Chapter Fourteen. Yaegaki-jinja


UNTO Yaegaki-jinja, which is in the village of Sakusa in Iu, in the Land of Izumo, all youths and maidens go who are in love, and who can make the pilgrimage. For in the temple of Yaegaki at Sakusa, Take-haya-susa- no-wo-no-mikoto and his wife Inada-hime and their son Sa-ku-sa-no-mikoto are enshrined. And these are the Deities of Wedlock and of Love - and they set the solitary in families - and by their doing are destinies coupled even from the hour of birth. Wherefore one should suppose that to make pilgrimage to their temple to pray about things long since irrevocably settled were simple waste of time. But in what land did ever religious practice and theology agree? Scholiasts and priests create or promulgate doctrine and dogma; but the good people always insist upon making the gods according to their own heart - and these are by far the better class of gods. Moreover, the history of Susano-o the Impetuous Male Deity, does not indicate that destiny had anything to do with his particular case: he fell in love with the Wondrous Inada Princess at first sight - as it is written in the Kojiki:

'Then Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto descended to a place called Tori- kami at the headwaters of the River Hi in the land of Idzumo. At this time a chopstick came floating down the stream. So Take-haya-susa-no-wo- no-mikoto, thinking that there must be people at the headwaters of the river, went up it in quest of them. And he came upon an old man and an old woman who had a young girl between them, and were weeping. Then he deigned to ask: "Who are ye?" So the old man replied, saying: "I am an Earthly Deity, son of the Deity Oho-yama-tsu-mi-no-Kami. I am called by the name of Ashi-nadzu-chi; my wife is called by the name of Te-nadzu- chi; and my daughter is called by the name of Kushi-Inada-hime." Again he asked: "What is the cause of your crying?" The old man answered, saying: "I had originally eight young daughters. But the eight-forked serpent of Koshi has come every year, and devoured one; and it is now its time to come, wherefore we weep." Then he asked him: "What is its form like?" The old man answered, saying: "Its eyes are like akaka- gachi; it has one body with eight heads and eight tails. Moreover, upon its body grow moss and sugi and hinoki trees. Its length extends over eight valleys and eight hills; and if one look at its belly, it is all constantly bloody and inflamed." Then Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto said to the old man: "If this be thy daughter, wilt thou offer her to me?" He replied: "With reverence; but I know not thine august name." Then he replied, saying: "I am elder brother to Ama-terasu-oho-mi-Kami. So now I have descended from heaven." Then the Deities Ashi-nadzu-chi and Te-nadzu-chi said: "If that be so, with reverence will we offer her to thee." So Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto, at once taking and changing the young girl into a close-toothed comb, which he stuck into his august hair-bunch, said to the Deities Ashi-nadzu-chi and Te-nadzu-chi: "Do you distil some eightfold refined liquor. Also make a fence round about; in that fence make eight gates; at each gate tie a platform; on each platform put a liquor-vat; and into each vat pour the eightfold refined liquor, and wait." So as they waited after having prepared everything in accordance with his bidding, the eight-forked serpent came and put a head into each vat and drank the liquor. Thereupon it was intoxicated, and all the heads lay down and slept. Then Take-haya-susa-no-wo-nomikoto drew the ten-grasp sabre that was augustly girded upon him, and cut the serpent in pieces, so that the River Hi flowed on changed into a river of blood.

'Then Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto sought in the Land of Idzumo where he might build a palace.

'When this great Deity built the palace, clouds rose up thence. Then he made an august song:

'Ya-kumo tatsu: Idzumo ya-he-gaki; Tsuma-gomi ni Ya-he-gaki-tsukuru: Sono ya-he-gaki wo!' [1]

Now the temple of Yaegaki takes its name from the words of the august song Ya-he-gaki, and therefore signifies The Temple of the Eightfold Fence. And ancient commentators upon the sacred books have said that the name of Idzumo (which is now Izumo), as signifying the Land of the Issuing of Clouds, was also taken from that song of the god. [2]


