Amenowakahiko (アメノワカヒコ)

Amenowakahiko is a deity from Japanese mythology.

In the legend of the pacification of Ashihara no Nakatsukuni (the Central Land of Reed Plains), Amenowakahiko is described as a child of Amatsukunitama. There is no description of the genealogy of Amatsukunitama.

Amenohohi was the first kami god sent to pacify Ashihara no Nakatsukuni but three years later had still not returned and so Amenowakahiko was sent. Amenowakahiko, however, took as his wife Shitateruhime, the daughter of Okuninushi, and made plans to rule over Ashihara no Nakatsukuni himself and, after eight years, still had not returned to Takamanohara (Plain of High Heaven). Therefore, Amaterasu (the Sun Goddess) and Takamimusubi dispatched the pheasant Nakime to inquire of Amenowakahiko's true intentions. On hearing Nakime's cry, Amenowakahiko's vassal, Amenosagume, urged him to kill the bird, at which Amenowakahiko took the bow Amakagonoyumi and the arrow Amenohabaya, which he had received from Takamimusubi on leaving for Ashihara no Nakatsukuni, and shot the pheasant. The arrow pierced Nakime and continued to climb to heaven where it was found by Takamimusubi in the Plain of High Heaven. Vowing that the arrow would strike Amenowakahiko if he had a wicked heart, Takamimusubi flung it back down to earth where it struck Amenowakahiko mortally in the breast while he was sleeping in his bedroom.

When the wailing voice of Shitateruhime mourning Amenowakahiko's death was carried to heaven, Amatsukunitama, Amenowakahiko's father, descended to earth, built a mourning hut, and performed funeral rites. When Ajisukitakahikone, the brother of Shitateruhime, came to pay his respects, his striking resemblance to Amenowakahiko caused the father and wife of Amenowakahiko to embrace him, saying, 'Amenowakahiko is alive'. This act enraged Ajisukitakahikone, who yelled 'How dare you mistake me for a filthy dead man' and, drawing his sword, destroyed the mourning hut.

The name 'wakahiko' means 'young man'. One theory states that his name does not include the honorific title of 'kami,' 'mikoto' or 'takeru' because 'wakahiko' is a common noun and not a divine name. Another theory states that his name includes no honorific title because he rebelled against the Amatsukami (the gods of heaven).

There is a theory that since Amenowakahiko and Ajisukitakahikone looked alike, they were originally the same deity. In other words, this is a story of the death of Amenowakahiko and his resurrection as Ajisukitakahikone. This story represents grain withering in the autumn and reviving in spring; or the Sun weakening in winter and reviving in the spring.

Traditions and Beliefs
Amenowakahiko was popular among ordinary people as a tragic and rebellious deity because of his falling love with Shitateruhime and giving up on his mission and then being killed for the sin. He was called Amewakamiko in 'Utsuho Monogatari' (The Tale of the Cavern) and 'Sagoromo Monogatari (The Tale of Sagoromo), and Amewakahiko in 'Otogi Zoshi' (books of illustrated stories published in the 14th to 16th centuries), described in each as a beautiful man.

One theory states that Amenosagume, who incited Amenowakahiko, is the origin of the word 'amanjaku' (perverseness, contrariness); another theory, on the other hand, states that Amenowakahiko is the origin of 'amanjaku' because the first two characters of his name can be read as 'amanojaku.'

As the deity of grain, Abiko-jinja Shrine (Hatasho Town, Echi County, Shiga Prefecture) is one of the few shrines to enshrine Amenowakahiko.

[Original Japanese]