Hotsuma-Tsutae The Book of Heaven (Chapters 13) [Contents] [Japanese] [French]

Ame-no-Koyane explains the Way of Ise

The marriage of Amateru's heir and successor Oshihomimi, who resided in the Tsubowaka Palace at Taka-no-Kofu (now Tagajo near Sendai) in Hitakami, and Princess Takuhata-Chichi, daughter of Takagi (the 7th Takamimusubi), had been performed in all due pomp and ceremony.

Full of joy at this happy event, the people now settled down to lives of contented fulfilment. One hot summer day, the Lord Kasuga (otherwise known as Wakahiko or Ame-no-Koyane) paid a courtesy visit to Oshihomimi at Tsubowaka. Kasuga had fulfilled the weighty role, as Amateru's envoy, of presiding over the succession of the heavenly sovereignty by Oshihomimi. Once the rites of accession were complete, he remained at Take-no-Kofu until his return to Amateru in the autumn.

Oshihomimi was glad to receive Kasuga's visit, and ordered cups of sak#233; to be prepared for a rare moment of relaxation.
The new sovereign wished to hear about the Way of Ise (Imo-Ose, female and male - the Way of Matrimony) from the learned, most highly respected Kasuga. "I understand that my father Amateru extolled the Way of Ise", he said. "Would you teach me about it?".
Kasuga rose to join the sovereign, adjusted his ceremonial garments and sat on Oshihomimi's left. To the sovereign's right sat Takagi (the 7th Takamimusubi, Lord of Hitakami) and the Lord of Karu (formerly Ohonamuchi of Izumo, now governor of Tsugaru). Next to them sat the Lord Katori (Futsunushi), the Lord Kashima (Takemikazuchi), and the Lords of Tsukuba and Shihogama. Besides these, all the other nobles were present, and the people too gathered around as they eagerly awaited the explanation offered by the learned Wakahiko.

Oshihomimi opened the discussion with a question. "The other day, as I went to draw water to cool myself from the heat, Takagi stayed my hand and made me only feign to bathe. Why was that?".
"Because a rule has been passed down from days of yore", Kasuga replied. "Ubichini, the 4th heavenly sovereign, was born on Mount Hinaru in the Land of Koshi (Mount Hino or Hinagatake, the Hino Shrine, Takefu City in Fukui Prefecture), holding the seed of a tree. As an adult, he wed Subichini under peach blossoms on the evening of the 3rd day of the 3rd month, when the moon shone bright. Their bond of fidelity started our system of matrimony, and has passed into posterity as the Hina Festival.
"Ubichini planted the seed of the peach, and on the 3rd day of the 3rd month in the 3rd year, the tree bore both blossom and fruit in great abundance. For this reason, the tree, its blossom and fruit were called momo (literally, 'hundreds'), now the familiar name of the peach. From this time on, Ubichini was called 'Momohinaki' and Subichini 'Momohinami' (-ki for the male and -mi for the female). 'Hina' means 'one to seven' (hi + na), referring to the fact that the pair had not yet attained adulthood ('hito', meaning 'one to ten').
"To commemorate this wondrous happening on the 3rd day of the 3rd month in the 3rd year, the custom of the 'triple exchange of nuptial beverages' was born. The ritual sak#233; (miki) is poured into a cup called a 'sakazuki', which the male deity proffers to the female. She drinks it down in three, then returns it to the male. He drinks the next cupful in the same way, before passing it back to the female. The third cup is shared between them, so that, in the end, there have been three cups drunk three times each. Even the word 'miki' refers to the fact that the female (mi) drinks first and the male (ki) second. And the word sakazuki (meaning both 'cup' and 'inverse moon') was coined in reference to the reflection of the early evening moon in the miki.
"Ubichini and Subichini were now joined in the bond of love, and when at length they emerged from their chamber on the morning of the third day, they cleansed themselves in the Samukawa River as if to cool their undying passion.
"Even Sosanowo, when he had slain the eight-forked serpent at Yaetani in the upper reaches of the Hikawa River in Izumo, also purified himself by bathing in the river. This was because these were all born of robust health. But my lord Oshihomimi is of a more delicate and refined disposition, and Takagi must have stayed your hand to prevent any harm coming to you."

Now Oshihomimi again asked about the Way of Ise.

