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Home » 2. Kami (Deities) » Kami in Classic Texts
Yamatanoorochi
[Yamata no orochi] (Kojiki)(Nihongi)
A great serpent (the name means "eight-forked-snake") defeated by Susanoo. Banished from the Plain of High Heaven, the kami Susanoo descended to the peak of Torikami at the headwaters of the Hi River in Izumo Province (believed to be a reference to present-day Mt. Sentsū on the upper Hii River in Shimane Prefecture). There, Susanoo came across an old couple, Ashinazuchi and Tenazuchi who were weeping over their young daughter Inadahime. When Susanoo asked the reason for their tears, the couple responded that Inadahime was to be eaten by a huge snake, with eight heads and eight tails, eyes red like a Chinese lantern plant, and a length that spanned eight peaks and eight valleys.

Sympathizing with the family's plight, Susanoo made the serpent drunk on rice wine and then killed it. From within the serpent's tail Susanoo discovered the sword called Kusanagi ("Grass Mower"), and he presented this sword to Amaterasu.

One interpretation of this myth suggests that the story represents a personification or symbolization of rice growing areas, based on the fact that the name Inadahime means "Rice Field Princess," and also since an "alternate writing" transmitted by Nihongi calls her mother Inada no Miyanushi or "Master of the Rice-Field Palace." The snake Yamata no orochi has been similarly interpreted as the Hii River itself, and the defeat of the snake is thus understood as a description of the taming of the river for irrigation. Other theories have suggested Yamata no orochi was a bandit living in the mountains. The myth of Susanoo's defeating of the great serpent also serves as the legendary origin for the sword Kusanagi, counted among the three imperial regalia (sanshu no jingi).

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