- Daisuke Okui
Four sightseeing spots related to Japanese mythology in Takachiho (Miyazaki)
What is Takachiho?
Takachiho Town belongs to Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu. The northwestern part of Takachiho borders Kumamoto Prefecture. Miyazaki City, the capital of Miyazaki Prefecture, is located approximately 90 km southeast of Takachiho.
Takachiho and Japanese mythology
Japanese mythology is the story of the gods described in the Kojiki (712) and Nihonshoki (720), Japanese history books written in the 8th century, and in Fudoki, a collection of local histories, cultural climates, and folklore.
In Japanese mythology, Takachiho is said to be the place where Niniginomikoto, grandson of Amaterasu, descended from Takamagahara, where the gods reside, to rule over the world between Takamagahara and Yominokuni. Takachiho is said to be the place where the "descent of the grandchildren" took place.
Many of you are probably familiar with the famous "Amano-Iwato no Kakure" (The Hiding Place of Ama-no-Iwato) in Japanese mythology. Amaterasu Omikami, the sun god, was angered by the violent behavior of his younger brother, Susano-o-no-mikoto, and hid himself in Iwato (a cave), thus darkening the world. There are many places in Takachiho that are associated with Japanese mythology, including Iwato, where Amaterasu-Omikami hid.
Four recommended sightseeing spots in Takachiho
Ama-no-Iwato Shrine and Ama-no-Yasukawara
Ama-no-Iwato Shrine and Ama-no-yasukawara are the setting of "Amano-Iwato no Kakure" (The Hiding Place of Ama-no-Iwato).
The sanctuary is located behind the main shrine of Ama-no-Iwato Shrine. The mountain on the other side of the cliff behind the shrine (the main sanctuary) has long been a sacred area that no one is allowed to enter. The local people still observe this legend. In one part of the thickly overgrown trees, you can see what looks like a cave. This is the place where Amaterasu is said to have hidden.
Ameyasugawara is the place where the other deities gathered to discuss how to get Amaterasu out of hiding in Iwato. It is also said to be the first Diet building in Japan.
After the gods devised various ways to get Amaterasu out of Iwato, Ame-no-Uzume-no-mikoto took an active part in the process. When Amaterasu wondered what was going on, Tajikarawo-no-mikoto opened the Iwato further and pulled Amateru out. Amaterasu-no-Mikoto is said to be the first stripper(?!) or dancer in Japan. The kanji for "楽(Raku)" (enjoy) was derived from the image of her dancing. From this it is said that Kagura, a traditional performing art, represents the gods enjoying themselves.
Takachiho Shrine has an old history, being founded during the reign of the 11th Emperor Taruhito, and is the general shrine of the 88 Takachiho shrines. The present main shrine was built in 1778 and is designated as a national important cultural property. The deities enshrined at the shrine are Takachiho no Mikami, Jyusha Daimyojin, and seven other deities. Takachiho no Mikoto is the collective name for five gods, including Niniginomikoto. Jusha-daimyojin is the collective name for nine deities, including Mikoeirino no Mikoto. In other words, Takachiho Shrine is a super power spot where many gods are enshrined.
The location where Niniginomikoto, grandson of Amaterasu, landed on earth is described in the Kojiki as "Kushifurutake, Takachiho, in the Hyuga region of Tsukushi. Tsukushi = Kyushu, Hyuga = Miyazaki, and Kushifurutake = Rainbow Lake (a mountain peak in Takachiho), where Niniginomikoto and other deities who accompanied him are enshrined. It is one of the 88 shrines of Takachiho.
The deities worshipped at Aratate Shrine are Sarutahiko-no-mikoto and Ame-no-Uzume-no-mikoto. Sarutahiko-mikoto was the deity who guided Niniginomikoto when he descended to Ashihara-nakatukuni. Amateru-no-Mikoto is the goddess of mother-of-pearl who sang and danced to make Amateru open the Iwato (the Gate of Heavenly Rock) when he hid there. Aratate Shrine was built on the site where Sarutahiko-no-mikoto and Ama-no-no-Mikoto were married and lived together. The shrine is also famous for being visited by entertainers, as it is dedicated to Amaterasu-no-Mikoto, who has a talent for singing and dancing, and is therefore blessed for her talent in the performing arts.