Awaji Island: Japanese Creation Myth
Awaji Island which is located in the eastern part of the Seto Inland Sea is described in the Japanese myth as the very first place to be created in Japan, and also used to be known as its special status as a producer of many foods for the Imperial Court in ancient times. It is still famous for a variety of delicious foods, especially its onions.
There are myriads of deities and human-like stories among them in Japanese myth. They have huge power giving birth to the islands of Japan and other deities, but on the other hand they do not hesitate to make love and sometimes kill other deities. In fact, they are not perfect. However I think that tolerance of the imperfection enabled our ancestors to allow other cultures and religions from foreign countries and create a unique culture in Japan. Let me introduce some stories in the myth and the areas associated with them.
The Creation of Japan
Once upon a time, there was a chaotic world with no border between the heaven and earth. When the heaven and earth were created, many deities were born in the heaven. The last of these deities born were called “Izanagi” (a male deity) and “Izanami” (a female deity).
Izanagi and Izanami were asked by other deities to curdle the lower island in the chaos so that people can live, and stirred the lower land with a magic spear. When they pulled it out, a drop from the tip of the spear hardened and formed a small island which was named “Onogorojima”.
After descended on the “Onogorojima” island, they erected a towering pillar and a large palace, and married. The first child whom they had after their marriage is Awaji Island. They lived a happy life and gave birth to more and more islands such as Shikoku, Oki, Kyushu, Iki, Tsushima, Sado and Honshu. This is how the eight islands of Japan were formed.
After giving birth to the islands and other deities of Japan, Izanagi took up his residence to rest at Taga in Awaji Island. Izanagi Shrine was built in that sacred place where Izanagi used to live and is said to be the oldest shrine in Japan.
There is held “Kagura” dance festival every September, where the shrines in the three cities associated with the myth (Izumo, Takachiho and Awaji) get together to perform each sacred dance.
This is one of the candidate sites of “Onogorojima”, the island created by Izanagi and Izanami. Onokorojima shrine is built on a small hill which is said to be a small island surrounded by the sea in ancient times. There is the stone called “Sekirei-ishi” which made the two deities decide on marriage. Recently many Japanese come to this shrine to wish for good matches.
Nushima, an island off the southeast coast of Awaji, is the strongest candidate site of “Onogorojima” in the myth. There is a rock named “Kamitategamiiwa” (God Rock) near the coast. The rock is a symbol of Nushima Island and they say that it was the towering pillar where Izanagi and Izanami got married. In addition, Onokoro Shrine is quietly standing at the top of the small mountain which is believed to contain the spirit of the deities.
Beach and Hot Spring
There are many beaches in the island, and many people come to enjoy the sea in summer. I think you should choose one of them which you can access easily. The below photos show you “Ohama Beach” near Sumoto town center and “Nushima Beach“.
In addition, you can enjoy some hot-spring facilities without accommodations such as “Matsuho no Sato“, “Parchez“, “Sanyu Hall” and so on. I think it must be also good for you to stay at a hot-spring hotel in the island.
There are some tourist spots to enjoy seasonal flowers such as plum or cherry blossoms. You can enjoy flowers throughout the year at the flower park “Awaji Hanasajiki“. If you visit this island in winter, I would like to recommend “Nada-Kuroiwa Narcissus Field“, one of three major narcissus fields in Japan, where you can enjoy a great view of pretty yellow flowers with the blue sea in winter. In early summer you should visit “Awaji Hana no Saijikien“, the hydrangea garden in which over 3,500 of the flowers can be seen.
High Quality Local Foods
I would like to recommend a variety of high quality local foods in the island. Awaji Beef is famous for its high quality in Japan, and “Ariitei” is one of my favorite restaurants where you can enjoy grilled beef raised in their own farm at the reasonable price.
Seafood is also wonderful. I would like to recommend a sushi restaurant “Hayashiya” and a seafood restaurant “Hiramatsu Shokudo“. I also recommend a morning market called “Uzushio Asaichi” which is held once a month at the port near “Hiramatsu Shokudo”.
If you want to take a rest in the island, you should find a cafe. You can enjoy vegetable dishes produced in the island at “Hachijuuhachiya“, and Hawaiian dishes at “Kumi’s Kitchen“. If you like cafes in front of the sea, “Miele” or “Cappuccino” will be also fine. Please find your favorites during a trip in the island.
Considering the trip in the island, I recommend you should have a rental car at Kobe or Osaka. Shin-Kobe, Sannomiya, Shin-Osaka, Osaka Station and Kansai International Airport would be convenient for you. It takes about 1 hour from Kobe and 1.5 hour from Osaka to get to Awaji Island.
You can also take a bus at Shin-Kobe, Sannomiya, or Maiko Station near Akashi Kaikyo Bridge to reach “Tsuna Port” or “Sumoto” Bus Terminal in the island. There are some bus companies such as “Awaji Kotsu“, “Shinki Bus“, “Honshi Kaikyou Bus” and so on. You can also find the airport limousine bus connecting Kansai International Airport and Awaji Isalnd.
Scheduled bus services in the island are available, but infrequent. Nearest bus stops are “Izanagi-Jingu-Mae” for Izanagi Shrine, and “Enami” for Onokorojima Shrine. Nushima Island is about 10 minutes’ ride by boat from Habu Port, or about 1 hour ride from Sumoto Port. I think you should take a boat from Habu since a boat from Sumoto is infrequent.
I live in Awaji Island now and let me introduce a typical plan below which enable you to enjoy the island after visiting Kyoto. I would like to suggest you spend the whole day to drive around the island and enjoy not only the shrines but also the beach, hot spring and local foods. If you have enough time, you should visit Nushima Island as well.
As there are some resort hotels, hot-spring hotels, pensions and guesthouses in the island, you will be able to find your favorite accommodation.
|1||Kyoto -> Sannomiya (Japan Railway)
Sannomiya -> Awaji (car)
|2||Driving around Awaji (car)||Izanagi Shrine
Beach, Hot spring
|3||Awaji -> Nushima (car/boat)
Nushima -> Awaji (boat/car)
|4||Awaji -> Sannomiya (car)
Sannomiya -> Next (train/bus/plane)
After the Creation of Japan
After the creation of the islands, Izanagi and Izanami gave birth to other deities, such as the deity of the sea, of the wind, of the mountain, of the food and so on, who make the islands prosperous gradually. However, giving birth to the deity of the fire at the end, Izanami died from the burns.
Izanagi felt so sad to lose his wife and went to the world of the dead “Yominokuni” to meet her again. He could find his wife, but what he saw was hideous Izanami who was hardly recognizable. He was surprised at her appearance and began to run away from her, and blocked up the exit of “Yominokuni” with a huge rock, which means the forever farewell between them.
Izanami caught up with him and said, “My dear, how could you do that? I will kill 1,000 people in your world day after day.”
Izanagi replied, “Then, if my darling is going to do so, I will build birthing huts so that 1,500 babies come into my world in a day.”
This is why there are more people alive today than dead.