October 26, 2022 5 min read
Have you ever heard of Susanoo, a hero of Japanese mythology with a fiery and unpredictable character?
Susanoo or Susano-o no Mikoto is the God of wind, seas and storms in Shinto religion. He is the son of the demiurge couple Izanagi and Izanami and the brother of the deities Amateratsu and Tsukuyomi. This very popular Japanese kami is at the origin of the famous sword Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, one of the sacred treasures of Japan.
Focus on this capricious character who sowed chaos in the celestial kingdom.
Izanagi and Izanami.
Remember Izanagi and Izanami, the gods who created the universe? Some time after founding the Japanese islands with their celestial spear, the couple gave birth to many kami to form nature. But, Izanami dies burned while giving birth to the god of fire. Her husband, very sad, could not accept this tragedy and decided to go and find her in the kingdom of the dead. However, he was terrorized when he saw his wife.
After having escaped from the underworld, the god Izanagi went to the river Tachibana in order to purify himself. It is then that while washing his face, he gave birth to three kamis: first, Amaterasu, by washing his right eye, then Tsukuyomi, from his left eye, finally, Susanoo appeared from his nose. Izanagi entrusted the celestial kingdom to Amaterasu, goddess of the Sun and to Tsukuyomi, god of the Moon while Susanoo inherited the Sea. The latter, dissatisfied with ruling over the ocean and jealous of Amaterasu liked to play tricks on his sister.
Growing up, the young god mourned his late mother and pestered his father to visit Izanami in the world of the dead. Susanoo by dint of insisting provoked the anger of Izanagi who ended up chasing him away. Afterwards, the kami of the oceans and the storms went to say goodbye to the sun goddess but Amaterasu was not fooled. Suspicious of the intentions of her warlike brother, she challenged him to sire kami. Susanoo triumphed by giving birth to 5 male kami from his sword. Excited by his victory, the god of the sea indulged in all kinds of excesses. According to the Kojiki, (a collection of myths about the genesis of Japan and Shinto deities) he destroyed rice fields, sowed excrement and injured a foal. That was too much for Amaterasu! Following his provocations, the sun deity went to lock herself in a cave, plunging the world into darkness.
Susanoo, driven out by his peers, was banished from the High Heavenly Plain. As a punishment, his beard was cut off and his nails were torn off. The disinherited god took refuge on Earth, in the province of Izumo. There, he took on a human appearance and planted a forest with the hairs of his beard. In addition, the villagers were terrified by an eight-headed dragon that devoured young girls. This is where Susanoo turns into a hero.
After saving the region of Izumo from the clutches of the tatsu, Susanoo went to visit his sister in the hope of reconciling with her. During his battle with the monster, the god of wind and storm managed to seize a treasure kept by the latter: the sword Kusanagi. As an act of forgiveness, he offered the object to the goddess of the sun. The magic sword was about to become one of the 3 sacred treasures of Japan.
Rejected by his peers, Susanoo was wandering in Izumo province in order to join the yomi (world of darkness). On his way he met a crying family: their last daughter was asked to be sacrificed by Yamata-no-Orochi: a gigantic octocephalic serpentine dragon. But Susanoo decided to help the couple and their daughter Kushinada.
With the help of the locals, he built a large fence with eight openings. In front of each opening was placed a barrel of sake. When Yamata no Orochi arrived, he was attracted by the tempting smell of the alcohol and put his head through the holes to drink the sake. A bit groggy, the monster didn't see Susanoo's attack coming as he cut off its eight heads. Moreover, he found the Kusanagi sword within one of its tails. After defeating the fierce creature, the storm kami married Princess Kushinada Hime and built a palace.
Yaegaki. Source: Wikipedia
Susanoo would thus be the ancestor of the Izumo clan in Japanese mythology. For six generations, the descendants of the storm god and Kushinada ruled the region. But the sixth heir of Susanoo finally gave up the throne under the pressure of local lords. The Izumo dynasty explain why there are many Shinto shrines dedicated to Susanoo and his wife in Shimane prefecture (Izumo at that time). Yaegaki, located in the city of Matsue is the most famous of all.
The sword of kusanagi no Tsurugi is one of the 3 imperial insignia transmitted to the emperor since 690. It is said that Amaterasu gave it to her grandson Ninigi no Mikoto, before sending him to Earth to govern Japan. The latter would be the ancestor of the imperial lineage in Japan. This is why the emperor represented a divine authority. Note that Hirohito had to renounce his sacred nature in 1946, at the end of the Second World War.
Susanoo in Naruto. Source: youtube @ PS360HD2
The god of wind and storms is a recurring character in manga and video games. Susanô" can be found in the shonen Naruto, being an avatar that protects ninjas from attacks. Also, the anime film for children called Wanpaku oji no orochi taiji and the manga Blue Seed are based on the famous story of the kami and the province of Izumo. He also inspires the character of Orochi in One Piece as well as Takeru Totsuka in the anime Kamigami no Asobi.
The god of storms also appears in the game Okami. His character will have to defeat Yamata no Orochi alongside the heroine Amaterasu, embodied by a wolf. If the legend of Susanoo appears through Titus in the game Final Fantasy X, we can also find him in the MOBA SMITE as well as in many video games.
Apparently, this Japanese hero has inspired a lot of popular culture. From a warlike god who causes trouble to a hero: Susanoo is much talked about. Together with Amateratsu, he is one of the most important kami in Japan.
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