Ninikine, grandson of Amateru, had formed his court at Nihari near Mount Tsukuba, making it his first capital.
He then moved his court to the Hara-Asama Palace, which he built in the foothills of Mount Harami (now Mount Fuji). From there, he ruled the Land of Hotsuma (present-day Tokai and Kanto regions) in peace, together with his consort Konohanasakuya. The love between them was embodied in their triplet sons, who had now grown into splendid young men.
The eldest, Honoakari Mumehito, resided in the Haramiya Palace, while the second son, Honosusumi Sakuragi governed from his father's former palace of Nihari. The youngest, Hohodemi Utsukine, ruled over the local people from the Utsunomiya Palace in the foothills of Mount Futa-are.
One day, their father Ninikine, after lengthy deliberation, decided to move his capital again, this time to Awaumi (Lake Biwa). The construction of the new Mizuho Palace was entrusted to Ohoshima. By moving his capital to Ashihara-Nakakuni (the Central Land of Reed Plains) from Kanto, where his development of new rice fields was already complete, he wanted to open up new land for rice cultivation in the western provinces. In this way he would provide more food for the people and build an affluent, peaceful country.
When the construction of the Mizuho Palace was complete, Ninikine first conducted divination in accordance with the Futomani, to determine an auspicious day for the move. Then he went to make offerings at Mount Hakone, the place of rest of his father Oshihomimi. From there he went to present his respects to his grandfather Amateru and his mother Takuhatachichi in Ise, before at last entering the new capital.
Mumehito, the eldest son, remained at Haramiya to govern the land there. Ame-no-Koyane was his Minister of the Mirror (Minister of the Left, or senior minister), while Mishima Mizokui, son of Ohoyamazumi, was his "deputy Mononushi" (second minister). These two assisted in the government of the local area.
The second son Sakuragi rebuilt the Ukawa Palace (now the Shirahige Shrine) on the site of the temporary palace at Ukawa, on the western shores of Lake Biwa. There, his father Ninikine had once received a banquet from Sarutahiko during his extended tour of the land.
The youngest son Utsukine built the new palace of Shinomiya in Otsu (Shiga Prefecture). Actually, he had hoped to be given the Ukawa Palace. After all, his name had originally been coined in memory of his father's stay there, when Ninikine adorned his person with Japanese snow flowers (u-no-hana). But Utsukine's wish was not granted.
His favourite pastime was to go hunting in the mountains. For this he was popularly known as "Yamasachihiko" (Prince Bounty of the Mountains). His elder brother Sakuragi, meanwhile, was always fishing on the lake, and for this was known as "Umisachihiko" (Prince Bounty of the Sea).
No sooner had Ninikine settled into his Mizuho Palace than he started out on a new tour of the Yamaomote (San-yo) and Yamakage (San-in) provinces.
Wherever he went, he gave guidance on agriculture, built dams, controlled water with dikes, and opened up more land for rice cultivation. One day, he came westward to a place in the Central Land, where he noticed many bare mountains before him. He summoned the local village headman and asked him what this place was called.
"This place is known as Aki", came the reply. Ninikine asked again, "Why, then, are there no trees here, when the name Aki suggests that there should be?"
"That is a very good question", the old man again replied. "There is a profound reason for it. Long ago, the mountains were covered with trees, there was water in abundance, and the rice fields yielded a rich harvest. But then a great eight-forked serpent came to live here. It stole the daughters of the local lords and devoured them. So the people burned the mountain forests and the serpent fled to Hikawa in Izumo, where it was later slain by Lord Sosanowo, as you know. That's why these mountains are bare like the tops of turnips. Now the woodcutters here are tired of having nothing to do!"
When Ninikine heard his tale, he smiled and said: "Your people should be troubled no more. I shall correct it." He then instructed Akatsuchi, one of his entourage, to sow cypress and cedar seeds and to plant the saplings on the mountains. Ten years later, the mountain tops were covered in green and the rice fields had a constant supply of water. The woodcutters had work to do at last, and the land became rich once more.
Next, Ninikine turned to the Yamakage (San-in) region on the northern side of the central mountains. There, as before, he built dams wherever needed, led water into the upland plains and thereby opened up more new land for rice cultivation. After witnessing the joyous harvest festivals of the local people, he returned to his Mizuho Palace, where he ruled for many long, peaceful years.
Suddenly, a series of express messengers came with urgent news from Tsukushi (Kyushu).
"The people of Tsukushi are rising up and can no longer be governed. We beg you to send one of the princes", they pleaded.