Sakusa, the hamlet where the Yaegaki-jinja stands, is scarcely more than one ri south from Matsue. But to go there one must follow tortuous paths too rough and steep for a kuruma; and of three ways, the longest and roughest happens to be the most interesting. It slopes up and down through bamboo groves and primitive woods, and again serpentines through fields of rice and barley, and plantations of indigo and of ginseng, where the scenery is always beautiful or odd. And there are many famed Shinto temples to be visited on the road, such as Take-uchi-jinja, dedicated to the venerable minister of the Empress Jingo, Take-uchi, to whom men now pray for health and for length of years; and Okusa-no-miya, or Rokusho-jinja, of the five greatest shrines in Izumo; and Manaijinja, sacred to Izanagi, the Mother of Gods, where strange pictures may be obtained of the Parents of the World; and Obano-miya, where Izanami is enshrined, also called Kamoshijinja, which means, 'The Soul of the God.'

At the Temple of the Soul of the God, where the sacred fire-drill used to be delivered each year with solemn rites to the great Kokuzo of Kitzuki, there are curious things to be seen - a colossal grain of rice, more than an inch long, preserved from that period of the Kamiyo when the rice grew tall as the tallest tree and bore grains worthy of the gods; and a cauldron of iron in which the peasants say that the first Kokuzo came down from heaven; and a cyclopean toro formed of rocks so huge that one cannot imagine how they were ever balanced upon each other; and the Musical Stones of Oba, which chime like bells when smitten. There is a tradition that these cannot be carried away beyond a certain distance; for 'tis recorded that when a daimyo named Matsudaira ordered one of them to be conveyed to his castle at Matsue, the stone made itself so heavy that a thousand men could not move it farther than the Ohashi bridge. So it was abandoned before the bridge; and it lies there imbedded in the soil even unto this day.

All about Oba you may see many sekirei or wagtails-birds sacred to Izanami and Izanagi - for a legend says that from the sekirei the gods first learned the art of love. And none, not even the most avaricious farmer, ever hurts or terrifies these birds. So that they do not fear the people of Oba, nor the scarecrows in the fields.

The God of Scarecrows is Sukuna-biko-na-no-Kami.


The path to Sakusa, for the last mile of the journey, at least, is extremely narrow, and has been paved by piety with large flat rocks laid upon the soil at intervals of about a foot, like an interminable line of stepping-stones. You cannot walk between them nor beside them, and you soon tire of walking upon them; but they have the merit of indicating the way, a matter of no small importance where fifty rice-field paths branch off from your own at all bewildering angles. After having been safely guided by these stepping-stones through all kinds of labyrinths in rice valleys and bamboo groves, one feels grateful to the peasantry for that clue-line of rocks. There are some quaint little shrines in the groves along this path - shrines with curious carvings of dragons and of lion-heads and flowing water - all wrought ages ago in good keyaki-wood, [3] which has become the colour of stone. But the eyes of the dragons and the lions have been stolen because they were made of fine crystal- quartz, and there was none to guard them, and because neither the laws nor the gods are quite so much feared now as they were before the period of Meiji.

Sakusa is a very small cluster of farmers' cottages before a temple at the verge of a wood - the temple of Yaegaki. The stepping-stones of the path vanish into the pavement of the court, just before its lofty unpainted wooden torii Between the torii and the inner court, entered by a Chinese gate, some grand old trees are growing, and there are queer monuments to see. On either side of the great gateway is a shrine compartment, inclosed by heavy wooden gratings on two sides; and in these compartments are two grim figures in complete armour, with bows in their hands and quivers of arrows upon their backs,-.-the Zuijin, or ghostly retainers of the gods, and guardians of the gate. Before nearly all the Shinto temples of Izumo, except Kitzuki, these Zuijin keep grim watch. They are probably of Buddhist origin; but they have acquired a Shinto history and Shinto names. [4] Originally, I am told, there was but one Zuijin-Kami, whose name was Toyo-kushi-iwa-mato-no-mikoto. But at a certain period both the god and his name were cut in two - perhaps for decorative purposes. And now he who sits upon the left is called Toyo-iwa-ma-to-no-mikoto; and his companion on the right, Kushi-iwa-ma-to-no-mikoto.

Before the gate, on the left side, there is a stone monument upon which is graven, in Chinese characters, a poem in Hokku, or verse of seventeen syllables, composed by Cho-un:

Ko-ka-ra-shi-ya Ka-mi-no-mi-yu-ki-no Ya-ma-no-a-to.

