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The kami gods of Shintoism are often born in strange ways and from objects and Takemikazuchi is a fine example of that. A god of storms and military conquest, this Japanese kami was born from a bloody sword.
Initially a local deity for some of the ancient clans in Japan, Takemikazuchi was eventually adopted by the whole country after the unifying Yamato period of 3rd to 7th century AC. From there, his story of heroic feats, sumo wrestling, and conquests was integrated into one of the cornerstone Shinto myths.
Who is Takemikazuchi?
A massive and temperamental kami, Takemikazuchi can be seen as the patron kami of several different things – war, sumo, thunder and even maritime travel. This is because he used to be a local kami for several different clans that all worshipped him in a different manner before he was incorporated into Shintoism.
He is also called Kashima-no-kami and is worshipped most vehemently in the Kashima shrines across Japan. His most common name is Iakemikazuchi, however, which is roughly translated as Brave-Awful-Possessing-Male-Deity.
Son of a Sword
The main myth in all of Shintoism is that of the Mother and Father kami Izanami and Izanagi. These are the two Shinto deities who were initially charged with shaping the Earth and populating it with people and other kami. However, soon after the couple married and started giving birth to people and gods, Izanami died while giving birth to her son Kagu-tsuchi, the kami of destructive fire, who burned her on his way out.
Izanami’s resulting trip to the Shinto Underworld is a whole different story but what her husband, Izanagi, did right after the incident led to the birth of Takemikazuchi.
Driven mad by the death of his wife, Izanagi took his Ame-no-ohabari sword (also called Itsu-no-ohabari or Heaven-Point-Blade-Extended)and killed his son, the fire kami Kagu-tsuchi, chopping his body into eight pieces, and scattering them across Japan, creating the country’s 8 major active volcanoes.
Interestingly enough, Izanagi’s sword is also called Totsuka-no-Tsurugi (or Sword of Ten Hand-Breadths) which is a common name for Japanese celestial swords, the most famous of them being the Totsuka-no-Tsurugi sword of the sea god Susanoo.
As Izanagi was chopping down his fiery son into pieces, the blood of Kagu-tsuchi that dripped from Izanagi’s sword gave birth to several new kami. Three kami were born from the blood dripping from the tip of the sword and another three were born from the blood near the handle of the sword.
Takemikazuchi was one of the latter three deities.
Conquering the Middle Country
Later in Shinto mythology, the heavenly gods decided that they should conquer and quell the terrestrial realm (Earth or just Japan) by taking it from the lesser terrestrial kami and the people that lived there.
As the celestial kami discussed who should perform this feat, the goddess of the sun Amaterasu and the agricultural god Takamusubi suggested that it should either be Takemikazuchi or his father, the sword Itsu-no-ohabari who, in this particular story, was a living and sentient kami. Itsu-no-ohabari didn’t volunteer, however, and said that his son Takemikazuchi should be the one to conquer the terrestrial realm.
So, accompanied by another lesser kami named Ame-no-torifune (roughly translated as Deity Heavenly-Bird-Boat which might have been a person, a boat, or both), Takemikazuchi went down to the Earth and first visited the Izumo province in Japan.
The first thing Takemikazuchi did in Izumo was to take his own Totsuka-no-Tsurugi sword (different from the sword that gave birth to him and from Susanoo’s famous Totsuka-no-Tsurugi sword) and thrust it into the ground on the sea shore, breaking the incoming waves. Then, Takemikazuchi sat upon his own sword, looked down at the Izumi province, and called for the local god Ōkuninushi, the then-patron of the province.
The Origins of Sumo Wrestling
Takemikazuchi told him that if Ōkuninushi was to relinquish control of the province, Takemikazuchi would spare his life. Ōkuninushi went to counsel with his child deities and all but one of them agreed that they should surrender to Takemikazuchi. The only one who disagreed was the kami Takeminakata.
Instead of surrendering, Takeminakata challenged Takemikazuchi to a hand-to-hand duel. To his surprise, however, the duel was quick and decisive – Takemikazuchi grabbed his opponent, crushed his arm with ease, and forced him to flee across the sea. It’s this divine fight that’s said to be the origin of Sumo wrestling.
After conquering the Izumo province, Takemikazuchi marched on and quelled the rest of the terrestrial realm too. Satisfied, he then returned back to his heavenly realm.
Conquering Japan Together With Emperor Jimmu
Emperor Jimmu is the first legendary Japanese Emperor, a direct descendant of the heavenly kami, and the first to unify the island nation all the way back in 660 BCE. According to Takemikazuchi’s legends, however, Jimmu didn’t do that without help.
At the Kumano region in Japan, Emperor Jimmu’s troops were halted by a supernatural obstacle. In some myths, it was a giant bear, in others – poison fumes produced by the lesser local kami Nihon Shoki. Either way, as Emperor Jimmu was pondering how he could proceed, he was visited by a strange man by the name of Takakuraji.
The man gave Jimmu a sword he called Totsuka-no-Tsurugi. What’s more, he insisted the sword fell down on his house from the heavens, on the night when he dreamt that he was visited by the supreme kami Amaterasu and Takamusibi. The two kami had told him that this was Takemikazuchi’s Totsuka-no-Tsurugi sword which was meant to help Jimmu conquer Japan again, the way it had helped Takemikazuchi do it before him.
Emperor Jimmu accepted the divine gift and promptly continued subduing all of Japan. Today, that sword is said to be kept in the Isonokami Shrine in the Nara prefecture in Japan.
Symbols and Symbolism of Takemikazuchi
Takemikazuchi is one of the main kami of war and conquest in Shintoism. He was able to conquer the entire nation all by himself, but he also possessed a sword so powerful that it alone was enough to help Emperor Jimmu to also conquer the country.
It’s this sword that’s also Takemikazuchi’s main symbol. So much so that he’s also known as the god of swords, and not just as a god of war and conquest.
Importance of Takemikazuchi in Modern Culture
The temperamental and war-like kami is frequently seen in modern pop-culture as well as in ancient paintings and statues. Some of the most famous anime and manga series to feature variants of Takemikazuchi include the Overlord series, the video game Persona 4, the famous manga and anime series DanMachi, as well as the popular series Noragami.
Takemikazuchi has an important role in Japanese mythology, as one of the most prominent deities of war and conquest. He not only conquered all of Japan on his own but also helped the first legendary Japanese emperor to do the same.