Hotsuma-Tsutae The Book of Heaven (Chapters 2) [Contents] [Japanese] [French]

The Origin of Peach Blossom and the Hina Festival

Part One Four Generations of Heavenly Sovereigns and the Hina Pair

This is a tale of events that occurred back in the mists of time, some three thousand years before the present day. The sovereign court was busily preparing for the betrothal ceremony between Prince Oshihomimi, chosen heir to the Great Amateru, and Princess Takuhatachichi, daughter of the Lord Toyoke.
At the time, Amateru was residing at the palace of Isawa (now the shrine of Izonomiya in Isobe, Mie Prefecture), from whence his radiance shone over the length and breadth of the land and the people lived in affluence. His son Oshihomimi had command over the Land of Hitakami, which he governed from the Tsubowaka Palace in Taka (now Tagajo near Sendai).

One day, Takagi, brother of the Prince's bride-to-be, had a question for Amateru. His motive was to engage the sovereign in relaxing discourse for as long as his pleasure would allow.
"Why is it", he began slowly, as if to gain the agreement of all the lords in attendance, "that the bride and groom go through the ritual of alternately drinking miki (a kind of sake) at the wedding ceremony?"
Amateru smiled his benign smile. Then, quietly, he started to relate the story of the creation of heaven and earth to the ministers and nobles, as well as the throng of ordinary folk that had gathered.

"In the far and distant past, long before our court had come into being, when heaven and earth were not yet separate, and not even the sun, the moon, and the stars had come into existence, the universe was ruled by confusion that had no shape and no form, floating and swirling and bubbling around without end.
"But then, after an infinitely long passage of time, at last there started to appear a sign that this darkness of the universe would divide into a negative or female part and a positive or male part.
"Into the midst of this was born the Amemiwoya deity (the "August Parent of the Heavens"). When he blew his first breath into the bubbling, swirling universe, it started to turn more quietly and peacefully. At its centre stood a great column called Amenomihashira (the "August Pillar of the Heavens"), and around it the confused mass of the universe at last started to take shape.

"The pure, light part became the positive (male) element, spiralling to the left to form the heavens and the sun. The heavy, murky part spiralled to the right to form the negative (female) element, from which was formed the earth, which in turn gave birth to the moon.
"Now, the first deity born on this earth was called Kunitokotachi. He planted flowering orange trees and established the Land of Tokoyo, as his own promised land.
"Kunitokotachi then begat eight sons, whom he sent out to rule the eight provinces of the earth. For that reason, the sons are known as the Yamoyakudari ("Eight Directions and Eight Descendings"). These are the ancestors of all earthly rulers, and are also known collectively as the Kunisatsuchi. Actually, Kunitokotachi had wanted to nominate just one of them to rule the whole earth, based on a principle of rigorous selection. But since none was willing to stand out above the rest, he gave each his own kingdom, on the principle of fair division of rule (satsuchi - hence the name).
"The eight sons were named To, Ho, Ka, Mi, Ye, Hi, Ta, and Me (abbreviated from their full names To-no-Kunisatsuchi, Ho-no-Kunisatsuchi, and so forth). And in this way, the number eight came to take on a sacred meaning in this ancient land. The eight sons also came to be known as the Yamotogami ("Eight Original Deities"), upon whose foundation the world was thought to rest.
"Later, these eight Kunisatsuchi each begat five children.

"Now, the name of the third deity who ruled these "eight islands" (Yashima) was Toyokunnu. Having assumed the heavenly command, he divided the descendants of the gods into the three ranks of kimi (sovereigns), tomi (ministers), and tami (the people), each with its special role in the organization of the country.
"Toyokunnu had a younger brother named Ukemochi. While Ukemochi was praying to Amemiwoya (the "parent deity") one day in his fervent wish to bring prosperity to the people, his wish was granted when hiyouru seeds fell to earth. The hiyouru seeds contained the spirit of the sun and moon. When Ukemochi planted these seeds in a wet field, they grew into rice seedlings. And when the first day of the eighth month came, the ears had grown heavy and yielded a rich harvest. Ukemochi first reported these glad tidings to his brother Toyokunnu, presenting ears of rice bundled into sheaves (yafusa).
"Toyokunnu in turn offered up the rice to the Amemiwoya and Ameminakanushi deities, and held a festival of thanksgiving. Then the rice was distributed among the people so that all could enjoy the blessings of this rich harvest. From this time on, the supply of food for the people increased and their lives became more affluent. And peace reigned long in the land.
"The people gave Ukemochi the popular name of Inari ("Rice Yielder") and his fame was passed down to posterity. From this started the custom of inviting close friends to share feasts and exchange gifts on the first day of the eighth month. This was known as the festival of Hassaku.