My companion translates the characters thus: - 'Where high heap the dead leaves, there is the holy place upon the hills, where dwell the gods.' Near by are stone lanterns and stone lions, and another monument - a great five-cornered slab set up and chiselled - bearing the names in Chinese characters of the Ji-jin, or Earth-Gods - the Deities who protect the soil: Uga-no-mitama-no-mikoto (whose name signifies the August Spirit-of-Food), Ama-terasu-oho-mi-Kami, Ona-muji-no-Kami, Kaki-yasu-hime-no-Kami, Sukuna-hiko-na-no-Kami (who is the Scarecrow God). And the figure of a fox in stone sits before the Name of the August Spirit-of-Food.

The miya or Shinto temple itself is quite small - smaller than most of the temples in the neighbourhood, and dingy, and begrimed with age. Yet, next to Kitzuki, this is the most famous of Izumo shrines. The main shrine, dedicated to Susano-o and Inada-hime and their son, whose name is the name of the hamlet of Sakusa, is flanked by various lesser shrines to left and right. In one of these smaller miya the spirit of Ashi-nadzu-chi, father of Inada-hime, is supposed to dwell; and in another that of Te-nadzu-chi, the mother of Inada-hime. There is also a small shrine of the Goddess of the Sun. But these shrines have no curious features. The main temple offers, on the other hand, some displays of rarest interest.

To the grey weather-worn gratings of the doors of the shrine hundreds and hundreds of strips of soft white paper have been tied in knots: there is nothing written upon them, although each represents a heart's wish and a fervent prayer. No prayers, indeed, are so fervent as those of love. Also there are suspended many little sections of bamboo, cut just below joints so as to form water receptacles: these are tied together in pairs with a small straw cord which also serves to hang them up. They contain offerings of sea-water carried here from no small distance. And mingling with the white confusion of knotted papers there dangle from the gratings many tresses of girls' hair - love-sacrifices [5] - and numerous offerings of seaweed, so filamentary and so sun- blackened that at some little distance it would not be easy to distinguish them from long shorn tresses. And all the woodwork of the doors and the gratings, both beneath and between the offerings, is covered with a speckling of characters graven or written, which are names of pilgrims.

And my companion reads aloud the well-remembered name of - AKIRA!

If one dare judge the efficacy of prayer to these kind gods of Shinto from the testimony of their worshippers, I should certainly say that Akira has good reason to hope. Planted in the soil, all round the edge of the foundations of the shrine, are multitudes of tiny paper flags of curious shape (nobori), pasted upon splinters of bamboo. Each of these little white things is a banner of victory, and a lover's witness of gratitude. [6] You will find such little flags stuck into the ground about nearly all the great Shinto temples of Izumo. At Kitzuki they cannot even be counted - any more than the flakes of a snowstorm.

And here is something else that you will find at most of the famous miya in Izumo - a box of little bamboo sticks, fastened to a post before the doors. If you were to count the sticks, you would find their number to be exactly one thousand. They are counters for pilgrims who make a vow to the gods to perform a sendo-mairi. To perform a sendo-mairi means to visit the temple one thousand times. This, however, is so hard to do that busy pious men make a sort of compromise with the gods, thus: they walk from the shrine one foot beyond the gate, and back again to the shrine, one thousand times - all in one day, keeping count with the little splints of bamboo.

There is one more famous thing to be seen before visiting the holy grove behind the temple, and that is the Sacred Tama-tsubaki, or Precious- Camellia of Yaegaki. It stands upon a little knoll, fortified by a projection-wall, in a rice-field near the house of the priest; a fence has been built around it, and votive lamps of stone placed before it. It is of vast age, and has two heads and two feet; but the twin trunks grow together at the middle. Its unique shape, and the good quality of Iongevity it is believed to possess in common with all of its species, cause itto be revered as a symbol of undying wedded love, and as tenanted by the Kami who hearken to lovers' prayers - enmusubi-no-kami.

There is, however, a strange superstition, about tsubaki-trees; and this sacred tree of Yaegaki, in the opinion of some folk, is a rare exception to the general ghastliness of its species. For tsubaki-trees are goblin trees, they say, and walk about at night; and there was one in the garden of a Matsue samurai which did this so much that it had to be cut down. Then it writhed its arms and groaned, and blood spurted at every stroke of the axe.