Hearing this, Ninikine immediately appointed his third son Hohodemi (Utsukine) as Lord of Tsukushi, and prepared to send him to the troubled province. Receiving the command, Utsukine first raced to the Haramiya Palace to beg leave of his eldest brother Honoakari (Mumehito). They then proceeded together to Mizuho, where they paid their respects to their father. Joined by the third brother Honosusumi (Sakuragi), they now heard Ninikine explain the situation in detail.
"This trouble in Tsukushi must be due to a food shortage", he started. "Whoever goes, the matter will not be easily resolved. It will take many months and years. So this time, I myself will go to survey the state of the land, then give guidance in developing new land for rice. In this way I will increase the supply of food for the people and bring stability to the land."
The three sons could hardly hide their surprise at their father's decision, but remained silent as he continued.
"I will appoint Mumehito as my successor here", he said. "Koyane and the Mononushi will remain here at Mizuho to help you conduct the government. Sakuragi and Utsukine will go to Kita-no-Tsu to govern the Land of Ne. Though I hear you have a quarrel with each other, you are to make your peace."
Ninikine set off from Nishinomiya on a huge kame boat, accompanied by scores of attendants, and soon arrived at the temporary palace of Udo in Umashi (southern Kyushu).
On the day after his arrival, Ninikine started his tour of the 32 counties of Tsukushi. He crossed the whole land and surveyed the conditions of the people. He again built dams in the upper reaches of rivers when necessary, created new channels with dikes, and thus provided irrigation for new rice field development. By increasing the provisions of food for the people, he enriched their lives. Then, after setting down the law, he stabilized the government of the land.
When Ninikine had finished giving guidance in every part of Tsukushi, Hotakami (grandson of Sumiyoshi) and the local governor Shiga invited him to the newly constructed Tsukushi Palace, where they urged him to take a rest. Hadezumi, governor of Sowo, begged Ninikine to stay at the Kagoshima Palace. But the sovereign declined their offers. Instead, he spent his every waking hour immersed in the mission of developing this province of Tsukushi.
After three years, picture maps of the 32 counties were more or less complete. Ninikine could now return to the Mizuho Palace, leaving instructions for ongoing development with the local governors. On his return to the capital, his eldest son Mumehito, in turn, went back to his own Haramiya Palace in the Land of Hotsuma.
The younger brothers Sakuragi (Honosusumi) and Utsukine (Hohodemi), meanwhile, continued to govern the Land of Ne from their palace in Kita-no-Tsu (now Tsuruga). One day, Sakuragi ("Prince Bounty of the Sea") made a proposal to his brother Utsukine ("Prince Bounty of the Mountains").
"Why don't we swap pastimes for a change?", he suggested. Utsukine agreed that this might be interesting. So he went fishing with Sakuragi's fishing line and hook, while Sakuragi tried hunting in the mountains with his brother's bow and arrows. But neither of them caught anything at all, and they returned to their palace in dejection. Sakuragi handed back Utsukine's bow and arrows and asked for his line and hook in return. His brother then had to confess that a fish had taken the hook. He offered Sakuragi a new one, but his brother would not have it.
"I want only the original fish-hook I lent you", he said. Utsukine was sorely vexed. He broke up his sword, almost as precious as life to him, and made enough fish-hooks to fill a whole basket. But Sakuragi grew angrier still.
"I have no need of so many! Give me back the original hook!" he demanded, with menacing intent. Utsukine went walking along the sea shore at Kita-no-Tsu, wondering how he could possibly resolve the situation.
Suddenly, from amongst the pine groves by the shore, he could hear the sound of a bird flapping its wings as it tried to escape from a trap. As he approached, he saw a wild goose struggling for all its life. Seeing in the goose something of his own situation, he promptly set it free. A senior nobleman by the name of Shihozutsu happened to be watching from a distance. He recognized the young man as the Prince Hohodemi, and asked what was troubling him. Utsukine told him the whole story. Then, as if to relieve Utsukine's troubles at a stroke, Shihozutsu declared:
"You have nothing to fear. Leave it all to me." He took a fine-meshed lagoon net and placed it in a small kamo boat. He composed a poem and inscribed it on a wooden tablet, which he attached to the net. He helped Utsukine into the boat, raised the sail and released the mooring rope. The boat sailed swiftly westwards, landing eventually on the beach at Udo in Umashi (southern Kyushu).
Leaving the kamo boat and the net behind, Utsukine now hastened on the road westwards. In the distance, he could see the Mizugaki Palace of Hadezumi, governor of Sowo, its jewelled turrets shining in the setting sun and radiating light in all directions.
