restricted access Chapter 7 The Izumo-Yamato Contention
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114 The obsession Yamato had with Izumo, as described by the writers of the Nihon shoki, was a mystery until the discovery of the 358 Kanba-kòjindani swords and the thirty-nine Kamo-iwakura bells.The revelation of these caches of bronze objects, so much larger than any finds known elsewhere in the country, was astounding. Izumo has relatively few Jòmon sites, but the artifacts do include pottery from Kyushu of the Middle and Late Jòmon and from the Inland Sea of Late Jòmon.There is Yayoi pottery, some also brought up from Kyushu, and a few shell bracelets, which must have followed the same route.But the finds in Shimane prefecture prior to 1984 had yielded only thirteen bronze swords from six sites, three of these recorded in 1665, two halberds from two different sites, and no spearheads, and before 1996, fifteen bronze bells from seven sites.1 Izumo is the name of the westernmost of nine districts from which the province received its name.A coastal area west of Lake Shinji, its heart is Kizuki, the locale of the Great Shrine (taisha), first known as Kizuki yashiro. At the eastern end is a district called Ou, which appears archaeologically to have frequently rivalled Izumo in power.The governor who went to the Nara court to pay his respects and offer the province’s greetings (kan’yogoto/kamuyogoto) did his purification and abstinence at Imbe (i.e., abstinence) in Ou, suggesting that it had an earlier claim to sacred spots with ritual use.The name of Shimane, eventually given to the prefecture , was derived from the peninsular district lying north of Lake Shinji.The lake was more or less an open sea in Yayoi and Kofun times, its east end only narrowing in early historic centuries.The term “Izumo” is rather loosely used today, but can be regarded as the eastern third of Shimane prefecture. As mentioned earlier, from the observation platform in Takamahara the Izumo area was seen as the only obstacle to the subjugation of the Central Land of the Reed Plains (Ashihara-no-nakatsu-kuni), a place too well defended to risk a direct attack, such as Jimmu is said to have mounted in other hostile areas later. Izumo may appear peripheral on the map, but this was not the way it was perceived by the Yamato people.They saw it as being able to build unlimited strength by using the coastal route directly to Korea, all of which was beyond Yamato’s reach. The mythology puts a fairy-tale face and an earthy explanation on all the diplomatic maneuvers, but because concealed within the tale are many implications of CHAPTER 7 The Izumo-Yamato Contention relations with Yamato it should be considered.The stories are particularly pertinent to the second century AD, and without Yamato’s achieving supremacy, the Himiko account would not exist. Told in four versions, the last extremely shortened, the Izumo episode is recounted as the contest between the Sun Goddess and her brother Susano-o and the latter’s banishment to Izumo and his killing the predator snake/monster.This opens the second stage of the Age of the Gods.The approach is deity to deity, the Izumo deity then recognized as the supreme kami of the land below. The story appears at one point in general terms, Izumo not specified, when the Sun Goddess sent her best warrior, Ame-waka-hiko, armed with special bow and arrows to the Central Land of the Reed Plains, a term used for the Izumo region and probably adopted from Izumo mythology. His all-consuming passion for earthly female deities went on for eight years. On advice she sent a pheasant, which perched on a tree by Ame-waka’s house and inquired why he had failed to report, to investigate. A mistrustful female deity suggested that Ame-waka shoot the pheasant, which he did, the arrow passing through the bird and landing at the feet of the Sun Goddess. Suspicious, she put a curse on it and threw it back, for evil or good intent. It hit and killed Ame-waka. His body was removed to heaven by his family, who put it in a mourning hut (moya). Aji-suki-taka-hikone-no-kami, an earthly friend, went to Takamahara to console them, but resembled Ame-waka so closely they believed he had been reincarnated and harassed him to the point of distraction.With his ten-fist sword he...