At the spacious residence of the kannushi some very curious ofuda and o- mamori - the holy talismans and charms of Yaegaki - are sold, together with pictures representing Take-haya-susa-no-wo-no-mikoto and his bride Inada-hime surrounded by the 'manifold fence' of clouds. On the pictures is also printed the august song whence the temple derives its name of Yaegaki-jinja, - 'Ya kumo tatsu Idzumo ya-he-gaki.' Of the o-mamori there is quite a variety; but by far the most interesting is that labelled: 'Izumo-Yaegaki-jinja-en-musubi-on-hina' (August wedlock - producing 'hina' of the temple of Yaegaki of Izumo). This oblong, folded paper, with Chinese characters and the temple seal upon it, is purchased only by those in love, and is believed to assure nothing more than the desired union. Within the paper are two of the smallest conceivable doll-figures (hina), representing a married couple in antique costume - the tiny wife folded to the breast of the tiny husband by one long- sleeved arm. It is the duty of whoever purchases this mamori to return it to the temple if he or she succeed in marrying the person beloved. As already stated, the charm is not supposed to assure anything more than the union: it cannot be accounted responsible for any consequences thereof. He who desires perpetual love must purchase another mamori labelled: 'Renri-tama-tsubaki-aikyo-goki-to-on-mamori' (August amulet of august prayer-for-kindling-love of the jewel-precious tsubaki-tree-of- Union). This charm should maintain at constant temperature the warmth of affection; it contains only a leaf of the singular double-bodied camelliatree beforementioned. There are also small amulets for exciting love, and amulets for the expelling of diseases, but these have no special characteristics worth dwelling upon.

Then we take our way to the sacred grove - the Okuno-in, or Mystic Shades of Yaegaki.


This ancient grove - so dense that when you first pass into its shadows out of the sun all seems black - is composed of colossal cedars and pines, mingled with bamboo, tsubaki (Camellia Japonica), and sakaki, the sacred and mystic tree of Shinto. The dimness is chiefly made by the huge bamboos. In nearly all sacred groves bamboos are thickly set between the trees, and their feathery foliage, filling every lofty opening between the heavier crests, entirely cuts off the sun. Even in a bamboo grove where no other trees are, there is always a deep twilight.

As the eyes become accustomed to this green gloaming, a pathway outlines itself between the trees - a pathway wholly covered with moss, velvety, soft, and beautifully verdant. In former years, when all pilgrims were required to remove their footgear before entering the sacred grove, this natural carpet was a boon to the weary. The next detail one observes is that the trunks of many of the great trees have been covered with thick rush matting to a height of seven or eight feet, and that holes have been torn through some of the mats. All the giants of the grove are sacred; and the matting was bound about them to prevent pilgrims from stripping off their bark, which is believed to possess miraculous virtues. But many, more zealous than honest, do not hesitate to tear away the matting in order to get at the bark. And the third curious fact which you notice is that the trunks of the great bamboos are covered with ideographs - with the wishes of lovers and the names of girls. There is nothing in the world of vegetation so nice to write a sweetheart's name upon as the polished bark of a bamboo: each letter, however lightly traced at first, enlarges and blackens with the growth of the bark, and never fades away.

The deeply mossed path slopes down to a little pond in the very heart of the grove - a pond famous in the land of Izumo. Here there are many imori, or water-newts, about five inches long, which have red bellies. Here the shade is deepest, and the stems of the bamboos most thickly tattooed with the names of girls. It is believed that the flesh of the newts in the sacred pond of Yaegaki possesses aphrodisiac qualities; and the body of the creature, reduced to ashes, by burning, was formerly converted into love-powders. And there is a little Japanese song referring to the practice:

'Hore-gusuri koka niwa naika to imori ni toeba, yubi-wo marumete kore bakari.' [7]

The water is very clear; and there are many of these newts to be seen. And it is the custom for lovers to make a little boat of paper, and put into it one rin, and set it afloat and watch it. So soon as the paper becomes wet through, and allows the water to enter it, the weight of the copper coin soon sends it to the bottom, where, owing to the purity of the water, it can be still seen distinctly as before. If the newts then approach and touch it, the lovers believe their happiness assured by the will of the gods; but if the newts do not come near it, the omen is evil. One poor little paper boat, I observe, could not sink at all; it simply floated to the inaccessible side of the pond, where the trees rise like a solid wall of trunks from the water's edge, and there became caught in some drooping branches. The lover who launched it must have departed sorrowing at heart.

