Izumo Taisha, which officially goes by the name Izumo Oyashiro, is a large shrine in Izumo City that shares a deep connection with the myths collected in The Kojiki. The deity enshrined there is none other than Okuninushi, the deity who helped the Rabbit of Inaba. After his marriage to Suseri-hime, he developed the lands of Ashihara-no-nakatsukuni, making it a great nation. How he ended up as the deity enshrined in Izumo Taisha is described in the Kuniyuzuri (“kuni” means “nation”, and “yuzuri” means “hand over”) myth in The Kojiki.
Amaterasu wanted Okuninushi to turn control of Ashihara-no-nakatsukuni over to her, and she sent her son Amenohohi down to tell Okuninushi of her wishes. However, upon reaching Izumo, Amenohohi was impressed by Okuninushi, and decided to serve him instead. For three years, Amaterasu heard nothing, so she sent another son, Amenowakahiko, down to convey the same message. But like Amenohohi, he also sided with Okuninushi.
After another eight years of waiting, the gods in Takamagahara decided to send down the god of thunder and swords, Takemikazuchi, to tell Okuninushi to turn over the lands of Ashihara-no-nakatsukuni to Amaterasu. Takemikazuchi arrived at the beach at Inasa-no-Hama and, stabbing his sword handle into the sand, he sat on the blade, legs crossed, and demanded an audience with Okuninushi. After being presented with Amaterasu’s demands, Okuninushi’s son Takeminakata challenged Takemikazuchi to a test of strength to determine who would gain control of Okuninushi’s lands. They wrestled with each other, but Takemikazuchi was far too strong for Takeminakata, crushing Takeminakata’s hand as if it were a handful of leaves and threw him to the ground. Seeing that his son had lost the contest, which is said to be the origin of sumo wrestling, Okuninushi agreed to turn control of Ashihara-no-nakatsukuni over to Amaterasu.
This myth is developed even more in the Nihon Shoki. Grateful for his act, Amaterasu told Okuninushi that she would have a shrine that reached all the way to the heavens built for him, and her son Amenohohi and his descendants would serve him for all time. Having given control of this land over to Amaterasu, Okuninushi retreated from this world and was given control of all things unseen. This includes en-musubi, creating the connections (en) people make with others throughout their lives, from family and loved ones to friendships and casual acquaintances. So now, Okuninushi is known throughout Japan as the god of En-musubi. Every year in the fall, during the time known as Kami-ari-zuki, all of the myriad gods throughout Japan gather at Izumo Taisha to determine what sort of en people will have in the upcoming year.
Izumo Taisha, in the western part of Izumo City, enshrines Okuninushi and is one of the most famous Shinto shrines in Japan.
This bronze sculpture shows Okuninushi helping the rabbit of Inaba in its time of need.
Visiting Locations connected to Izumo Taisha
Izumo Taisha is located on the western end of the Shimane Peninsula, in the Taisha area of Izumo City. A large shrine gate, said to be the largest in Japan, towers over the main road to Izumo Taisha and welcomes visitors to the area. Izumo Taisha is easily accessible by car, bus, or train, and the area around the shrine bustles with tourists and visitors to the shrine, especially on the weekends.
If you follow the road that passes in front of the shrine grounds, you will soon arrive at Inasa-no-Hama beach. This beach is part of Sono-no-nagahama, a place that plays a large role in the Kunibiki legend, and is where Takemikazuchi presented Okuninushi with his demands to turn over Ashihara-no-nakatsukuni to Amaterasu, and where Takeminakata challenged him to a test of strength. It is also where, every year at the Kami-mukae-sai, all of the gods from around Japan are welcomed to Izumo Taisha, and the procession back to Izumo Taisha from the beach follows a path through town along the Kami Mukae Road.