Nomi no Sukune (野見宿禰)

NOMI no Sukune is a person who appears in "Nihon Shoki" (Chronicles of Japan). He is a god of Sumo (相撲:Japanese style of wrestling).

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It is said that he was a brave warrior of Izumo Province (present eastern Tottori Prefecture) and was a 14th generation descendant of Amenohohi, one of the sons of Amaterasu Omikami (the Sun Goddess). He fought a sumo fight (角力: another kanji expression for sumo, and it is written as 捔力 in "Nihon Shoki") with TAIMA no Kehaya (a powerful regional family in Yamato Province, present Nara Prefecture) under command of the Emperor Suinin, and won the fight, after an exchange of ferocious kicks, by breaking Kehaya's lower back. For that he was awarded an area called Taima in Yamato Province, which was possessed by TAIMA no Kehaya, and served the Court.

According to "Nihon Shoki," he is said to have devised the system of offering "haniwa" (hollow clay figurines) instead of subordinates' killing themselves on the death of their Empress, and have been awarded a title of Haji-no-omi (which is known to be a legend from an archaeological point of view; see the section on Haniwa for more details). The Haji clan took charge of emperors' funeral for generations, and later changed its title to the Oe clan and the Sugawara clan. It turns out that OE no Masafusa (an aristocrat/scholar of the late Heian period), Oe no Hiromoto (a vassal of Kamakura shogunate), SUGAWARA no Michizane (an aristocrat/scholar of the early Heian period) and Motonari MORI (a warlord in the Warring States period) are all descendants of NOMI no Sukune.

The biography of Katano-jinja Shrine (Hirakata City, Osaka Prefecture) says that NOMI no Sukune was awarded Kawachi Province (present eastern Osaka Prefecture) from the Emperor Suinin for winning in the fight against TAIMA no Kehaya. According to Harima no kuni fudoki (the topography of Harima Province, present south-eastern Hyogo Prefecture), he died from an illness in Tatsuno of Harima Province (present Tatsuno City, Hyogo Prefecture) and was buried there. A story handed down in Kamosu-jinja Shrine (Matsue City, Tottori Prefecture) tells that he trained himself using the 'rock' situated in the hill at the back of the shrine.

Shrines which are sacred to NOMI no Sukune include Sumo-jinja Shrine which is an auxiliary shrine of Anashinimasuhyozu-jinja Shrine (Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture) and NOMI no Sukune-jinja Shrine (Tatsuno City, Hyogo Prefecture, and Sumida Ward, Tokyo).

As stated earlier, he is an ancestor of SUGAWARA no Michizane who is known as the god of learning, and from the Sugawara clan derived the Gojo family, a Court noble. The Gojo family became Sumai no tsukasa (in charge of sumo matches held in the presence of the emperor) since they were a descendant of NOMI no Sukune. It is considered that the Mori clan and the Sakai clan were descended from OE no Hiromoto of the Oe clan which was also offspring of NOMI no Sukune.

[Original Japanese]