"The deity Toyokunnu was blessed with 120 children. But they all lived separately and there was as yet no formal matrimony. For this reason, the deities up to the 3rd generation are known as hitorikami ("single deities").

"Heavenly masakaki trees came and went. Time in those days was measured by the withering and replanting of these trees. Just as the 500th masakaki tree was flourishing, the heavenly rule passed into the hands of the 4th sovereign deity, Ubichini. He took a female deity called Subichini as his wife, and thereby established the institution of marriage.
"The romantic tale of these two deities is the root of today's Hina Festival, and also provides the beginnings of our system of wedlock."

Now that the story had come so far, the sovereign paused for breath. Oshihomimi cast a thought over his coming life with the Princess Takuhatachichi. He now appeared greatly calmed.

"Long, long ago, we are told, a male and female deity were born in the palace of the deity of Mount Hinaru (now Mount Hino) in the Land of Koshi (Echizen). In their hands, as they were born, they held the seeds of trees.
"These seeds were planted in the courtyard, and grew into trees. And on the 3rd day of the 3rd month in the 3rd year, the trees bore beautiful blossom in great abundance. In the early summer, they bore hundreds of sweet-smelling fruits. For this reason the trees were called momo (literally, "hundreds", or myriad), now the familiar name of the peach (tree, blossom, and fruit).
"To commemorate this, the two young deities were thereafter called "Momohinaki" and "Momohinami" (-ki for the male and -mi for the female). The elements -ki ("tree") and -mi ("fruit") commemorate their relationship with the peach tree and its fruit.
Hina indicates that the two were still children. Hi means "one" and na means "seven". It means that they had not yet become adults (hito: hi = "one" and to = "ten").
"The word kimi meaning "sovereign" is composed of the words ki and mi referring to the peach tree and its fruit. From that time on it became common for a male deity's name to end in "-ki" and a female deity's name in "-mi".

"The two deities grew into splendid adults, and prepared to celebrate the 3rd day of the 3rd month.
"A deity named Sukunami in a place called Inokuchi noticed how sparrows had gathered around a bamboo stump and were putting unhulled rice into it. In a flash of inspiration, he fermented the rice husks and made sake rice wine, which he poured into bamboo pipes and presented to Momohinaki and Momohinami. Momohinaki now bestowed on him the name of Sasanami. Under this name he is revered on Mount Sasakeyama, and this gives the origin of the word sake. But the sake presented to the two deities was given the special name of miki in reference to the mi and ki of the peach tree.

"Spring came, and the two deities exchanged scoops of the "ritual beverage" (miki) under the now fully opened peach blossoms. First, the male deity proffered the drink to the female. Then it was the male's turn to drink. After this, the two entered their chamber and again poured the drink for each other. This is the custom known as tokomiki.
"They were now joined in the bond of love, and remained confined in the chamber for three days, appearing again at dawn on the third day. As if to cool their endlessly burning passion, they now cleansed themselves in the clear, pure water of the Samukawa River. As they did, the sleeves of their garments trailed in the water and got wet. It was from this that they derived their adult names. The sleeve of the male was "greatly moistened" (u + hichi), while that of the female deity was only slightly so (su + hichi). Thereafter, they were known as Ubichini and Subichini, bi being a voiced counterpart of hi.
"The flames of passion between Ubichini and Subichini leapt so high as to recall memories of the boiling, bubbling broth (ubi) when heaven and earth were separated at the beginning of time.

"What about the fine appearance of these two deities? Ubichini wore a ceremonial head-dress, an upper garment with wide sleeves, and broad-legged hakama breeches below. Subichini wore a narrow-sleeved kimono with an upper robe over it. This is the form in which they are still remembered in the Hina festival.
"Now, eighty-eight of the most important deities copied the two sovereigns and took wives, wedding them in marriage ceremonies. The people of the land also followed suit, and the wedding ritual became part of the heavenly law on earth.

"To commemorate the third day of the third month of the third year, the custom of sansan-kudo (the triple exchange of nuptial beverages) took shape.
"The word sakazuki (meaning "cup" or "inverse moon") was coined in reference to the reflection of the moon in the cups of miki scooped up and exchanged under the blossom of the trees in the early evening on this day. People long thereafter lauded these two deities who had discovered the sakazuki as the deities of Mount Hinagatake."

