Yatagarasu (八咫烏)

Yatagarasu is a crow with three legs that was sent to Emperor Jinmu by Takamimusubi and led him from Kumanokuni no miyatsuko to Yamato Province on the Jinmu tosei (Eastern expedition of the Emperor Jinmu) in the Japanese mythology. However, there is no description that the crow had three legs.


In Kumano Sanzan (three major shrines, Kumano-Hongu-Taisha Shrine, Kumano-Hayatama-Taisha Shrine and Kumano-Nachi-Taisha Shrine), a crow has been worshipped as misakigami (appeased shiryo (the spirit of a dead person), or divine servant). Yatagarasu appearing in the Japanese mythology is considered to have been not just a crow but a sacred symbol of the sun god, and seems to have had something to do with religious belief. Kumano Goohoin amulet, which had been often used as Kishomon (sworn oath) before the early-modern times, had a picture of a crow on it.

According to "Shinsen Shojiroku" (Newly Compiled Register of Clan Names and Titles of Nobility), yatagarasu is the incarnation of Kamotaketsu no mi no mikoto (a Japanese mythological god), a great-grandchild of Kamimusubi, and later it became the founder of Kamo no Agatanushi. Yatagarasu-jinja Shrine in Haibara Ward, Uda City, Nara Prefecture is dedicated to Kamotaketsu no mi no mikoto.

"Ata" is a unit of length and a length in which a thumb and a forefinger are expanded (about 18 centimeters), but the "yata" in this context simply means 'big.'

During the Sengoku period (period of warring states), its image was used for a banner of the Suzuki family, who ruled Saiga shu (Ikko groups) in Kii Province.

The relationship with golden kite
Yatagarasu appears in Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan) and Kojiki (The Records of Ancient Matters), and Nihonshoki also has a scene of Jinmu tosei, in which a golden kite appears. It is said that the golden kite helped Emperor Jinmu in the Battle against Nagasunehiko.

Yatagarasu and a golden kite are often regarded as the same or confused.

The meaning of three legs

There are several views about the meaning: a view that it represented 'Ui,' 'Suzuki,' and 'Enomoto,' the three guardians of Kumano that had great power in the Kumano region; a view that it refers to 'wisdom,' 'benevolence,' and 'bravery,' which are three virtues of the main enshrined deities of Ketsumimiko no Okami (great god) in Kumano-hongu-taisha Shrine; a view that it represents 'heaven,' 'earth,' and 'man.'

Today, it is used for an emblem of Japan Football Association. In order to show respect to Kakunosuke NAKAMURA, who first introduced soccer to Japan, yatagarasu was used for a design of the emblem because his hometown was Nachikatsuura town that has Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine.

This design used for the following items

The association's flag
A crest of the Japanese team
An emblem on the uniform of the winning team in Japan Professional Football League (on top of which it has a symbol of the J. League)
An emblem on the uniform of the winning team in the Emperor's Cup All-Japan Soccer Championship Tournament (on top of which it has a letter of E)
An emblem on the uniform of the winning team in both J. League and Emperor's Cup (on top of which it has a golden star)
*At this point only Kashima Antlers that won in the seasons of 2001 and 2008 and Urawa Red Diamonds that won in the season of 2007.
An emblem for the official referee of Japan Football Association

Except soccer-related things, there are some as follows.

A symbol for the special room of Investigation Section II in Investigation Division in the old Ground Staff Office
Gasarusu, a golden bird on the emblem of Spaurh from the Abh Kongen Nijuku clan in the novel of "An Emblem of the Sidereal World"
As a symbol of Kumano, a sticker of yatagarasu was put on the body of JR Commuter Trains Series 105 on Kisei Main Line.
As a crest of the Saigato Suzuki clan in a comic book of "Mutsu Enmeiryu Gaiden Shura no Toki, Oda Nobunaga" (a side story of Mutsu Enmei School, a period of carnage, Nobunaga ODA version)

A bird with three legs in the world

Myths of a bird with three legs exist all over the world, and most of them have something to do with the sun. There is a view that a black bird is a symbol of a sunspot.

China and Koguryo
According to "Huainanzi" (The Masters/Philosophers of Huainan), 'once upon a time, there were sacred trees by extensive Donghai, and ten crows with three legs lived there…'
These ten crows with three legs flew up to the sky in turn and breathed fire from their mouths, which became the sun. There is a description of 'a crow lives in the sun, and a toad lives in the moon,' so the crow with three legs was a symbol of the sun itself. "Geimon-ruiju" (a Chinese encyclopedia, literally "Collection of Literature Arranged by Categories") also contains the description. In Koguryo, it was considered a symbol of the grandson of the sun goddess, and a wall painting of an old burial mound also has a picture of the three-legged crow.

Greek Mythology
A crow belonging to the sun god, Apollo. It was originally white, but later it aroused Apollo's anger and turned black. It is said that the Crow is the same as this crow, and some constellation illustration has a picture of the crow with three legs.


Takao KOBAYASHI, an astronomer who lives in Oizumi town, Gunma Prefecture, named the asteroid (temporary code 1997 AY1) that he found in 1997 'Yatagarasu,' and it was registered as (9106) Yatagarasu (asteroid) on August 9, 2004.

[Original Japanese]