Close to the pond, near the pathway, there are many camellia-bushes, of which the tips of the branches have been tied together, by pairs, with strips of white paper. These are shrubs of presage. The true lover must be able to bend two branches together, and to keep them united by tying a paper tightly about them - all with the fingers of one hand. To do this well is good luck. Nothing is written upon the strips of paper.

But there is enough writing upon the bamboos to occupy curiosity for many an hour, in spite of the mosquitoes. Most of the names are yobi-na, - that is to say, pretty names of women; but there are likewise names of men - jitsumyo; [8] and, oddly enough, a girl's name and a man's are in no instance written together. To judge by all this ideographic testimony, lovers in Japan - or at least in Izumo - are even more secretive than in our Occident. The enamoured youth never writes his own jitsumyo and his sweetheart's yobi-na together; and the family name, or myoji, he seldom ventures to inscribe. If he writes his jitsumyo, then he contents himself with whispering the yobi-na of his sweetheart to the gods and to the bamboos. If he cuts her yobi-na into the bark, then he substitutes for his own name a mention of his existence and his age only, as in this touching instance:

Takata-Toki-to-en-musubi-negaimas. Jiu-hassai-no-otoko [9]

This lover presumes to write his girl's whole name; but the example, so far as I am able to discover, is unique. Other enamoured ones write only the yobi-na of their bewitchers; and the honourable prefix, 'O,' and the honourable suffix, 'San,' find no place in the familiarity of love. There is no 'O-Haru-San,' 'O-Kin-San,' 'O-Take-San,' 'O-Kiku-San'; but there are hosts of Haru, and Kin, and Take, and Kiku. Girls, of course, never dream of writing their lovers' names. But there are many geimyo here, 'artistic names,' - names of mischievous geisha who worship the Golden Kitten, written by their saucy selves: Rakue and Asa and Wakai, Aikichi and Kotabuki and Kohachi, Kohana and Tamakichi and Katsuko, and Asakichi and Hanakichi and Katsukichi, and Chiyoe and Chiyotsuru. 'Fortunate-Pleasure,' 'Happy-Dawn,' and 'Youth' (such are their appellations), 'Blest-Love' and 'Length-of-Days,' and 'Blossom-Child' and 'Jewel-of-Fortune' and 'Child-of-Luck,' and 'Joyous-Sunrise' and 'Flower-of-Bliss' and 'Glorious Victory,' and 'Life-as-the-Stork's-for- a-thousand-years.' Often shall he curse the day he was born who falls in love with Happy-Dawn; thrice unlucky the wight bewitched by the Child- of-Luck; woe unto him who hopes to cherish the Flower-of-Bliss; and more than once shall he wish himself dead whose heart is snared by Life-as- the-Stork's-for-a-thou sand-years. And I see that somebody who inscribes his age as twenty and three has become enamoured of young Wakagusa, whose name signifies the tender Grass of Spring. Now there is but one possible misfortune for you, dear boy, worse than falling in love with Wakagusa - and that is that she should happen to fall in love with you. Because then you would, both of you, write some beautiful letters to your friends, and drink death, and pass away in each other's arms, murmuring your trust to rest together upon the same lotus-flower in Paradise: 'Hasu no ha no ue ni oite matsu.' Nay! pray the Deities rather to dissipate the bewitchment that is upon you:

Te ni toru na, Yahari no ni oke Gengebana. [10]

And here is a lover's inscription - in English! Who presumes to suppose that the gods know English? Some student, no doubt, who for pure shyness engraved his soul's secret in this foreign tongue of mine - never dreaming that a foreign eye would look upon it. 'I wish You, Harul' Not once, but four - no, five times! - each time omitting the preposition. Praying - in this ancient grove - in this ancient Land of Izumo - unto the most ancient gods in English! Verily, the shyest love presumes much upon the forbearance of the gods. And great indeed must be, either the patience of Take-haya-susano-wo-no-mikoto, or the rustiness of the ten- grasp sabre that was augustly girded upon him.