Shimane Prefecture is an amazing mix of nature, culture and history. One of the legends of this area of Japan tells the story of how Prince Ōkuninushi’s kindness towards a little hare helped him achieve his goals.

Unlucky prince

Once up on a time, the king of Izumo, great-grandson of god Susanoo, had had son Ōkuninushi (大国主) with his first wife and other eighty children from various concubines. Once grown up, the brothers decided to marry beautiful Yakami (八上比売), princess of Inaba. Ōkuninushi followed his brothers as a servant, carrying a sack of groceries on his shoulders.

As they walked by Cape Keta, the brothers encountered a hare: it had challenged some crocodiles to see which clan was bigger, so the crocodiles lined up in the sea. When it was on the last crocodile, the hare said it had tricked them, so that it could use them as a bridge. The crocodiles then attacked the hare, ripping its fur from it.

Act of kindness

When the hare saw the princes, it asked for their help to let the fur grow again. But, rather than help the animal, the brothers told the hare to wash in sea water and then dry in the wind. The hare did that, but, as soon as the water evaporated, the salt caused great suffering to its skin.

Young Ōkuninushi found the hare on the beach, crying in despair. Feeling sorry for the hare, he advised it to wash in fresh water from the mouth of a river, and then roll in the pollen of cattails.

After recovering, the hare showed its true form as a god and, in gratitude, told Ōkuninushi he would marry princess Yakami.

The story of Ōkuninushi goes on a bit from here, as told in the Kojiki, until he became ruler of the province of Izumo. The Izumo-Taisha (出雲大社) shrine is dedicated to him, who is also believed to be the god of, among others, farming and medicine.

photo credit: kewpiedollchan Ookuni Shrine via photopin (license)

Other Japanese legends & tales:
Hidden gems: Azuma Shrine in Asakusa, Tokyo, & the legend of Prince Yamato Takeru
5 fiori tipici del Giappone (Parte 2)

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