Hiruko (ヒルコ)

Hiruko (Ohirukomuchi no Mikoto, Hiruko no Kami, Hiruko no Mikoto) is a god that appears in Japanese mythology.

Descriptions in the mythology
"Kojiki" (The Records of Ancient Matters) describes that Hiruko was the first god who was born between Izanagi (The Male Who Invites) and Izanami (The Female Who Invites) in kuni-umi (the birth of (the land) of Japan). However, a goddess Izanami sought sex, which caused the birth of the physically disabled god. Hiruko was put on a boat of reeds and carried offshore from Onogoro Island. The mythology describes that the children of the two gods do not include Hiruko and their second child, Awashima no Kami.

Folk stories and worship
There remain legends throughout Japan that Hinoko drifted ashore. In many coastal regions in Japan, something thrown up on the shore was worshiped as Ebisu (god of fishing and commerce). Hiruko began to be associated with and identified as equal to Ebisu. Many shrines, for example in Nishinomiya-jinja Shrine (Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture), enshrine Hiruko.

The belief that Hiruko is Ebisu has been widely spread through Kokinshu Chukai (apparatus criticus of the "Kokinshu" (Collection of Ancient and Modern)) and other public entertainments. The kanji for Hiruko can be also read as 'Ebisu,' which shows that such a belief has been commonly held. However, many shrines dedicated to Ebisu regard Ebisu as equal to Kotoshiro no Kami. This is still a matter for further study, but feeling pity for Hiruko who was carried off shore upon birth is considered to have created such a legend.

Some suggest that the name came from a child like Hiru (an animal) and others suggested that it means "Hinoko" (a child of the sun).

There are myths all over the world that the first child of a couple of the originators- a god and a goddess--were handicapped.

Some interpret Hinoko as 'a child of the sun' because "Ru" is archaic form of "No" in modern Japanese. Others interpret Hiru as a time zone filled with spirits of daytime, because "Ru" refers to spirits.

If the interpretation of 'a child of the sun' is chosen, Hinoko can be regarded as a god of the sun. Some myths about the sun in the world say that the sun is carried on a boat. In addition, some interpret Ohirumenomuchi no Kami--another name of its sister Amaterasu Omikami (the Sun Goddess)--as 'a daughter of the sun' to connect the gods.

"Kujiki" of Mononobe Shinto describes that Amaterasu Omikami is Ohirumemuchi no Mikoto, while Hiruko is Ohirukomuchi no Mikoto and that Nigihayahi no Mikoto who was on good terms with Emperor Jinmu in later years was a direct descendant of Hiruko.

The kanji for "Me" in 'Hirume' was a character newly created by the compiler of "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan). The character was formed by removing "巫" from kanji "靈" and adding "女." The character "巫" is used only to represent kannagi (female spiritual medium). Some scholars are solving a secret of Amaterasu Omikami by focusing on why the new kanji was created so far by replacing "女" and what it had to express.

Some suggest that the sound of "Ru" gradually disappeared in later years; removing "Ru" from 'Hiruko' leaves "Hiko" ("彦" (a kanji representing a man) and removing "Ru" from 'Hirume' leaves "Hime" ("姫" (meaning princess)). Paying attention to their existence as a couple, some have an opinion that gods of the sun, originally a couple, were later sycretized with miko (a shrine maiden) who served them and enshrined together.

[Original Japanese]