copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
Romance of Old Japan
Ere the beginning of Time, Izanagi, the God of the Heavens,
High in the uttermost realms of the limitless chaos above,
Far in the vaporous vast of the infinite twilight of even,
Took unto wife Izanami, the beautiful Goddess of Love,
Out of her plenteous womb sprang the numberless worlds in commotion;
Sprang generations of gods, in unending miraculous birth,
Sprang generations of men and the beasts and the fish of the ocean,
Issued the fathomless sea and the mountainous reaches of earth.
She from the firmament first, to mankind in her mercy descending,
Water and knowledge of Fire and the wonderful vision of Light
Brought, and ordained every part of the life-giving earth never ending,
Then, in her death throe, gave birth to the Isles of the Dragon-fly bright.
BEFORE the beginning of Time, ere yet were heavens or earth, sun or moon, or the multitudinous waters, all was gloomy chaos.
Out of this infinite void rose a cloud, floating upon the sea of silent space. In its hidden depths sprouted a bud, which shot like an iris-stalk into the air. As it rose it put forth leaves and blossomed, growing ever more pure and bright, till the wonder-flower mounted to Taka-ma-no-hara (the high plain of heaven), where it bloometh ever, the bright-shining Sun.
At the same time there fluttered downward from the heavenly firmament a night-blooming flower, which slowly unfolded its translucent petals and became the Moon.
Out of the hearts of these blossoms sprang a score of gods and goddesses, the last of whom were Izanagi (all-powerful-God-of-the-Air), and Izanami (Fair-Goddess-of-the-Clouds). From them issued all life: the eight hundred myriad deities of heaven, the countless generations of man, and the beasts and the birds and the trees.
Izanagi and Izanami stood upon the “Floating-Bridge of Heaven,” a vast, aerial arch, which spanned the abyss between the realms celestial and the lower world. Izanagi spake to his heaven-born sister, saying:
“Needs must be that beneath us lies a kingdom. Let us descend and visit it.”
Whereupon he plunged his sacred jewelled spear into thing caldron of the sea. When he had stirred it about, vainly groping for land, he withdrew the lance and from its point fell drops of liquid which became congealed into the island of Onogora. Stirring once more he heaped up a vast and lofty mountain, to the summit of which he attached the Floating Bridge, and thereupon the Earth-Makers descended.
When they alighted upon the island, Izanagi turned to the right and skirted the base of the “Pillar of Earth,” while Izanami turned to the left.
When they met, the “Goddess of the Clouds” addressed her brother saying: “Who art thou, fair and lovely youth?”
Thereupon the heart of the “God of the Air” was wroth within him and he retorted, “I, that am a man, should have been the first to speak, whereas thou, a woman, didst address me. This is ill-omened. That our wedding may be auspicious let us begin anew.”
Thus it came to pass that, as again the two deities, skirted the base of the “Pillar of Earth,” Izanagi exclaimed at their meeting: “Who art thou, fair and lovely maiden?” and Izanami replied enraptured: “How delightful! I have met with a fair and lovely youth!”
Whereupon they clasped hands, and their marriage was accomplished.
Now when they had dwelt long time on the isle of Onogoro in love and happiness, to Izanagi and Izanami were born the eight islands of Japan. First the great Yamato (the Flowery Isle of the Dragon-fly), then Tsukushi (the White Sun Youth), Iyo (the Passing-fair Princess), Tsushima (the Stepping Stone), Ahaji (the Isle of Grieving), Shikoku (the Pearl of the Inland Sea), Oki (the Islet of the White Hare), and Lado (Gold Maid of the North).
Out of the foam of the billows were born numberless islets and from the clouds of the heaven they created Korea, Cathay, and the uttermost realms of the earth. Then were born the Kami: the Ruler of the Rivers, the Monarch of the Mountains, the Deity of the Trees, and the Deities which preside over the miracles of Nature.
Now the “God of the Heavens” looking upon his kingdom found it exceeding fair, and spake to the “Goddess of Love,” saying: “All that now wanteth is a sovereign to rule over this great realm.”