As Utsukine arrived at the gateway to the palace, the sun had already set and all around was shrouded in darkness. Reluctant to wake his host at so late an hour, Utsukine gathered up haeha (whitebeam leaves) and yuzuriha (poinsettia leaves) from trees growing around the palace wall and beside a well. He laid the leaves down and sat waiting, without sleep, for the coming of the new dawn.
Eventually, as the first light of day started to appear, the gates were thrown open, and a throng of young women came out. They approached the well to gather in the first water of the day. As one of the women went to fill her urn from the well bucket, she saw the reflection of a noble young man in the moving surface of the water. Startled, she rushed back into the palace and reported what she'd seen to her father.
Hadezumi went to see for himself. From the young man's appearance and the clothes he was wearing, he was clearly a member of the sovereign family. Hadezumi immediately put out some eight-layered reed mats and invited the prince into the palace. There, he asked him the reason for the sudden visitation.
Utsukine explained the whole story from beginning to end. But as Hadezumi was contemplating this tricky issue, a constable from Udo hurried in. In his hands, he carried the net that Utsukine had left on the shore at Udo.
"I found this net in a kamo boat that was abandoned on the shore", he explained.
Now Hadezumi saw for himself the fine-meshed net - and the waka song dyed on the wooden tablet. It read:
On reading the song, Hadezumi gathered all his diving women together and asked if they knew how to find the fish-hook. One, called Hikime, said "We should set a coarse spiller net and pull it". Another, called Kuchime, suggested the best way would be to use a fishing line. Only one, known as Akame, gave the answer that was needed. "We should lay a fine-meshed lagoon net", she said. So Hadezumi instructed all the other divers to help Akame lay out the fine-meshed net.
When they had cast the net in all directions, a large sea bream appeared before Akame with a white croaker in its mouth. And in the white croaker's mouth was a fish-hook. Akame removed the hook and left the sea bream in a fish preserve. She then rushed to Hadezumi to present the hook to him.
But strangely enough, Hadezumi had seen it all in a dream the night before. A large bream had appeared to him and said, "I will deliver you the white croaker for its worthless insolence. Please serve me up at His Lordship's table."
When Utsukine heard of this, he praised the bream's courage, saying, "The sea bream shall be the King of all Fishes. Let us make him the food of the gods. And let us give the sea bream an emblem: three fish scales in the form of a mountain."
After the emblem had been copied down, the bream was returned to the sea. But the worthless white croaker was thenceforth removed from the foods offered to the gods. Akame, for her part, was lauded with the name of Yodohime, in commemoration of her meritorious deed.
Utsukine was overjoyed to have found, at last, the missing fish-hook. Since he still had much business to settle here in Tsukushi, he sent Shiga to deliver the fish-hook to his brother Sakuragi on his behalf.
Shiga set out in a wani boat and made his way to Nishinomiya, then went over the land route to the Shinomiya Palace. There, he called on the noble Yamakuhi to join him. After he had explained the whole sequence of events, they went up to the palace at Ukawa together.
On their arrival, Yamakuhi and his traveller from afar were greeted gracefully by Sakuragi. "What?", he said in good cheer, "Have you brought good news?". Yamakuhi looked over at Shiga and replied, "Actually, what we have here is the fish-hook that your brother Hohodemi borrowed from you and lost in the sea. It has now at length been found, and Lord Shiga has been entrusted with returning it to you".
With this, Shiga respectfully raised the fish-hook in both hands and presented it to Sakuragi.
Sakuragi examined the hook with an air of indifference, and declared, "Yes, it's my hook." With that, he started to leave. But Shiga, without thinking, took hold of his sleeve and said "Wait!". Now Sakuragi's entire countenance changed as he flew into a rage. "What do you know of it?" he bellowed. "What right have you to censure me? My brother should have brought the hook back and apologized in person!".
"I think not", Shiga countered. "When you lent your brother the hook, the fishing line was old and worn. If you knew anything about fishing, you should have replaced it with a new one first. But you didn't - and I would say it's you who should go crawling to your brother to apologize!"
Sakuragi now lost all semblance of control. He jumped into his boat and rowed out onto the lake, whose waves lapped the front of his palace.
