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Unearthing Hiruko: Investigating Japanese Mythology

Hiruko image

In Japanese mythology, there is a huge array of deities and monsters, each with their own special tales and features.

The identity and source of Hiruko, a very captivating god, has been discussed and argued about for many years.

A mysterious character who has only been mentioned infrequently in Japanese folklore, Hiruko is an enigmatic figure.

This has succeeded in intensifying his enigmatic aura and drawing the curiosity of numerous individuals hoping to divulge the mysteries of this deity.

Examining the tales of Hiruko can give us insight into the culture, background, and convictions of the olden Japanese citizens.

The Character Hiruko in the Book "Kojiki"

At the dawn of the nation, Hirko is mentioned in the "Kojiki" (Records of Ancient Matters).

  • The creator god, Izanagi
  • The creator goddess, Izanami

The first god born among them was Hiruko.

However, an incident occurs during childbirth.

It was Izanami, the goddess, who initiated contact with the male god Izanagi.

Owing to this, Hiruko was born with physical impairment and was set adrift in a reed boat from Onogoro Island.

*In Japanese mythology, Onogoro Island is mentioned as an isle.

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

It is said.

The Kojiki states that the cause of his abandonment was as follows:

We did not have a good son.

The Kojiki offers an explanation as to why Izanaki-Izanami abandoned their child, but the particulars of the child are still a mystery.

  1. The term "Hiruko" implies that the baby had limbs that were distorted in a way similar to the shape of a water leech.
  2. Could it have been a malformed fetus referred to as a hydatidiform mole?

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

The later interpretations include the above two.

The Character Hiruko in the "Nihon Shoki"

The figure of Hiruko appears on multiple occasions in "Nihon Shoki", a compilation of ancient Japanese history.

Izanagi and Izanami gave birth to the first or second deity.

In a style similar to the "Kojiki," he is portrayed this way.

Among the three noble children, Mihashira no Uzunomiko, he is born after Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi and prior to Susanoo.

*According to the Kojiki, the three divine children were born when Izanaki purified himself through misogi to eliminate the filth of the Land of Hades after his return from the Underworld.

At three years old, Hiruko was still unable to stand on his own two feet.

It is reported that a boat crafted from solid camphorwood transported him away.

The tale of Hiruko, which has been passed down since the Middle Ages, is primarily drawn from the Nihon Shoki chronicle.

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

Stories of failed parenthood by the two ancestral deities, a man and a woman, in regard to their firstborn can be discovered in a number of regions.

Many people think it is related to a narrative about the beginnings of something similar to a flood, particularly in the Southeast Asian region.

*A story of brother and sister pairings who endure a flood and eventually marry to become the founders of a place is a myth found in many areas, including Okinawa Prefecture, Southwest China, Taiwan, Indochina Peninsula, Indonesia, Polynesian Islands.

Is Hiruko synonymous with Ebisu?

In many parts of Japan, stories remain about the deity Hiruko, who was swept away and then washed ashore by the sea.

The Genpei Jōsuiki relates the legendary tale of Hiruko, the deity of the ocean.

Ebisaburo-dono, a deity of the ocean, manifested himself in Nishinomiya.

People in many areas along the coast of Japan have faith in Ebisu, the deity that is thought to have arrived on the shore.

It was in the Muromachi period (1333-1573) when the concept emerged that Hiruko and Ebisu could possibly be the same individual.

This idea quickly became popular and was embraced by many.

Shrines devoted to Hiruko abound in the present era, with some of the notable examples being

  • The Wada Shrine
  • The Nishinomiya Shrine

In contrast, numerous shrines honor Ebisu, who is regarded as the deity of Kotoshironushi.

During the Heian period (794-1185), a poet wrote a poem about the emotions of a divine parent towards a disabled child, which was not found in the myth.

It is unfortunate for the crippled infant that was rejected as a blemish that could potentially undermine the power of the king, with the disfigurement being a sign of the son of god (stigmata).

The sentiment of sympathy was carried over to the next myths and customs in this fashion.

He was a child who had been brought ashore from the distant ocean and was destined to bring blessing.

The tale of Hiruko, the deity of fortune, was tied to Ebisu in an alternate fashion.

Scholarly image

This may have led to confusion between Hiruko and Ebisu?

It is believed.

According to the Kishu ryūritan, an interpretation of Hiruko exists.

*The Kishu ryūritan is a narrative concerning a young god or protagonist that goes through various struggles while travelling in a foreign country and in the end, emerges as a noble individual.

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.

Myths involving a disabled child can be discovered globally.

Nevertheless, it appears to be an extraordinary occurrence in which a deity of the underworld, which had been cast aside in the past, was revived in later years and became something that people would tell stories and tales about.