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kc
02-10-2007, 13:32
Idzumo (Japan)

In Japanese mythology the province of Idzumom, on the west coast, was regarded as the passage between “the plains of heaven” and “the region of Hades,” and there were commonly visible the clustering clouds by which it was declared the deities at times made their descent. Thus it came about that the land was called Idzumo-literally, the “going out clouds.” It is in Idzumo, moreover, that the shrine of the Japanese Cupid-the god of love-is to be found, which affords further explanation of its being held in high esteem. Tradition tells us too of the river Hi in Idzumo province having been the scene of a truly marvellous occurrence, a paeallel to which must be sought for in the mythology of ancient Greece. Prince Susa-no-O, who was the younger brother of the Sun Goddess, was expelled from the plains of heaven for having given grievous offence to his sister. Descending by the cloud ladder into Idzumo, he came to the banks of the Hi, and there met with an old man and women who had with them a young girl. They were all weeping, and on Prince Susa’s inquiring the cause of their grief, the old man explained that once he had had eight daughters, but that year-by-year an eight-headed serpent had come to devour one of the girls, and that he would shortly come again to demand her who stood before them. Then said Susa-no-O, “Wilt thou give her to me if I save her from the serpent?” to this the old people gratefully consented, and they brewed eight tubs of very potent Japanese wine (sake) and set it out in as many vessels on eight little platforms, within an enclosure. The serpent arrived and was attracted in all his eight heads towards the liquor, inserting a head in each tub in turn, with the result that he was speedily and thoroughly intoxicated in an eightfold degree, and fell into a slumber of no ordinary depth. The prince had no difficulty in disposing with his sabre of the monster, which he hacked into bits; but on cutting into the tall deliverer’s sword struck some hard substance which, on examination, proved to be another sword- in fact, the “Herb-mower” of ancient days (surely a sort of Japanese Excalibur), which is today one of the symbols of Imperial power and is understood to be in the guardianship of the priests of Ise.
Whatever may be the degree of importance attaching to this legend, it is certain that many able historians connect the Idzumo province with the earliest history of Japan, and consider that it was in communication with the opposite peninsula of Korea from very remote times. It was in Idzumo that the progenitors of the Yamato race are believed to have landed when they first came over from Manchuria, and it was there that they found the aborigines in full strength and had most difficulty in subduing them. The mythological stories concerning Prince Susa-no-O may be based to some extent on the conflicts between the Yamato invaders and the original inhabitants of the Japanese isles.