As Kasuga started his discourse to answer the question, all those in attendance became so rapt in the profound significance of Ise, "male" and "female", that they quite forgot the passing of time.

"The Way of Imo-Ose (Ise) is provided for everyone alike, whether noble or humble, through the providence of nature", Kasuga explained. "The sovereign and his chief consort are the sun and moon that shine down on the whole land. The local lords and their consorts are the sun and moon that shine down on their respective provinces. And the ordinary man and his wife are the sun and moon that shine down on their home and family.
"The sun may be 'fire', but there is also fire in the female, for the fire that we make by rubbing wood or striking metal or flints is the fire of darkness. Because wood, stone and metal are all part of the female element.
"Let me tell you about the five elements that make up our world. In the far and distant past, when heaven and earth were not yet separate, all was confusion and chaos. Then Amemiwoya (the 'August Parent of the Heavens') blew his first breath into this chaos, whereupon everything eventually divided into a negative or female part and a positive or male part, and the universe started to turn. The light, positive (male) part rose upwards into the heavens, while the heavy, negative (female) part sank down to form the earth. The air from the male part created the wind, the wind became separated from the fire, and these three elements rose into the heavens to become the sun. The water and earth of the female part formed the earth and the moon.
"But there is also water in the male, for the darkness in the middle of the burning flame is the water in the fire.
"And so, though they may differ in appearance, man and woman are both governed by the same divine principle. The man is the sun and the wife the moon. The moon has no shine of its own, but receives the radiance of the sun. The same should be true of the marital relationship. For the wife should shine more brightly through the power of her husband's light.
"The movement of the sun is outside the centre, while the moon is inside. In the same way, a man in his working life should be turning outwards while the wife turns inwards. The wife weaves and sows, prepares food and raises children.
"The affairs of the family should be inherited by the eldest son. But if the elder brother is sickly, or is reluctant to do his parents' bidding, the inheritance should be passed to the second son. The rightful heir takes over the family's affairs, appoints a go-between and marries, lives in harmony with his wife and has children, then passes the family inheritance down to his descendants.
"The wife should keep faith with her husband's affection, and be encouraged by his loving words. She should treat his parents as her own, and should respect and serve them in old age. She should do good deeds in obedience to her husband, and should live each day as if inside her husband's body. A woman loses her family name and assumes her husband's on marriage, and is referred to as his 'uchimuro' (indoors).
"The Lord of Karu, for example, yielded the Land of Izumo and was pardoned. He was then permitted to move to Hisumi (Tsugaru), where his inner court was called 'tareuchi' ('behind the hanging curtain') in reference to Amateru's own court. The sovereign's chief consort is known, within the court, as 'uchitsumiya' or 'inner palace'. Amateru was the first to use the term 'uchi' (inside) in referring to his court.
"The sovereign extends his grace to the people, and the court in which he determines the affairs of government is, at the same time, the bodily centre of both sovereign and nation. Provincial governors and other local lords build their courts and residences in accordance with their status, and these could be seen as the bodily centres of their respective localities. The peasants till the fields, offer up their tithes, and their dwellings are the bodies of the menfolk.
"The heavenly sovereign lights up the skies, the moon protects the land. A wife is the embodiment of the land revering her husband as the only sun. And just as some lands are rich in produce and others are poor, there are some couples who are not blessed with children. The husband should then take another wife to continue his family line. But he should never taunt his wife that he has a mistress. To maintain conjugal harmony, they should discuss the matter little by little until they reach agreement."

