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Home » 2. Kami (Deities) » Kami in Classic Texts
Saonetsuhiko
(Kojiki)
Other names: Shinetsuhiko(Nihongi), Uzu hiko (Nihongi)



A kami who met Emperor Jinmu, befriended him and guided him on his passage through the sea during the emperor's eastern campaign. The kami was said to be the ancestor of Yamato provincial governors (miyatsuko) and the Yamato no Atai clan. In Nihongi, the kami calls himself Uzuhiko. Leaving from Hyūga by ship, Jinmu headed toward the east together with his elder brothers. At the "straits of Hayasui" he saw a person fishing from the back of a turtle (or a "small boat," according to Nihongi), while raising sails (or wings). Jinmu asked his name, and the man replied that he was a local "earthly kami" (kunitsukami) with thorough knowledge of the ocean paths. Agreeing to serve Jinmu, he took the tip of a pole offered by Jinmu and was pulled into the latter's ship, thus taking the name Saonetsuhiko ("pole-root-man").

In Nihongi, this event is recorded as occurring immediately after Jinmu's departure from Hyūga, while Kojiki describes it as happening some fifteen years after Jinmu had progressed through the Tsukushi, Aki, and Kibi regions, and was setting out again to go farther to the east. Both accounts agree, however, that Saonetsuhiko is the first kami to identify himself as a kunitsukami, a kami who offers his service to Jinmu, and as ancestor to the Yamato clans.

According to Nihongi, Saonetsuhiko was also active in subsequent episodes of the eastern campaign. Instructed by a dream oracle how to defeat a band of eighty thieves in Shiki of Yamato, Jinmu instructed Shinetsuhiko and Otoukashi (Ukashi the Younger) to gather earth from Heavenly Mount Kagu (Amanokaguyama) for a sacred divination ritual. Costuming himself as an old man with "ragged garment and straw hat," Shinetsuhiko passed with Otoukashi through the enemy lines and fulfilled the task, thereby allowing Jinmu to perform the divination, whose magical results Saonetsuhiko observed and reported to the emperor. He also used his own "weak army" as a decoy to lure the army of Shiki the Elder, then defeated it from behind with his "strong army."

-Mori Mizue
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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