the precinct of the Imperial Palace, the Sword thought to reside in the Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya; with the Mirror enshrined in the Ise Grand Shrine.2

Yata no Kagami – Mirror

Initially the mirror was made by the spirit Ishikoridome as one of the items used to try and coax Amaterasu out of the Rock Cave when she fled into it, this is related in the Kojiki and Nihongi. There is one alternate writing of the Nihongi where the Spirit Amenonukado instead created this mirror, and that it was then placed inside of the cave where it his the door gaining a flaw which remains to this day.3

During the reign of Emperor Suinin, after he had a prophetic dream, the Yata no Kagami (八咫鏡) was enshrined in the Ise Grand Shrine, appointing one of his daughters as resident priestess-guardian.2

Kusanagi – Sword

Susano-o
Susano-o fighting the Dragon.

The sword Kusanagi (Grass Mower1) (Nihongi, Mura-kumo ‘Assembled Clouds’1) was discoverd by Susano-o inside the Dragon Yamata no Orochi.

Susano-o comes across the grieving parents of Kushinadahime as every year the Dragon Yamata no Orochi comes to take one of their children; Kushinadahime was to be the next. Susano-o says he will help them if they would give her to him in marriage and they agreed. (The story differs a little depending on the version of the Nihongi read). He instructs them to brew sake and when the Dragon appears it drinks the sake and falls down drunk. Susano-o then takes the opportunity to cut the dragon into pieces, killing it. When he is cutting up the tail, his blade became stuck and so opening up the tail to see why, he finds Kusanagi inside. The sword is then gifted up to Heaven by Susano-o (or by Ama no Fukine  in another version).3

Different versions of the tale, give different names to the sword Susano-o used to slay the Dragon, these being Ama no HayekiriOrochi no Karasabi and Orochi no Aramasa.3

Later, it was bestowed onto Yamato Takeru by his aunt Yamato Hime when he is sent to subjugate the Emishi. When he reaches Sagami Province he used the sword to escape a grass fire lit by a chieftain, using it to mow down the grass around him. He returns to his wife, leaving the sword behind when he goes to complete one more exploit.1

Footnotes

1. Littleton. C.S. (1995) “Yamato-takeru: An Arthurian Hero in Japanese Tradition”. Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 54, No.2, pp.259-274.
2. Martin, P. (1997) ”The Chrysanthemum Throne”. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Limited.
3. Aston. W.G. (1896) “Nihongi Volume 1: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to AD697”. Tuttle Publishing.

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