How The God of Swords Takemikazuchi Conquered Japan

A heavenly warrior deity and thunder god, considered son of the heavenly sword Ame-no-o-habari-no-kami (though he came into being from the blood of the slain Kagutsuchi-no-kami), and the messenger who caused Okuninushi and his sons to surrender the Central Land of the Reed Plains to the authority of the heavenly deities.

Sent to Izumo, he seated himself on the point of his sword, which he had thrust hilt-first into a wave. He convinced Okuninushi and his son Kotoshironushi to submit.

Takemikazuchi: Japanese Sword God
Takemikazuchi, the Japanese Sword God, rides a wave towards Japan

The second son, Takeminakata-no-kami, resisted and was defeated in a wrestling match:

When he came to seize Takemikazuchi’s arm in a wrestling hold, it turned first to an icicle, then to a sword blade. When Takemikazuchi seized Takeminakata-no-kami’s, arm, it was crushed like a reed.

Later, he sent the sword Futsu-no-mitama to Kamu-Yamato-Iharehiko-nomikoto (Jimmu Tenno) in Kumano when the emperor had been ensorcelled, to help him continue his subjugation of the land.

Takemikazuchi-no-kami is sometimes regarded as patron of the martial virtues, and by extension, of the martial arts. Some martial arts dojo (training halls) in Japan, notably those of aikido (a martial art heavily reliant on controlling an opponent’s joint movements), may have small shrines dedicated to this deity. One of the reasons, of course, is the kami’s steadfastness in accomplishing his tasks.

The close attachment to aikido derives from the description of Takemikazuchi’s defeat of Takeminakata by an arm-hold: an aikido hallmark.

In popular myth, Takemikazuchi is important as a thunder god and, even more significantly, as the subduer of Namazu, the giant catfish that causes earthquakes. Takemikazuchi is thus a powerful aramitama, or rough spirit.

His steadfastness and his earthquake-subduing powers — he drove the kaname-ishi (pinning rock) through the catfish Namazu to keep it in place—have brought him the title of Kashima Daimyojin (Great deity of Kashima), and his main shrine is the popular Kashima shrine in Ibaragi prefecture, northeast of Tokyo.

Takemikazuchi gives chase to Namazu
Takemikazuchi gives chase to Namazu

Many people still believe that the kaname-ishi, which can be viewed today on the grounds of the shrine, is what keeps earthquakes in Japan from being even more severe than they are.

He is also a gongen as the main deity of the Kasuga complex in Nara, where he is considered the avatar of Fukukensaku Kannon in Ryobu Shinto.

His totem animal is the white deer, though the association between the kami and the bodhisattva may be nothing more than the association between the kami’s tutelary animal and the deer representing the Deer Park where the Buddha preached.

Source: Ashkenazi, Michael (2003). Handbook of Japanese Mythology, p. 266

Takemikazuchi conquers Central Land of Reed-Plains for Amaterasu

Hereupon Amaterasu[Heaven-Shining-Great-August-Deity] said:

“Which Deity were it best to send on a fresh mission?” 

[…] All the Deities said:

“He who is named Itsu-no-wo-ha-bari no kami [Deity Majestic-Point-Blade-Extended] and dwells in the Heavenly Rock-Dwelling by the source of the Tranquil River of Heaven, is the one that should be sent. Or if not this Deity, then this Deity’s child, Takemikazuchi [Brave-Awful-Possessing-Male-Deity], might be sent. […]”

So then Ame-no-kaku-no-kami[Heavenly-Deer-Deity] was sent to ask Itsu-no-wo-ha-bari no kami, who replied, saying:

“I will obey, and will respectfully serve you. Nevertheless on this errand ye should send my child, Takemikazuchi.

[And with these words] immediately offered [his son to Amaterasu].

So Tori-bune-no-kami [Deity Heavenly-Bird-Boat] was attached to Takemikazuchi, and they were sent off.

Therefore these two Deities, descending to the little shore of Inasa in the land of Idzumo, drew their swords ten hand-breadths long,  stuck them upside down on the crest of a wave, seated themselves cross-legged on the points of the swords, and asked Ōkuninushi[Deity Master-of-the-Great-Land], saying:

Amaterasu and Takamusubi have charged us and sent us to ask, [saying]:

“We [Amaterasu & Takamusubi] have deigned to charge our august child with thy dominion, the Central Land of Reed-Plains, as the land which he should govern. So how is thy heart?'” 

He [Ōkuninushi] replied, saying:

“I am unable to say. My child Ya-he-koto-shiro-nu-shi-no-kami [Deity Eight-Fold-Thing-Sign-Master] will be the one to tell you; but he is gone to Cape Miho to pursue birds and catch fish, and has not yet returned.”

So then Tori-bune-no-kami was sent to summon the Ya-he-koto-shiro-nu-shi-no-kami, who, on being graciously asked, spoke to the Great Deity his father, saying:

“I will obey. [Do thou] respectfully present this land to the august child of the Heavenly Deity;” –and thereupon he trod on [the edge of] his boat so as to capsize it, clapped his heavenly departing hands in the fence of green branches, and disappeared.

So then they asked Ōkuninushi, saying:

“Thy son the Ya-he-koto-shiro-nu-shi-no-kami has now spoken thus. Hast thou other sons who should speak?”

Hereupon he [Ōkuninushi] spoke again, saying:

“There is my other son, the Take-mi-gata-no-kami[Deity Brave-August-Name-Firm]. There is none beside him.”

While he was thus speaking, Take-mi-gata-no-kami came up, bearing on the tips of his fingers a thousand-draught rock, and said:

“Who is it that has come to our land, and thus secretly talks? If that be so, I should like to have a trial of strength. So I should like to begin by taking thine august hand.”

So on his [Take-mi-gata-no-kami] letting him take his august hand [the hand of Takemikazuchi], his touch at once turned it into an icicle, and again his touch turned it into a sword-blade.  So then he was frightened and drew back.

Then on Takemikazuchi wishing to take the hand of Take-mi-gata-no-kami, and asking permission to take it in return, he grasped and crushed it as if it were taking a young reed, and cast it aside, upon which [Take-mi-gata-no-kami] fled away.

So when [Takemikazuchi] pursuing after him, came up with him at the Sea of Suha in the land of Shinanu,  and was about to slay him, the Take-mi-gata-no-kami said:

“I will obey. Slay me not. I will go to no other place but this, neither will I go against the command of my father the Deity Master-of-the-Great-Land. I will not go against the words of Ya-he-koto-shiro-nu-shi-no-kami. I will yield up this Central Land of Reed-Plains according to the command of the august child of the Heavenly Deities.”

So they returned again, and asked Ōkuninushi [saying]: “Thy children the two Deities the Ya-he-koto-shiro-nu-shi-no-kami and Take-mi-gata-no-kami have said that they will follow and not go against the commands of the august child of the Heavenly Deities. So how is thy heart?”

Then he replied, saying:

“According as the two Deities my children have said, I too will not go against them. In accordance with the [heavenly] command, I will at once yield up this Central Land of Reed-Plains.”

[…] So Takemikazuchi re-ascended [to Heaven], and reported how he had subdued and pacified the Central Land of Reed-Plains.

Source: Chamberlain, Basil Hall. The Kojiki

Atlas Mythica
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