Whereupon were born to them a daughter, the Bright-Shining-Amaterasu, and a son, Susa-no-wo no mikoto.
Then Izanagi rejoiced greatly, saying: “Many are the generations I have begotten, but of all my multitudinous offspring the fairest are these.”
Now Amaterasu was passing fair and outshone the very heavens. So Izanagi spake and said: “Child upon child have I fathered but none of them is like unto thee.” Then, taking from his shoulders a necklace of precious stones, he gave it to Amaterasu, and leading her to the summit of the mountain and over the Rainbow Bridge, he commanded: “Rule thou henceforth over Takama no hara” (the High Plain of Heaven).
When Amaterasu mounted to her glittering throne in the sun the Spirits of Heaven rejoiced with exceeding joy, saying: “Forever shalt thou gladden the Eternal Land with the grace of thy celestial light. Clouds shall be thy handmaidens and the Heaven-descending showers thy messengers of mercy to the earth.”
Then Izanagi addressed Susa-no-wo, saying: “Rule thou over the Moon and the multitudinous salt water.”
Unlike his ever smiling sister the Moon God was morose, turbulent, and sinister. When he waxed wroth, grass withered on the plains, flowers faded, and the Children of Earth perished.
Of her numberless progeny Izanami best loved her Earth Children, and most of all the lords of the Isles of the Dragon-fly. To these she gave eternal dominion over the fairest of lands, and bestowed upon them godlike powers: Wisdom, Valour and Craft, Justice, Mercy and Love. She commanded the Kami to minister to her Earth Children: the River God to water their rice fields, the Mountain God to delve for them his ruddy gold, the God of Trees to fell them timber for their habitations, and the Goddess of Abundance to heap their wains with overflowing fruit.
Whereat the immortal Gods were exceeding wroth and assembled in high council.
“Celestial Mother,” thundered Susa-no-wo, “thou hast elevated thy Earth Children to the rank of Gods; so that even I must needs toil as their slave and harness my storm steeds to their sea chariots!”
Thereupon the divine council were moved with august jealousy and murmured to one another: “She loveth her Earth Children more than us, wherefore let her descend and abide with them!”
To this Izanami made appeal: “Shall my very offspring condemn me though I have done no evil!”
Then spake Ame-no-kami, the August Master Deity, saying: “Izanami, Goddess of Mortals, for that thou hast dragged thine immortal vesture in the mire of Earth shalt thou put off thine immortality and dwell a mortal in the abode of Death!”
Like to a thirsting flower withered the gentle Goddess, and withdrew to the solitudes of the mountains, where she bore a son, Kagu-tsuchi—the terrible God of Fire. In her birth throes she was mortally burned; but ere she perished Izanami bethought herself: “I have given birth to an evil-hearted child, a menace to the world of men.”
So she bare yet another son, the God of Water, saying: “When the temper of thy brother waxeth violent do thou assuage it with thy cooling streams.” Whereupon Izanami died and descended unto Yomi, the abode of departed spirits.
Izanagi grieved sorely for the loss of his beloved spouse, and resolved to seek her in the domain of the dead.
He descended thither through Ifuya-zaka (a hole in the centre of the earth), and came to the portal of Yomi, whence none may return. Here he perceived the spirit of Izanami waiting to meet him, and addressed her saying: “Beloved sister, come thou back I entreat thee, for the land that we created is not yet finished.”
Whereupon Izanami answered: “Alas! thou comest too late. Look not thou upon me, for I have eaten of the bread of Yomi. I would fain return but it may not be!” Thus lamenting she retired within the portal of the underworld.
But the God of the Heavens heeded not the warning of the Goddess of Love, but pressed forward in swift pursuit. Through innumerable tortuous caverns dark and loathly with the odour of death he passed, following the scarce-seen wraith of his fleeing wife. On every hand flitted vague shadowy shapes, and phantom fingers groped after him through the gloom.
