Awashima no kami (淡島神)

Awashima no kami is a god (Shinto) in Shinto and Japanese folk religion. It is the deity originally enshrined in the Awashima-jinja Shrines (Awashima-jinja Shrine (粟島神社), Awaji-jinja Shrine) across the country whose sohonsha (main shrine) is the Awashima-jinja Shrine (Wakayama City) in Kada, Wakayama City, but today, it has changed to a god appearing in mythologies at many shrines. There are temples called Awaji-do Temple, enshrining Awashima no kami in various locations.

Awashima no kami is believed to be a god with miraculous efficacy for various things related to women, such as healing of female disorders, smooth delivery, pregnancy, improvement of sewing skills, and memorial service for dolls. During the Edo period, people called Awashima-gannin carried zushi (a cupboard-like case with double doors in which an image of (the) Buddha, a sutra, or some other revered object is kept at a temple) enshrining a doll of Awashima Myojin on their backs and traveled around, preaching the divine virtues of Awashima Myojin, spreading Awashima shinko (belief) across the country.

There are various traditions on the substance of Awashima no kami (Awashima Myojin). The dominant theories are the following three.

The first theory is that it was Sukunabikona. It is based on the fact that Sukunabikona no kami is considered to be the god of medicine, and that it is described in Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) and Hokinokuni fudoki (records of the culture and geography of the Hoki Province) that Sukunabikona no kami who completed the nation building traveled from Awashima to tokoyo (the perpetual country). Many Awashima-jinja Shrines including Kada Awashima-jinja Shrine support this theory, and consider Sukunabikona no kami and Okuninushi (chief god of Izumo in southern Honshu Island, Japan, and the central character in the important cycle of myths set in that region), who worked together on the nation building of Izumo, to be enshrined deities.

The second theory is that it was the empress of Sumiyoshi Sanjin (Sumiyoshi three deities). Awashima no kami was the sixth child of Amaterasu Omikami (the Sun Goddess) who married Sumiyoshi Myojin, but was exiled to Awashima when she contracted a female disorder. Thus, she took an oath to save people suffering from female disorders. This interpretation is believed to have been forged in later times because Awashima (Tomogashima Island, on the opposite shore of Kada, Wakayama City) was a sharyo (territory of a shrine) of Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine, but belief that 'Awashima no kami guards women because she is a goddess' remains strong.

The third theory is that 'Awashima' appearing in Japanese Mythology was Awashima no kami. In the chapter on kuni-umi (the birth of (the land) of Japan), 'Awashima' appears as the second child of the two gods, Izanagi and Izanami. However, like the first child, the child was disabled, and was exiled on a boat made of reed, and not counted in the number of children.

The 'exiled on a boat' part is common among the second and third theories. Sukunabikona no kami also appeared on a boat from far away across the sea in the mythology, so there is a commonality between them that they came by boat.

[Original Japanese]