Okitsuhiko and Okitsuhime become Deities of the Household

"Some time ago, the unfaithful Okitsuhiko, son of Ohotoshi Kuramusubi, confessed to his wife that he had a mistress. In a fury, she replied that she could no longer fulfil her obligation as his wife, and the two were parted. Ohotoshi Kuramusubi, son of Sosanowo, was so vexed by their separation that he took them both to the Inner Palace at Ise and appealed directly to Amateru. Sympathizing with Ohotoshi's wish to mend their quarrelsome ways, Amateru's Chief Consort Mukatsuhime called Okitsuhiko and Okitsuhime inside her 'hanging curtain'. There, in front of everyone at court, she made them stand in front of the Mafutsu mirror (a mirror that reflects truth). In the mirror, the husband's face looked like a blackened cooking pot while the wife's resembled a 'tsukamanabe' (a hidden pot that brings shame on its bearer). And the pair were so ashamed that they could no longer look on their own faces.
"In her shame, Okitsuhime begged forgiveness of Amateru and asked permission to return and serve in her husband's household. But now the husband refused to accept her. This only brought more shame, and she prepared to take her own life. Ohotoshi stopped her, and instead started to rebuke his son. 'Polish your own blackened face!', he raged.
"Okitsuhiko now came to his senses, and reflected on his own sullied appearance in the mirror. Obeying his father's wish, he once more took Okitsuhime as his wife. They followed the Way of Ise from that time on, and lived in love and happiness. And they spent the rest of their days touring the land and teaching the Way of Ise.
"Amateru was so moved by the humble and devoted attitude of the pair that he bestowed on them the divine name of 'Kamado-Kami' (Deities of the Kitchen Stove, or Deities of the Household).
"This story shows that even a couple living in the humblest of homes can be elevated to deities, their blackened pots can gleam and shine once more, if only they improve their selfish ways and apply themselves with diligence. This teaching of the 'shameful pot' is itself the Way of Ise that will help to guide all the people, whether local lords or peasants, in the correct ways of matrimony.
"Considering the future glory of our progeny, vanity and overweening pride in the married couple should be punished. If not, their lives will become unstable and their family will break up. If, like the Hatare demons, we merely amass wealth, our family line will wither. This is called 'suzukura'. But the life in which a person lives in abstinence from selfish desires is called 'suzuka'."

Princess Takuhata-Chichi, sensing that this was a good moment to join the discussion, emerged from behind her hanging curtain and asked Kasuga:
"I hear you talking of 'suzuka'. That is the same as my given name 'Suzuka'. This name was given to me long ago by Amateru, but I know not what it means. Can you explain it?"

Kasuga replied, "Suzu is another word for the masakaki tree, used since days of old as a way of measuring time. It grows half an inch every year, and withers away when 60,000 years have passed. Then the suzu grows dark (kura), and withers like the line of a person who only desires wealth. But if a person puts aside personal desires and lives a pure and honest life, the suzu will be bright (ka) and the family line will continue in glory."

Now Ohonamuchi, the Lord of Karu, came forward and asked abruptly, "Do you mean to rebuke me for my wealth? I receive nothing but admiration for it!"

Kasuga replied calmly but firmly, "Your thinking is mistaken. While you are alive, you may well be called 'the lord of riches'. But at the end, you will always suffer torment after death."

Ohonamuchi retorted, "Life is to be enjoyed!".

Of old, Ohonamuchi (otherwise known as Ohokuninushi, deity of the Izumo Taisha Shrine) had governed the Land of Izumo in peace, having inherited it from his father Sosanowo. But suddenly, he found himself branded a traitor who plotted to usurp power, and was brought to heel by the warriors Futsunushi (now the deity of the Katori Grand Shrine in Chiba Prefecture) and Takemikazuchi (deity of the Kashima Grand Shrine in Ibaraki Prefecture). Fortunately, in an assembly of nobles summoned by Takagi (the 7th Takamimusubi), Ohonamuchi was granted a merciful reprieve on account of his sincere remorse. Thus it was that, with the blessing of Amateru, he was allowed to govern the northern land of Tsugaru.

A single province, Izumo, had built up tremendous power, so much so that wealth, people and even the centre of culture had drifted away from the capital and outwards to Izumo. The nobles realized that, if this were left unchecked, the nation would become divided and great confusion would surely ensue. So they thrice sent demands that Ohonamuchi recognize the sovereign authority, but in vain.
Ohonamuchi, with his innately gentle, compassionate nature, had exerted great efforts in his management of the Land of Izumo. But he had failed to notice changes of direction in the central court. His failure to recognize the severity of his position led to a grave misunderstanding of his intentions, and left him stigmatized with the name of the "Rebel of Izumo".

Ohonamuchi humbly accepted the judgement of the court, and, as if to atone for his undeserved guilt, devoted himself to the development of his new land of Tsugaru. And thanks to his meritorious deeds there, he now came to participate, as an elder, in the government of the young Oshihomimi.
His Land of Izumo had flourished, and its people had lived in affluence. It was a land of peace, where all had revered Ohonamuchi as a great man. What was so wrong? What is this suffering? Such long-forgotten thoughts now returned to torment him as he challenged the teaching of Lord Kasuga.