Before Shiga had set off for Ukawa, Hadezumi had given him two jewels - the "jewel of the ebbing tide" and the "jewel of the flooding tide". Shiga now took the first of these from his clothing, and cast it into the lake. The water thereupon drained from the lake, leaving it dry. Shigano now chased after Sakuragi and climbed into his boat. Sakuragi jumped out of the boat and tried to flee. Yamakuhi now also gave chase. He caught up with Sakuragi and took hold of his hand. Shiga cast the "jewel of the flooding tide" onto the lake bed, and the water rushed in with such force that Sakuragi was on the point of drowning. In his desperation, he called out: "Help me, I beg you! I will serve my brother as his vassal for all time!".
Hearing that Sakuragi's apology came from his heart, Shiga and Yamakuhi set out in the boat to rescue him, and took him back to Ukawa. And when they had made their peace with each other, they all went back to their respective lands.
One day, meanwhile, Hadezumi brought his two sons and two daughters before Hohodemi, saying: "I am the grandson of Sumiyoshi, my family is Kamo and my name is Hadezumi. My eldest son's name is Toyozumi, my first daughter is Toyotama, my second son is Takezumi, and my youngest daughter is Ototama." So saying, he presented them formally to the prince.
Hohodemi later gathered all the local governors of the 32 counties of Tsukushi and addressed them thus.
"I intend to take myself a wife. Does any of you have an opinion to offer?". Hotakami replied, "Your father Ninikine has already appointed you Lord of Tsukushi, and that makes you our sovereign. You should do as you feel fit. Your father was betrothed to your mother Konohanasakuya in a single night of conjugality during a tour of the land, then formally made her his consort at a later time. We are truly grateful that you have consulted us in advance of your intentions." With this, Hotakami looked all around as if to seek the agreement of the gathered nobles.
Hohodemi then named Hadezumi's first daughter Toyotama as his chief consort, and chose two princesses each for the three lesser ranks of suke, uchime, and shimome.
All due preparations were made for the wedding, which was to be held at the Kagoshima Palace. The ceremony itself was held in great pomp, adorned by flowers of silver and gold.
The 32 governors of Tsukushi joined in the singing of celebratory songs, and soon the joyous cries of "Yorotoshi! Yorotoshi" ("Long may they live!") engulfed the whole land.
On the morning of the third day after the wedding, Toyozumi, elder brother of Toyotama, gathered the six princesses together and adorned their heads with jewelled bamboo hats. He placed in their hands jewelled urns filled with water, and with these they waited eagerly for the newly-weds to emerge from their chamber.
When at last the door was opened, they emptied the urns onto the heads of the pair, and sang this song in unison:
After the marriage, Hohodemi lived with his consort in the Kagoshima Palace. From there, he also toured the 32 counties of Tsukushi in an effort to open up new rice fields and improve the land. And thanks to his efforts, harvests increased, the land became rich, and there was continuing peace.
When, in one year, there was little rainfall and much sunshine, drought was avoided as the rivers had been dammed and many reservoirs dug. Thanks to this, rice saplings could be transplanted as normal. In his joy, Usatsuhiko, governor of Usa, declared a spring festival on the 15th day of the 5th month, the traditional time for transplanting, and started a custom of praying to Ukemochi (the deity of food) for a bounteous harvest.
Huge mochi rice cakes were offered up to the gods, and, in reference to Hohodemi as he waited for dawn outside Hadezumi's palace, they lay haeha whitebeam leaves underneath the rice cakes to resemble long ears of rice, and adorned them with yuzuriha poinsettia leaves. The bounteous festivity involved everyone from nobles to common folk, and the name Toyo-no-Kuni ("the Land of Plenty") was given to Tsukushi on account of it.
This festival soon became popular throughout the 32 counties of Tsukushi, and later turned into rituals for the first day of the New Year. The custom of putting up kadomatsu pines outside doorways to await the arrival of the gods and happiness, and laying offertory rice cakes on whitebeam and poinsettia leaves, came to be observed throughout the country.
Even after his marriage to Toyotama, Hohodemi continued to work selflessly and tirelessly for the people of Tsukushi. But neither his chief consort nor any of the six princesses could conceive a child. This so troubled Hohodemi that he decided to take a rest from his affairs, and returned to the temporary palace at Udo. It was here, after all, that his fortunes had changed dramatically for the better. With him, he took only his chief consort Toyotama.
Toyotama's father Hadezumi invited them to join him at the Kagoshima Palace. But they declined the offer. Hadezumi then sent a message to Hohodemi at Udo. "Are you not well? Perhaps you have exerted yourself too much." Hohodemi replied: "Though I have six princesses, there is still no child. I will leave all behind, and remain here with Toyotama alone. But I am only thinking for the good of the people of Tsukushi".
(Seiji Takabatake, from the 25th aya of the Hotsuma-Tsutae)
- END -
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