He cried to Izanami, and besought her to return, but she gave no response save a pitiful moan. He redoubled his efforts to overtake her and strove with all his might to grasp her fleeting form. After long elusion, in the cavern of Despair at the extremity of the kingdom of Yomi he came upon Izanami writhing in her death agony.
Tenderly he strove to raise her but her spirit melted to mist in his grasp and vanished forever in the shadowy night.
Izanagi, pursued by the Furies of Remorse, ascended the Earth-stairway, and dwelt thenceforth upon the isle of Ahaji, in an abode of eternal gloom.
Amaterasu, the bright, the Sun Goddess, high in the heaven,
Giver of bountiful light and the manifold glories of day,
Sat at the loom of the night, with her beauteous hand-maidens seven
Weaving the dark web of Doom with its symbols of joy and dismay.
Speeding her shuttle of Fate, interwove Izanagi’s fair daughter,
Lotus-pure blossoms of Love with the flame of a rapturous star;
Twining the green woof of Life with the scarlet-stained ribbon of Slaughter
Silver-bright Peace interweft with the red warp relentless of War.
Sudden from out of the void, by the wrath of the hurricane driven,
Into the Hall of the Gods, with the crash of a thunderbolt dire,
Down from the summit of Heaven, through a rent in the firmament riven,
Hurtled the Dragon of Hell, Susa-no-wo, demon of Fire!
Down from her throne in the sky fled Amaterasu aifrighted,
Down to the bounds of the sea to a cavern of shadowy night,
Where she immured her secure from the rage of her brother benighted,
Leaving to Stygian gloom the Isles of the Dragon-fly bright.
Sorely the people bewailed the loss of their Jewel of Heaven,
Vainly the people besought the return of their Sun-Goddess bright,
All unavailing their prayers, until Vulcan one auspicious even
Fashioned a mirror of gold that gleamed with miraculous light.
Then to the cavern they hied with Uzume, the Goddess of Laughter,
Who danced in the light of the moon on the marge of the frolicsome wave,
Rending the welkin with cries, till Amaterasu soon after,
Roused from her slumberous couch, peered forth from the door of her cave.
“Why this boisterous mirth, and what this unseemly commotion?”
Demanded the Goddess irate, and to her made Uzume reply:
“Queen of the Day, we rejoice in a princess more fair than the ocean,
Even more glorious-bright than the sun in the shimmering sky.
“Lo, now behold her,” she spake, and Amaterasu, returning,
Looked on the mirror of gold and, perceiving her image therein,
Deemed that she saw there a rival, and straightway, with jealousy burning,
Ran from the door of the cave, in astonishment, wrath, and chagrin.
Scarce had she quitted the cave when suddenly unto the portal,
Taji-Karaô (the Strong) rolled a boulder of mountainous height,
Cutting her off from retreat, our sun-giving Goddess immortal,
Ever to smile on the land with the grace of her bountiful light.
“THEN TO THE CAVERN THEY HIED WITH UZUME, THE GODDESS OF LAUGHTER”
From “Shinto,” by W. G. Aston.
Permission of Longmans Green & Co.
“Amaterasu looked on the mirror of gold and perceiving her image
therein, deemed that she saw there a rival”
From Old-World Japan by T H. Robinson
Permission of Macmillan Co.
THE EIGHT-FORKED SERPENT OF KOSHI
One day Susa-no-wo discerned a chop-stick drifting down the River Hi, and, deeming that there must needs be folk dwelling in the country above, set forth questing what manner of men they might be.
When he had journeyed far into the forest fastnesses he came upon a grey-bearded man and an aged crone weeping, with a fair maiden set between them, whom they caressed as though bidding her a last farewell.
Susa-no-wo saluted them courteously, saying: “Who are ye, Gods or mortals? for ne’er before have I beheld Children of Earth in these lone mountains.”
Thereupon the greybeard answered: “Thy humble servant, Great Augustness, is a deity of earth cleped Ashinadzuchi (Foot-stroke Elder), son of the Mountain-God. My wife is Tenadzuchi (Hand-stroke Elder), and this damsel is our daughter, Kushinada-hime (Wondrous-fair Princess).
