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Exploring Hiruko: Uncovering the God of Japanese Mythology

Hiruko image

Japanese mythology is home to a vast array of gods and creatures, each with unique stories and characteristics.

One of the most intriguing gods is Hiruko, an ancient deity whose identity and origins have been the subject of much debate over the centuries.

Hiruko is an enigmatic figure, rarely referenced in Japanese mythology and often shrouded in mystery.

This has only served to increase his mystique and attract the attention of many eager to uncover this god's secrets.

By exploring Hiruko and the stories surrounding him, we can better understand the culture, history, and beliefs of the ancient Japanese people.

Hiruko in "Kojiki"

Hirko, at the time of the birth of the nation in the "Kojiki" (Records of Ancient Matters).

  • Izanagi
  • Izanami

The first god born among them was Hiruko.

However, an incident occurs during childbirth.

It was the goddess Izanami who approached the male god Izanagi first.

Because of this, Hiruko was born a crippled child and was put into a reed boat and cast away from Onogoro Island.

Onogoro Island is an island that appears in Japanese mythology.

Together with the next-born Ahashima, it is not included in the number of children of the two gods.

It is written that.

The reason for his abandonment is stated in the Kojiki to be as follows:

He was not a good son for us to have.

The reason for his abandonment is given in the Kojiki as the words of Izanaki-Izanami, but it remains unclear what kind of child he was.

  1. The word "Hiruko" suggests that the child's limbs were deformed like those of a water leech.
  2. Could it have been an unformed fetus called a hydatidiform mole?

A hydatidiform mole is a pathological pregnancy with abnormal growth due to chromosomal abnormalities.

The later interpretations include the above two.

Hiruko in "Nihon Shoki"

Hiruko appears several times in "Nihon Shoki" (Chronicles of Japan).

The first or second god was born to Izanagi and Izanami.

Similar to the "Kojiki", he is written like this.

In the text, he is born after Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi and before Susanoo among the three noble children (Mihashira no Uzunomiko).

The three noble children are the last three gods born when Izanagi, returning from the Land of Hades in the Kojiki, purifies himself in misogi (bathing) to remove the dirt of Hades.

However, Hiruko could not stand on his legs even at the age of three.

So it is said that he was carried away in a boat made of solid camphorwood.

The legend of Hiruko, which occurred from the Middle Ages onward, is mainly based on this theory of the Nihon Shoki.

This "three years old" is the first description of the counting of years in the Nihon Shoki.

Myths of the first child of the two ancestral deities, a man and a woman, failing to bear a child have been found in many parts of the world.

It is believed to be related to the flood-type sibling origin myth, especially in Southeast Asia.

The myth of the flood-type sibling founder is a myth from Okinawa Prefecture, Southwest China, Taiwan, Indochina Peninsula, Indonesia, Polynesian Islands, etc., in which a sibling who survived a flood marries and becomes the founder of the region.

Hiruko is Ebisu?

Legends of the god Hiruko, who has swept away and washed up in the sea, remain in many parts of Japan.

In the "Genpei Jōsuiki," the legend of Hiruko, the goddess of the sea, is told as follows.

He became a god of the sea and appeared in Nishinomiya as Ebisaburo-dono (Nishinomiya-daimyojin).

In many places along the coast of Japan, there are many places where people believe in the deity Ebisu as a deity that drifted ashore.

The theory that Hiruko and Ebisu are one and the same is a new theory that originated in the Muromachi period (1333-1573) and spread widely among people.

Today, there are many shrines dedicated to Hiruko, including

  • Wada Shrine
  • Nishinomiya Shrine

and other shrines.

On the other hand, it seems that there are many shrines that enshrine Ebisu as Ebisu = God of Kotoshironushi.

A poet of the Heian period (794-1185) composed a poem about the feelings of a parent deity toward a crippled child, which is not mentioned in the myth.

Pity for the crippled child who was cast away as a defilement that threatened the royal authority, and the deformity is the sign (stigmata) of the divine child.

This feeling of pity was passed on to subsequent legends and traditions in this way.

Hiruko's legend of the god of good fortune, who was a child who had washed ashore from beyond the sea and would eventually bring good fortune, was linked to Ebisu in a different way.

Scholarly image

This may have led to confusion between Hiruko and Ebisu?

It is thought that.

There is also an interpretation of Hiruko based on the Kishu ryūritan.

Kishu ryūritan is a type of tale about a young god or hero who overcomes trials and tribulations while wandering in another land, and as a result, becomes a noble being.

Hiruko was a sun child and was swept away because he was the precious "Son of the Sun".

Here, it is said that it was Ebisu who protected and served the Son of the Sun.

Similar myths about the crippled child are said to be found throughout the world.

However, it seems to be a rare case in which a god of death, once buried in mythology, was resurrected in later generations and became the object of legends and beliefs.

If you want to know more about Ebisu, who is identified with Hiruko,

Please read this article.


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