Japanese Mythology and Folklore – Susanoo and Yamata no Orochi

Susanoo was the brother of Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun. They were both expelled from the land of the gods and came to Earth. Susanoo reached the banks of the Hii River, and seeing that there were chopsticks floating in the river, he assumed that there would be people upstream. Walking along the shore he came across two old men and a woman named Kushinada Hime.

 

two old men and kushinada hime

All three people were crying. Susanoo was moved and asked why they were sorry. One of the elders told him that a large snake had come and devoured one of his eight daughters. Kushinada Hime was the last one left alive. The snake was called Yamata no Orochi, and it was so large that it could cover eight valleys and mountains.

Susanoo Kushinada Hime and Yamata no Orochi

Susanoo decided to help them because the young woman was very beautiful, so she offered her help in exchange for being able to marry the maiden. The elders weren’t willing to let Kushinada Hime marry just anyone, so they asked him who he was, and he claimed to be the brother of the sun goddess. Then the elders agreed and Susanoo turned Kushinada Hime into a comb and put it in her hair.

Susanoo vs. Yamata-no-Orochi

So Susanoo asked the elders to prepare eight tubs of the strongest sake. They did it and put it in the eight entrances of the fence, as ordered. After making preparations, the great snake appeared. Susanoo was ready for the fight. Yamata no Orochi approached the fence, took some of the sake, and fell asleep. Then he attacked and cut off the eight heads and the eight tails of the serpent.

After winning the fight, Susanoo took the eight heads and buried them in a place called “Eight Cedars”, which is currently located in the village of Kisuki. Above each head he planted a cedar, and when they were destroyed by floods or disease, other cedars were planted again. The last ones were planted in 1873. In one of the tails of the snake Susanoo found a sword that he called Murakumo, who gave it to his sister Amaterasu as a symbol of peace and to show his affection for her. She accepted it, and it eventually became one of Japan’s three Imperial Treasures, the other two being a mirror given by the sky gods, and a jeweled necklace, given by her father Izanagi. The name of the sword finally changed to Kusanagi.

Some interpret the serpent of legend as several rivers causing havoc through flooding. Susanoo, who was perhaps an engineer, helped control the rivers with dams and dams. The Red River, which is believed to be red from the blood of Yamata no Orochi, is a source of iron sand, which is a material used to make Japanese swords, as well as knives and materials for cultivation, and this is what gives the river the red color.

Yaegaki Shrine

After having killed the serpent, Susanoo and his fiancée went to the Yaegaki shrine, which is dedicated to Inada, and lived there. Then they went to Daito in Shimane Prefecture. Susanoo became ruler of the Land of Darkness, whose gate is in Higashi Izumo.