Kasuga again replied with dignified composure:
"Do you know the origins of life? We are given life by the heavens, and after living our life to the full, return to the heavens.
"Even the heavenly sovereign", he continued, "the model for all the people, has earthly desires for riches and enjoyment. All the more so the people. Have you not read the Book of Suzuka?".
Ohonamuchi bowed low in agreement, then said:
"Now, at last, I understand why my son Kushihiko rebuked me with the teaching of 'suzuka'. But what is this suffering after death that you speak of?".

Kasuga once more started to explain, saying: "You will find it in a decree left by the great Lord Toyoke. He said: 'I know of three generations - past, present, and future. The first generation born in this land was Kunitokotachi. When he went up to the heavens and saw the 49 motoake deities, he drew up laws to govern their respective roles. The second generation was the Takamimusubi, who lived for a million years before departing this life. He learned how the ancestral guardian deities tie the "tama-no-wo" - the knot that connects the heavenly spirit (tama) to the carnal self (shiyi) - with which we are born in human form. And finally I, Tamakine, was born. Having lived 80,000 years, I have attained a state of selflessness, no longer beholden to worldly desires. And I have learnt the Path of Coming and Going that connects this world to the next. Man and woman are joined through the protection of the motoake deities, and a new human life is created. If that person lives life honestly in this world, he may return in a higher form. But a person who lives in carnal desire may not return.' This was Toyoke's teaching."

Ohonamuchi again came forward to ask, "I have heard that fire returns to the sun and water returns to the earth, but do humans return in the same way?"

Kasuga replied, "The weeds and grass that spoil our paddy fields will never grow into rice or millet. Even if a covetous person should have the fortune to be born again, he would soon lose the Way of Man and his life would go asunder. Just as the fish, birds and beasts that compete for their favourite worms, that person would struggle to escape from suffering and would toil in the same world as them, never again to return to the human world."

"In that case, why do we have riches?"

"If we become obsessed with gorgeous garments and delicious food, even if we are allowed to return to human form after death, we would live in poverty and be forced to sell our labour as servants. We would have to endure heat and cold and the taunts of others while working for their pleasure. But the person who lives only to amass his own wealth must also endure the spite and envy of others, who tear at the knot of his soul and leave his spirit in confusion. His suffering is like a ghost that eternally roams the streets blown by a whirlwind of dust, tormented by hunger and physical pain, and with no place of refuge. In the end, he is no more than a wild beast."

Kasuga paused briefly before going on. "Imagine you are tormented by nightmares. You are unable to bear the sudden pangs of terror, and are thrust onto the verge of death itself. The suffering after death is like this. Material greed may lead you astray, but it does not hurt you directly. The envy of others, however, leaves a scar on the knot of your soul and your conscience is tormented, as if in an endless nightmare.
"You must always revere the ways of heaven and worship the gods. You must make offerings at the shrines to your ancestors. Then the knot of your soul will be untied correctly and you may return to the human world. If you neglect to worship the gods, you will slip from the blessings of the great ancestral deities and will fall from the human world.
"You should have children. If your wife remains childless, find a mistress to ensure that your line does not end. The role of the mistress is to defer to your wife and remain respectful at all times. The mistress can be likened to a star in the night sky. Though a star may emit beautiful light, it can never outshine the light of the moon.
"However beautiful your mistress may be, she must never be allowed to enter your house. If the heavens and the moon were to collide, the land would be rent asunder. If a wife and a mistress were to share the same roof, there would be constant quarrelling and the house would be in turmoil.
"Just as the moon shines at night, do not neglect your wife. Pay no heed to a mistress who speaks of ruling your household. Because the role of the mistress is only to provide offspring. If you cast aside your wife because she cannot bear children, you will violate the rule of virtue.
"In the distant past, the divine sovereigns ascended to the heavens to become stars at the end of their lives. They are arranged in the heavens in regular formation, and are likened to the appearance of a woman. A woman may be beautiful, but her character wanton. Or she may be ugly, but gracious in nature. Do not be deceived by a woman's appearance, or it may torment you for the rest of your life.
"This is the great purport of the Way of Ise, the divine teaching of matrimony made proper through a go-between."