(Amateru later went on to describe the reigns of the 5th, 6th, and 7th heavenly sovereigns.)

Part Two Sukuna-Hikona and the Hina Festival

The character known in Japanese legend as "Okuninushi", Lord of Izumo, was actually named Yashimashinomi-no-Ohonamuchi.
He was blessed with a gentle disposition from birth, and enjoyed the warm trust of his people. He also displayed no small skill in the management of his land, so that even in cold years with much rainfall, even when visited by raging typhoons, and even in droughts caused by rainless summers, he always had plenty of grain in reserve to protect his people from want.

One day, when Ohonamuchi was touring his lands to give guidance on agriculture, he noticed a boat coming towards him across the tide. The boat had a mirror attached to its bow.
Ohonamuchi turned and asked his men who this might be. But no-one could answer. Then one named Kuyehiko came forward and said,
"That is Sukuna-Hikona, the worthless remainder of the fifteen hundred children of Kanmimusubi, one who slipped through the fingers that were counting."
Ohonamuchi received this Sukuna-Hikona warmly and invited him to join him on his tour of the land. Together they worked to develop paddy fields and feed the people. They taught the womenfolk the skills of sericulture and sewing, and worked hard for the development of the land.
For those of poor health, meanwhile, they cultivated medicinal herbs and developed cures - not only for humans, but for birds and wild animals, too, they cured illnesses and tended them with loving care.
On one occasion, hearing reports of a plague of locusts, they raced to the location on horseback, drove away the locusts using a repellent plant called oshikusa, and so protected the people's food.

There is a saying that "every tide has its ebb". These two appeared at first sight to be sailing on a full wind in their government of the land. But who was to know what dark clouds of misfortune awaited them?

(The Surrender of Izumo)

Ohonamuchi was unreasonably branded as the source of all evil by the imperial court and banished to the far northern region of Tsugaru.

Sukuna-Hikona, meanwhile, concealed his innermost thoughts and devoted himself to mastering the kada musical instrument in the Land of Awa (today's Shiga Prefecture). He rejected his former life of dedication and trust in the nation, and wandered aimlessly round the provinces, carrying his sorrow in his heart.
And as he drifted from place to place, there was always one song that he would recite as he played his kada instrument: the story of the Hina festival, from the days of Lord Amateru, when men's hearts were pure and kindness shone all around.
People had forgotten the story of the Hina festival, but he spread it all over the country. And as he approached old age, he arrived at the shore of Kada-no-Ura in the Land of Waka, and thence ascended to the eternal Land of Hina of Ubichini and Subichini.

Even today, people revere Sukuna-Hikona as the deity Awashima (a deity who appeared in the Land of Awa) at the Awashima Shrine there, little knowing of his simple, fragile character.
Every year, on the 3rd day of the 3rd month, hina dolls brought from all over the country are offered to the shrine. Then the hina-nagashi (release of hina dolls) ritual is conducted in all pomp, in memory of Sukuna-Hikona.

Part Three A Song of Congratulation for Hikohohodemi and Toyotama

Toyozumihiko, elder brother of the Princess Toyotama, adorned the heads of six newly appointed court ladies with jewelled bamboo hats decorated with peach blossoms, and placed in their hands jewelled wooden bowls filled with water. With this, they awaited the appearance of Prince Hikohohodemi and Princess Toyotama from their chamber on the third morning after their wedding.
When at last the two newly-weds emerged, the six court ladies all poured out their water together, and sang this song as one.
Momohinagi majibayi ato no
mika no hi no kawamizu abite
Ubichini no kami kara shimo he
hanamuko ni mizu
mairaseu mairaseu

"Momohinagi bathes in river water on the third day after union; from the top to the bottom of Ubichini, let us dowse, let us dowse the groom with water!"
Now, the 32 provincial governors of Kyushu joined the people in voice to sing this song of congratulation. This gave way to joyous cries of "Yorotoshi! Yorotoshi!" ("Long may they live!") that soon engulfed the whole land.

(from the 2nd aya of the Hotsuma-Tsutae)

- END -

Hotsuma-Tsutae (National Archives, Tokyo)
Hotsuma-Tsutae (period translation by Waniko Yasutoshi, ca. 1779)

Copyright 2001 (c) Hotsumatsutae Japan All Rights Reserved.
This site is operated and maintained by the Japan Translation Center, Ltd.
The contents of this site may be freely reproduced or published, but may not be used for sale or any other directly commercial purpose.Anyone wishing to reproduce or publish the contents of this site should first contact