“Why lament ye thus piteously?” asked Susa-no-wo, and the aged man answered:
“Alas, most honourable Lord, we bewail the loss of our eight beloved daughters, who, year after year, have been slain and devoured by the terrible eight-forked serpent of Koshi. Time is that the loathly monster cometh and this our last remaining daughter will surely perish. Wherefore do we grieve exceedingly.”
“Tell me,” entreated Susa-no-wo, “what manner of fish is this monster?”
“It hath eyes as red as a ripe mountain cherry, a noisome blood-inflamed body, armed with eight fearsome heads and eight forked tails. Moreover its back is all overgrown with firs, cedars, and pines, and it trails its tortuous coils over eight valleys and as many mountains.”
Quoth Susa-no-wo: “Aged stranger, I will gladly slay the loathly dragon, if thou wilt but give to me this thy beauteous daughter in marriage.”
“With all reverence be it said,” replied the father.
“I am ignorant of thine august name.”
“Thou beholdest in me,” boasted Susa-no-wo, “none other than the brother of the glorious Sun Goddess Amaterasu, Heaven-descended ruler of Yamato.”
Whereupon the deities Ashinadzuchi and Tenadzuchi made no further ado, but assented joyously to his request.
Forthwith Susa-no-wo took the maiden from the arms of her honourable parents and transformed her into a many-toothed comb which he thrust into his dishevelled hair. He then bade the aged crone brew a great quantity of sake of eightfold strength, and fashioned a rampart of pointed logs wherein he hung eight goodly doors. At each portal he set a vast vat which he filled with the sake of eightfold strength. Then, with the utmost deliberation, he awaited the coming of the dread monster.
After a little the great serpent came lumbering its enormous carcase over hill and ravine until it reached the rampart of pointed logs. Here it paused at the portals and lapped up the liquor with its eight forked tongues. Whereupon it became unseemly drunken, laughing hilariously, slashing and cavorting its several tails like one bewitched, until, overcome little by little by a great drowsiness, it lay down to sleep.
“As she stooped over the well, of a sudden she saw the face of Prince Fire-Fade reflected therein”
From “Old World Japan” by T. H. Robinson
Permission of Macmillan Co.
“Whereupon it became unseemly drunken, laughing
hilariously, slashing and cavorting its several tails”
Thereupon Susa-no-wo of a sudden drew his ten-span sword and slashed the monster into a thousand fragments. A river of blood gushed from each separate head, and as he severed the last remaining tail the edge of his august sword was notched. Marvelling greatly, he slit the tail of the serpent and discovered therein a miraculous sword, the divine Kushanagi (Herb-queller), which he delivered to the God of Heaven.
Then Susa-no-wo retransformed his many-toothed comb into the beauteous Kushinada-hime, whom he wedded forthwith in the province of Izumo, composing for that occasion the following verses:
Like high ramparts manifold
Lo the clouds appear:
On all sides they firm enfold
Prisoned mine for e’er to hold
In their ramparts manifold!
When began the earth and heaven,
By the margin of the River
Of the firmament eternal,
Met the Gods in high assembly,
Met the Gods and held high counsel,
Myriads upon myriads gathered;
Then to each high charge was given.
On the Goddess of the Sunlight,
Her who fills the sky with radiance,
They bestowed the realm of Heaven.
To her grandchild they delivered
This, the mountain-land Yamato,
This, the land of fairest rice-ears,
His with god-like sway to govern,
Long as heaven and earth endured.
(“Garner of a Myriad Leaves”).
Translated by W. G. Aston.
Now the eight hundred myriad gods gathered in council in the bed of the Tranquil River of Heaven. And Amaterasu, the Bright-Shining Sun Goddess spake, saying:
“The Netherland of Rice Plains is rife with discord. By day the Earth Spirits swarm like flies in the fifth month, and by night they raise a clamour like the flames of fire. Wherefore must we send down a deity to quell these unseemly uprisings and restore the Sunny Land of Rice Plains to prosperity and peace.”
