Hoori (Hohodemi) vs. Hoderi(Hohoderi) – the quarreling brothers motif

Hohodemi just larger than life [From: Encyclopedia of Shinto)

“[Hiko hohodemi no mikoto] (Kojiki)(Nihongi  Other names: Hoori no mikoto(Kojiki, Nihongi), Hoorihiko hohodemi no mikoto(Nihongi), Yamasachibiko(Kojiki), Yamasachihiko(Nihongi), Soratsuhiko (Kojiki)

Offspring of Ninigi and Konohana Sakuyahime. Called Yamasachihiko (“mountain-gift-man”) for his unique success in the hunt, he is known as a member of the second of three generations of kami related to the Hyūga area. 

Kojiki describes Hohodemi as the last-born of three brothers, while some of the variant accounts in Nihongi relate differing birth orders. In any event, Hohodemi was born as the flames were abating after Sakuyahime had set fire to her parturition hut. 

As younger brother to Umisachi, Hohodemi (Yamasachi) suggested to his brother that they exchange the magic tools of their respective occupations (Umisachi’s tool was a fishhook, while Yamasachi’s was bow and arrow). After the exchange, however, Yamasachi lost Umisachi’s fishhook, and while he broke up his own sword in order to fashion many new fishhooks and repay his brother, he was rebuffed by Umisachi. 

Wandering despondently along a beach, Yamasachi met Shiotsuchi no kami, who placed Yamasachi in a basket and sent him to the palace of the kami of the sea. Arriving at a well outside the palace gates, Yamasachi climbed a katsura tree and was entertained by the sea kami Watatsumi, receiving the latter’s daughter Toyotamabime in marriage. After three years, Yamasachi prepared to return to the land, at which time Watatsumi found the missing fishhook, which had been swallowed by a sea bream. Returning the fishhook to Yamasachi, Watatsumi also furnished him with magical formulae and rituals, and a “tide-raising jewel” and “tide-lowering jewel.” With these gifts of control over the water, Yamasachi was able to bring his elder brother under his own subjection.

Yamasachi and Toyotamabime had one child, but since Yamasachi spied uponToyotamabime and saw her transformed into the form of a wani (lit., “crocodile,” but probably referring to a shark) as she gave birth, Toyotamabime was shamed, and the passageway which had existed between sea and land was henceforth closed.

The “ho” of the name Hohodemi describes both the “flame” at the time of his birth, and also means fully ripened heads of rice. In Nihongi, different characters are used to write the honorific title mikoto attached to Yamasachi and Umisachi. This difference expresses the relationship of lord and retainer, and reflects the fact that Yamasachi would go on to transmit the legitimate line of imperial succession to Ninigi, while Umisachi would be ancestor of the Hayato people who served the imperial court.

According to the account in Kojiki, Hohodemi lived in the palace of Takachiho for 580 years and was later buried in a tumulus to the west of Mount Takachiho. Nihongi relates that he was buried in a tumulus at Mount Takaya in Hyūga (present-day Kyushu)


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Hoori:

Hoori (火遠理命 hoori no mikoto), also known as Hikohohodemi no Mikoto, was, in Japanese mythology, the third and youngest son of the kami Ninigi-no-Mikoto and the blossom princess Konohanasakuya-hime. He is one of the ancestors in the genealogical line of the Emperors of Japan. He is also called Hohodemi and is most frequently known as Yamasachihiko (lit. the prince of the mountain of fortune).

The Myth

Hoori’s legend is told in both the Kojiki and the Nihonshoki. Hoori was a hunter, and he had an argument with his brother Hoderi, a fisherman, over a fish-hook that Hoori had forced his elder brother to lend him and had lost. Hoderi claimed that Hoori should give back the fish-hook, for he refused to accept another one (due to the belief that each tool is animated and hence unique). Hoori then descended to the bottom of the sea to search, but was unable to find it. Instead, he found Toyotama-hime (Princess Toyotama), also known as Otohime, the daughter of the sea god, Ryūjin. The sea god helped Hoori find Hoderi’s lost hook, and Hoori later married the sea god’s daughter Toyotamahime.

Hoori lived with his wife in a palace under the sea for three years, but after that Hoori became home-sick and wished to return to his own country. His brother forgave him after he returned the hook, and Toyotamahime gave birth to a son named Ugayafukiaezu. During the time when Toyotamahime was giving birth to her child, she had Hoori swear not to attempt to see her real figure. But he broke his promise and discovered her true form was a dragon or a wani[crocodile]. She was ashamed and returned to her father, never to return. Ugayafukiaezu married Toyotama-hime’s sister, who brought him up, and she gave birth to Emperor Jimmu, who is known as the first Emperor of Japan. Hoori reigned in TakachihoHyuga Province for 560 years.

Religion and culture

Hoori’s cult is often associated with both his parents and his wife. He is worshipped mainly as a god of cereals or grain. In mythology it was said that the ho (火) part of his name meant fire, but etymologically it is a different character pronounced ho (穂), which refers to crops, particularly rice. Ori (折り, to bend) indicates a crop that is so rich, it bends under its own weight. His alias Hohodemi means many harvests.

