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Conquest of eight-headed dragon


Susanoo-no-mikoto is one of Japanese gods. He was born as one of three children (Amaterasu as solar goddess, Tsukuyomi as lunar god, and him) of Izanagi, during his ablution after coming back from the land of dead. At the beginning he was supposed to govern the ocean, however, he was totally not satisfied with his mission. After long conflict, Amaterasu, sun goddess hided herself into the sacred cave because of Susanoo's rough behaviors. The world lost the light. Gods decide finally expel him.

After leaving Takamagahara, he arrives at Izumo. There, he met an old couple weeping. They have sacrificed their daughters ever year to the eight-headed snake, Yamata no orochi. It was the moment when they have to sacrifice their last daughter Kushinada hime.

Susanoo decides to exterminate the big snake. He wears female cloth and make snake to drink sake a lot. Then, he killed it by his sword. However, his sword was broken because of another sword inside of the snake. This sword, named Kusanagi no tsurugi is now one of three sacred treasures of Imperial court of Japan. It is used for the coronation.


This story inspires Nishibashi Kokkyo, priest in Okayama during Edo period, who created several new dramatic pieces for kagura. The dance/theatre piece named Yamata no orochi is now one of most popular ones of Bitchu kagura.


During my fieldwork, the most frequent topic of public was how many snakes they will see during the kagura performance. Public was really satisfied to know they will have three.


Photo: Susanoo and Orochi (snake)


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© 2015 by Akiko Hirai