Thereupon Amewaka (Heaven-Young-Prince) descended the Rainbow Bridge to govern the land. As he set foot on the shores of the Isle of the Dragon-fly he encountered a beauteous earth spirit, the Princess Shita-teru-hime (Princess Nether-Shining).
Bewitched by her loveliness, Amewaka wedded the maiden forthwith and remained for eight long years feasting and revelling in the Land of Sunny Rice Plains.
The Sun Goddess, marvelling greatly at the long tarrying of her heaven-sent messenger, sent the faithful pheasant, Na-naki, to inquire the cause of his silence.
The pheasant flew down to earth and perched upon a many-branched cassia-tree which grew at the gate of the Prince’s palace.
Then Ama-no-sagu (the Heaven-Spying Woman) went to the young Prince and said: “An evil bird percheth on the top of yonder cassia-tree. I fear its cry bodeth no good.”
Forthwith Amewaka took his heavenly bow and arrows and shot the pheasant through the heart, so that it died. Upward and onward sped the feathered arrow through leagues of endless sky, till it pierced the highest clouds and fell at the very feet of Bright-Shining Amaterasu, seated upon her throne in the sun.
Then spake the Sun Goddess: “This is the very arrow I gave to Amewaka. Behold its feathers are stained with blood; perchance he hath been fighting with the Earthly Deities.”
Thereupon she took up the arrow and flung it forth to earth, saying: “If this arrow be one shot by Amewaka at the Earth Spirits let it not attain to him; but if he hath an evil heart, may the heavenly arrow fly straight to that mark.”
Now at this time the Heavenly Prince was sleeping after the feast of first fruits, and the feathered arrow pierced Amewaka to the heart.
When she beheld the dead body of her youthful husband Princess Nether-Shining wept long and bitterly. She would not be consoled and the sound of her cries rose to the High Plains of Heaven.
Whereupon Ame-no-kuno straightway knew that her son Amewaka was dead, and raised a mighty tempest which upbore the body of the young Prince to the Celestial Realms. Here they built a great mourning-house and wept and wailed for eight long days and nights with ceaseless lamentation.
Sang the mourners:
More lustrous than the precious gems,
1From the Nihongi.
At the same time to the obsequies of the pheasant Na-naki flew myriads of the swift-winged birds of heaven, in endless procession, the wild geese of the river, the storks, the kingfishers, and the eagles, who mourned their slain brother with a great wailing.
Thereafter the Sun Goddess summoned her grandchild Ninigi (Prince Rice Plenty), and thus exhorted him:
“Tis the appointed time when thou shouldst descend to rule in the Sunny Land of Rice Plains. Go thou, and may fortune attend thee, that thy dynasty, like the immortal Heaven, may endure for ever!”
Whereupon she conferred upon him three divine gifts: the Necklace of Jewels, which her father Izanagi had bestowed upon her at her birth, the Sacred Sword, which Susa-no-wo discovered within the tail of the eight-forked serpent and the Miraculous Mirror whose lustre had lured her from the magic cave, commanding him the whiles:
“Guard jealously all these tokens, but the mirror with thy life, for when thou lookest therein thou shalt ever behold my countenance.”
When Ninigi was about to descend to the Land of Rice Plains, a herald, who had been despatched before to announce his coming, returned saying:
“There dwelleth a Giant God at the Eight Cross Roads of Heaven, whose stature exceedeth seven fathoms. A great light shineth from his mouth and his eyeballs glow like the sun at noonday.”
Now among all the eight hundred myriad deities of I leaven there was none who durst confront this prodigious giant. Wherefore Ninigi called to him Uzume, the Goddess of Mirth, and commanded: “Of all the heavenly goddesses thou art superior in the power of thy looks. Do thou go and make inquiry.”
So Uzume attired her shapely body in seductive raiment, bared her beauteous breasts, and hied to the Eight Cross-Roads of Heaven. Fearlessly she accosted the formidable monster and with a mocking laugh demanded:
“Who art thou that darest thus impede my progress? What meanest thou by this unseemly behaviour?”