Having concluded his explanation, Kasuga now rested and looked out over the assembled ministers, nobles and people. They all relaxed from the high tension of the discourse and enjoyed a moment of repose.
But now the Lord of Tsukuba came forward with a question.
"So to escape from material desires, must we cast aside all worldly things and await the joy of death?", he asked.

"No", replied Kasuga, "for if we fall ill, what good is it if our carer has not the wherewithal to live? If we think in that way, we will always be defiled, a burden on others. We will have to live by begging. Do you not hear? A person may not be human unless he is pure and honest. And since we are born and given life in this world, we must make the best of our abilities and work with devotion. That is the treasure given to us by the heavens. But the person who simply begs from others to eat is like a dog, and that is a crime against the heavens."

Tsukuba asked again: "How, then, may we escape from the grasp of riches?"

And again, Kasuga started to explain with care. "To escape the clutches of worldly greed, you must learn the art of not wasting and yet not assembling wealth. If you merely amass wealth and keep it in your storehouse, it will be like so much dust - of no use to anyone. If you find an honest young person of humble means, take him up and treat him as your own son. That would be a perfect example of casting aside greed. But if you are proud and merely amass wealth like dust, those who envy your wealth will become demons, and they will gnaw at you. In your suffering, the knot of your soul will become entangled. After death, your soul will have no home to return to, and your line will become extinct. Before this happens you must perform 'tamagaeshi', the divine ritual to return the soul to human form. Then your knot will be properly untied, and you will return to your ancestral home. If not, your suffering will be long."

Now the Lord of Shihogama spoke up. "I am without an heir", he said. "Can you tell me how I may be granted a child?"

To this, Kasuga replied: "At the winter solstice festival of Ayuki and Wasuki, you must beseech the priest to perform 'tamagaeshi'. Thereupon the suffering knot of your soul will be untied, and you will be able to return to the home of your ancestral deities. Your heavenly spirit (tama) and your carnal self (shiyi) will be successfully parted, and you may become a deity after death. Then you will be reborn as the child of a noble family. But this reliance on the Ayuki and Wasuki depends much on chance and good fortune. The true Way of Ise is for both man and wife to apply themselves diligently to their life's work, in the hope of glory for their progeny."

The place where this Way of Ise was taught was later called the Land of Ise of the Divine Wind, where the great Amateru resides.
Princess Takuhata-Chichi later came to serve Amateru at Ise, where she learned the Teaching of Suzuka. And when she died, she was buried in a cave between Ise and Awaji (on the Suzuka Pass), to be known thereafter as the deity Suzuka.
Today, she is revered as the deity of the Katayama Shrine (otherwise known as Suzuka Daimyojin) in Sakashita Village, Suzuka County, Mie Prefecture. She is worshipped facing east, towards the resting place of her husband Oshihomimi, who became the deity Hakone (at the Hakone Shrine, Moto-Hakone, Ashigara-Shimo County, Kanagawa Prefecture). He, in turn, is worshipped facing west towards his beloved Takuhata-Chichi. This facing together of the "imo" (wife) and "ose" (husband) is the great teaching of Suzuka, the doctrine of abandoning worldly greed and living a life of purity and honesty.

Amateru had 12 consorts, one of whom was Princess Komasu, otherwise known as Hayako. She bore the sovereign three girls, triplets named Takeko, Takiko and Tanako. When Hayako's liaison with Amateru's brother Sosanowo was discovered, she was banished to Usa (now the Usa Jingu Shrine in Usa, Oita Prefecture, Kyushu) along with her sister Mochiko and her three daughters. In a dream, Amateru was told that his daughters were his "treasures" (takara), a play on the Ta- syllable that they shared in their names. Accordingly, Amateru restored Hayako to her former position, renaming her "Arakisaki" ("Renewed Consort"). The three daughters are thought to have been revered as "Mitakara Arakami" (Renewed Deities of the Three Treasures) at the time.
When Buddhism was imported to Japan in later times, the three deities of Okitsuhiko, Homusubi, and Okitsuhime became fused with the Way of Ise and the deities of Fire and Hearth in folk belief. These then became established as the modern "Sanpo Kojin" (an alternative reading of "Mitakara Arakami") that protect the three treasures of Buddhism, namely Buddha, sutras and monks.

(Seiji Takabatake, from the 13th aya of the Hotsuma-Tsutae)

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

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