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Japanese fairy tales


Amaterasu, the sun goddess, loved the earth. So long had she shone upon it with her gracious light that it was to her as a beloved child and she wished for it all good things. When she found growing from the body of Ukimochi, whom Susanoo had slain in wrath, a mulberry tree, and also a silkworm, rice grains, barley and beans she said to herself,
"Behold, the gods make good to grow out of evil. From death comes life. The slaying of Ukimochi was a deed of wrath, yet from it will come peace to the people of the earth."
She made barley and beans the seeds of dry places, and rice the seeds of moor and fen. Mulberry trees she planted upon the hillsides, and upon these she reared silkworms so that the art of silk-weaving might begin.
Having thus given to the world things of such usefulness and beauty, the sun goddess desired to have them cared for. So she commanded Susanoo to send to earth his daughter, Mihashirano. He obeyed and the daughter came down from heaven. But she could find no place to live, and therefore wandered for a long time to and fro in Nippon.
One day a fisherman named Sakino, who lived at Itsuku, one of the isles of the sea, was casting his nets near Okanoshima. As he fished he saw a curious boat with a bright red sail coming towards him. There seemed something strange about the boat; and Sakino waited until it sailed close to him. Then he beheld upon it the goddess Mihashirano, who spoke to him.
"Sakino," she said, "long have I passed to and fro in the Isles of Many Blades, and watched by field and moor and hillside to see the life-giving seeds which Amaterasu bestowed upon you. Well nourished have they been and watched so that you have had much rice and barley. Now, wherefore have I not a shrine built in my honor, where men may come to bring thanks, and where I may dwell in peace?
"Go thou to the Mikado and request that he build for me a temple at Miyajima; then will I protect the Mikado's land forever and ever."
Sakino hastened to Kioto and revealed all this to the Mikado. At that time there was a great famine in the far provinces of Nippon, and the Mikado said, "The goddess is displeased with us, and so this famine has come upon my people. Hasten your return to Itsuka and build there a temple to do her honor. Here is much treasure; go quickly and build."
Sakino was delighted with this task, and he hurried homeward as fast as he was able. He could not at first decide which would be the best place for the temple, so he sailed around the islands seeking the loveliest spot. Then as he sailed a strange thing chanced; for from the very top of the mountain flew a huge bird, and it flew ahead of Sakino's boat all the way. This he took as an omen, and he followed the bird closely until it stopped and hovered over a wooded hillside.
"Here we shall build the temple of Mihashiranohime-o-kami, the gentle goddess of the earth's fruitfulness. We shall raise a temple to do her honor," he cried. "The torii shall rise up out of the sea; the light-bearing pillars shall guard the entrance, and men shall come from far and near to see the shrine. Then shall they see how the Goddess of Green-growing Things is honored in the Land of Many Blades."
This he did and the goddess dwelt happily in her abode, and there was no more famine in the land; for the shrine of the Goddess of Green-growing Things is to this very day honored in the isles of Nippon.