The giant, mightily amused by the fearless mien of the playful Goddess, made answer:
“My name is Saruta-niko (Deity-of -the-Field-Paths). I respectfully beg to pay homage to the grandchild of Amaterasu and to attend upon him as his guide. Let his august highness descend upon the mountain of Takachihi. There I shall await him. Return to thy master, O wondrous-fair Uzume, and convey him this message.”
Thereupon the august grandchild quitted his Heavenly Rock-Seat, and, thrusting apart the eight-piled clouds of Heaven, clove his way with an awful way-cleaving and descended to earth!
From the Rainbow Bridge of Heaven, Ninigi stepped forth and alighted upon the peak of Takachihi in the isle Tsukushi, where, as had been agreed upon, the Deity-of-the-Field-Paths awaited him. When Ninigi had journeyed throughout his kingdom and had viewed the cloud-soaring mountains and endless primeval forests, the fertile valleys, and smiling sapphire lakes, he chose a fair hill overlooking the Inland Ocean, and
builded him a vast and lofty palace “whose pillars rested on the nethermost rock, and whose beams rose to the High Plain of Heaven.”
So content was Ninigi with the faithful services of the Deity-of-the-Field-Paths that he bestowed upon him the beauteous Uzume in wedlock. Thereupon the terrible giant took the merry Goddess to his mountain fastnesses, where they dwell forever in joyance and mirth.
Thereafter Ninigi bethought himself of his own lonely and unromantic lot, when on a day as he walked upon the shore, he beheld a maiden of exceeding loveliness. Straightway he became greatly enamoured and accosting her forthwith demanded: “Who art thou, most beauteous Princess?”
To him modestly the maiden answered: “My name is Ko-no-hana (Princess Tree-Blossom), and I am the daughter of Oho-yama (Great-Mountain-Possessor).”
Hastily Ninigi betook himself to her father and implored the hand of the fair Princess.
But the monarch of the mountains had an elder daughter, Iha-naga-hime (Princess Long-as-the-Rocks), no ill-favoured dame of adamantine heart, unlike unto her sweet-souled sister. Oho-yama desired that the offspring of Ninigi should, like the rocks, endure eternally and flourish as the blossoms of the trees. Wherefore he gave to Ninigi both of his daughters, clothing each in bright raiment and lading them with costly gifts.
But of Princess Long-as-the-Rocks, Ninigi would have nothing, bidding her return to her father.
Angered by his rejection the ugly daughter cried out in imprecation: “Hadst thou chosen me thy descendants would have lived for ever; henceforth shall they wither as the blossoms of the trees!”
Wherefore is the life of man brief as the bloom of the flowers.
Nathless Ninigi and the Princess Tree-Blossom dwelt long time together in peace and happiness, till on a woeful day a sudden cloud shrouded them in deepest gloom.
The ardent Summer Wind wooed Princess Tree-Blossom with importunate caresses; and, although he had no cause for jealousy, a madness fell upon Ninigi so that he disowned his sons.
His faithful wife, confident in her innocence, demanded the Ordeal by Fire. Retiring with her children into her dwelling she applied the torch and invoked thus their divine ancestress:
“Celestial Sun-Goddess, if these be the offspring of thy Heavenly grandchild suffer not the fire to harm them!”
Out of the very flames and into the arms of their father sprang the laughing boys. Thereupon Ninigi, perceiving the princess also untouched by the flames, knew how shamefully he had wronged her, and falling upon his knees besought her forgiveness protesting:
Like Mina’s stream that foaming falls
THE FORTUNATE FISH-HOOK
Once upon a time there dwelt upon the isle of Tsukushi a lad called Ho-wori (Prince Fire-Fade), the son of Ninigi, Heaven-descended grandchild of Amaterasu. This youthful prince was a famous hunter, who slew all manner of furry “things, both rough and soft of hair.”
Ho-deri (Prince Fire-Flame), his older brother, was a famous fisher who caught all manner of finny “things, both broad of fin and narrow of fin.”
One day Ho-deri, weary with waiting for the wind to abate and the sea to calm, thus challenged Ho-wori:
“Let us for the nonce exchange callings. Lend me, I pray thee, thy miraculous bow and arrows, that I may become a hunter. In return I will give thee my magic fish-hook.”
So Ho-wori consented and did as Ho-deri bade him.
But the elder brother, skilled as he was in luring the denizens of the deep, was but a sorry huntsman. After an arduous day he returned weary and empty-handed. He accordingly gave back to Ho-wori his bow and arrows, saying:
“Thou hast the fortune of the mountain; and to me is given that of the sea. Restore thou my magic fishhook!”
Then Prince Fine-Fade answered: “In vain have I furrowed the jade-green water and cast my line beyond the bounds of the sea. No fish have I caught, and moreover I have lost thy worthless fish-hook.”
Prince Fine-Flame flashed with indignation, and threateningly demanded his lost talisman. His brother generously offered to replace the missing fish-hook by a new one, but Ho-deri scornfully refused his proffered gift.
Ho-wori then took his sword, and, breaking it into a thousand pieces, forged from it a myriad fish-hooks, which he piled in a great heap and presented to Ho-deri. But even this did not appease Prince Fire-Flame, who retorted:
“These be not my magic fish-hook. Were they numberless as the beasts of the sea would I none of them!”
Now Prince Fire-Fade, grieving because of the resentment of his brother, went down one day to the jade-green sea. While he stood sighing and lamenting upon the shore, of a sudden appeared to him Shiko-tsutsu (the Old Man of the Sea).
“Why grievest thou thus, Ho-wori?” demanded the kind old man, and Prince Fire-Fade recounted to him the tale of the lost fish-hook.
Quoth the Salt-sea Elder: “Be of good cheer, Ho-wori; I will give thee aid.” Plaiting together withes of bamboo, the old man fashioned a basket, wherein he set the young prince, who sailed in it far out to sea.
Now when he had passed the bounds of ocean, the basket burst its fragile seams and began to sink. Down it fell through endless depths of seaweed forests till it descended in the courtyard of a great castle, the abode of Wata-tsumi (God of the Ocean).
Before its gate stood a well, and above the well grew a wide-spreading cassia-tree. Ho-wori climbed into its tangled branches, and watched the myriad glittering fishes glide through its fantastic foliage. As he gazed upon the brilliant scene, he perceived a maiden bearing a golden bowl approaching the well. It was the lovely Princess Toyo-tama (Peerless Jewel), daughter of the Sea-God.
Ho-wori stood spellbound by hen wondrous beauty.
As she stooped over the well, to draw water, of a sudden she saw the face of Prince Fine-Fade reflected therein. Whereupon she let fall her golden bowl and ran trembling to her father.
“Father,” she cried, “I have beheld a youth with the countenance of a God within the branches of yonder cassia-tree.”
Wata-tsumi, the Sea-God, went forth, and calling Ho-wori, cried:
“Descend, thou Son-of-the-Gods, and deign to accompany me to my unworthy dwelling.”
Leading Ho-wori through his stately palace he seated him upon a throne cushioned eightfold with the skins of sea-lions. Before him, upon a table of coral, he set a sumptuous banquet, served on plates of pearl. They sipped rare ocean-sake from silvery shells, while fiddler crabs discoursed sweet music on the golden strand.
When they had feasted to their hearts’ content, Ho-wori led the peerless Princess to the terrace, where in a shadowy garden of sea-blooms, he whispered his undying love, and Toyo-tama graciously consented to become his bride. They confided their joyous secret to the Sea-God who gave them his fatherly blessing, whereupon they plighted their troth anew and exchanged nuptial cups of the sweet ocean-sake.
Thereafter Prince Fire-Fade related to the Sea-God the tale of the lost fish-hook, and Wata-tsumi summoned before him all the fishes of his kingdom. Thousands upon thousands they came, fishes “broad of fin and narrow of fin,” from the remote recesses of the mounts and valleys of the sea.
When they had all assembled in the Court-of-Sea-weed the Ocean-God questioned them, saying: “Know ye aught, my faithful subjects, of the magic fish-hook of Prince Fire-Flame?”
“We know naught,” answered the Lobster, “except that the Red Woman (the Tai) bideth at home with a wounded mouth.”
Wata-tsumi then despatched a fleet-finned swordfish to summon the Red Woman to their council. After a little the Tai came, and within her swollen gills was discovered the lost fish-hook!
For three long years Ho-wori dwelt happily with his Peerless Jewel Toyo-tama in the palace beneath the ocean. Then a great longing came upon him to return to his earthly home and to restore the lost fish-hook to his brother.
Toyo-tama, sorely troubled, told her father of her sorrow. But the Sea-God, by no means resenting the desire of his son-in-law, delivered unto him the fishhook, bidding him:
“When thou givest this to thy brother spit thrice thereon and hand it to him with averted face saying, ‘‘Tis a hook of poverty, of ruin, and of downfall.”
Moreover Wata-tsumi presented Ho-wori with two talismans wherewith to rule the tides of the sea, enjoining him:
“If thy brother be wroth bring forth the Jewel of the Flowing Tide, and the waters shall drown him. But if he craveth thy forgiveness do thou display the Jewel of the Ebbing Tide and the waters shall sudden recede and therewithal thou shalt save him.”
As Ho-wori was about to depart Toyo-tama confided to him that she was soon to become a mother.
“Yet tarry not,” she entreated, “but build for me a house upon the strand. On a day when the tempest rageth I will come to thee.”
Prince Fire-Fade mounted a sea-dragon and node swiftly over the mountains and valleys of the sea to his own land.
When he found his brother he restored to him the lost fish-hook; and Prince Fire-Flame begged his forgiveness and promised eternal subjection.
On a day, “when the winds and waves were raging,” Princess Peerless Jewel came gliding over the water throned upon a great tortoise.
On the strand Ho-wori had builded a cottage “thatched with cormorant feathers,” and here, in due season, was she delivered of a beauteous son. When she had laid him in his joyous father’s arms, Toyo-tama, transformed into a mermaid, disappeared for ever, in the depths of the jade-green sea.
Long and bitterly lamented Prince Fire-Fade:
Gone is the Moon from out the summer sky,
Spring’s wonted flowers for me no longer bloom.
All changeth; former light is present gloom,
But still my changeless love lives on exhaustlessly.1
The boy grew apace, lithe and graceful as a sea-gull, blithe offspring of the sea and sky.
He longed to become a fearless sailor and skim the foamy billows in his speedy sampan, questing ever strange and unknown lands. Distant voices called to him from the deep. The winds whispered even of a fairy country overflowing with fruit and flowers. Nevertheless, he lingered in Kyushu, biding with his beloved father rather than leave him childless in his declining years. When Prince Fire-Fade’s spirit was borne to the Eternal Land, whence none may return, his son committed his body to the waves.
Years after, feeling himself at death’s door, he summoned to his bedside his son, Jimmu Tenno, and commanded him:
“Of old the beneficent Heavenly Deities conferred our Sunny Land of Rice Plains upon Ninigi, my divine ancestor. Now I learn that eastward lieth Yamato, a fair land girt by snow-crowned mountains, an isle of ease and plenty circled by the sapphire sea. Up therefore, journey thither, subdue its savage tribes, that thy descendants may dwell for ever in that fair country.”
Then the ever-bountiful Sun Goddess sent Yatagarasu the raven to guide him upon his way; and Jimmu, bearing with him the sacred regalia, necklace, sword, and mirror, sailed through the Sea of Myriad Isles to the flowery land of Yamato.
There he established his kingdom, which, thus the eternal gods have ordained, shall last from generation to generation so long as sun and moon endure!
Click here to continue to the next chapter of Romance of Old Japan