In folklore, Hoori known as Yamasachihiko, his travels lead him to a visit to the sea god Ryūjin. In the Dragon King’s kingdom, he (Hoori) gets married to Otohime the daughter of Ryūjin, Otohime is also known as Toyotama-hime (Japanese for “luminous jewel”).


The next extract is taken from Folk-lore – A Quarterly Review. Volume 10, 1899.djvu/351, Japanese Myth. pp. 310-311

The story concerns itself no further with the eldest of these three children. Of the others, the senior, named Ho no Susori, became a fisherman, and the younger, Hohodemi, a hunter.

Ho no Susori once proposed to his brother to exchange their respective callings. Hohodemi accordingly gave over to his elder brother his bow and arrows, and received a fish-hook in return. But neither of them profited by the exchange ; so Ho no Susori gave back to his brother the bow and arrows, and demanded from him the fish-hook. Hoho- demi, however, had in the meantime lost it in the sea. He took his sword and forged from it a number of new fish-hooks, which he piled up in a winnowing tray and offered to his brother by way of compensation. But the latter would have none but his own, and demanded it so vehemently of Hohodemi as to grieve him bitterly. Hoho- demi went down to the sea-shore and stood there lamenting, when there appeared to him the Old Man of the Sea, by whose advice he descended into the sea-depths to the abode of the God of the Sea, a stately palace with lofty towers and battlements. Before the gate there was a well, and over the well grew a thick-branching cassia-tree, into which Hohodemi climbed. The Sea-God’s daughter, Toyo-tama- hime (rich-jewel-maiden), then came out from the palace to draw water. She saw Hohodemi’s face reflected in the well, and, returning within, reported to her father that she had seen a beautiful youth in the tree which grew by the well. Hoho- demi was courteously received by the Sea-God, Toyo-tama-hiko (rich-jewel-prince), who, when he heard his errand, summoned before him all the fishes of the sea and made inquiry of them for the lost fish hook, which was eventually discovered in the mouth of the Tai. Toyo-tama-hiko delivered it to Hohodemi, telling him when he gave it back to his brother to say “a hook of poverty, a hook of ruin, a hook of downfall,” to spit twice, and to hand it over with averted face.

[The “Don’t Look” motif]

Hohodemi married the Sea-God’s daughter, Toyo-tama-hime, and remained with her for three years. He then became home-sick and returned to the upper world. On the beach where he came to land, he built for his wife, who was soon to follow, a parturition-house which he thatched with cormorant’s feathers. The roofing was still unfinished when she arrived, riding on a great tortoise. She went straight into the hut, begging her husband not to look at her. But Hohodemi’s curiosity was too strong for him. He peeped in, and behold ! his wife had become changed into a great sea-monster (or dragon), eight fathoms long. Deeply indignant at the disgrace put upon her, Toyo-tama-hime returned hastily to her father’s palace, abandoning her new-born child to the care of her sister, and barring behind her the sea-path in such a way that from that day to this all communication between the realms of land and sea has been cut off.

The child thus born was the father of Jimmu Tenno, the first human sovereign of Japan.

Hohodemi’s troubles with his elder brother were renewed on his arrival home. He was obliged to use against him two talismans given him by his father-in-law. One of these had the virtue of making the tide flow and submerge Ho no Susori and thus compel him to sue for mercy. (Another account says that Hohodemi whistled and thereby raised the wind and the sea). Then by a second talisman the tide was made to recede, and Ho no Susori’s life was spared. He yielded complete submission to his younger brother, and promised that he and his descendants to all generations would serve Hohodemi and his successors as mimes and bondservants. The Nihongi adds that in that day it was still customary for the Hayato (or Imperial guards) who were descended from Ho no Susori to perform a mimic dance before the Mikados, the descendants and successors of Hohodemi, in which the drowning struggles of their ancestor were represented.

[The well motif]

The Castle-gate and the tree before it, at the bottom of which is a well which serves as a mirror, form a combination not unknown to European folklore. The student will also note the partiality evinced for the younger of two brothers,

‘” Then the giant’s dochter came to the palace where Nicht, Nought, Nothing was, and she went up into a tree to watch for him. The gardener’s dochter going to draw water in the well saw the shadow.” Mr. Andrew Lang’s Custom and Myth, p. 91.

This last reference to the “drawing water from the well” appears to be an archetypal allegory hinting of a favorable outcome for a love suitor and predictor for the hero character finding favour with a powerful personnage’s daughter … There is also a parallel with Hohodemi finding favor with the Dragon-king and his daughter, to be found in the biblical story of Ruth the Moabite daughter of Naomi who finds favour with powerful and wealthy landowner Boaz, while drawing water at the well – see Ruth 2

The tale is most related to the Urashima folktale, which is recognizable cultural hero archetype, the hero who ventures to the another world, the quarreling brothers motif, but there are intriguing specifics here – from this myth recorded from the Kei Islands in the extreme south-east of the Indonesian area also involving two brothers, the lost fishhook, revenge and journeying to another world … There are too many components and mythemes to be a coincidence, so that the similarities suggest a possible borrowing from this myth from either direction.

“According to this tale, there were three brothers and two sisters in the upper sky-world. While fishing one day, Parpara, the youngest of the brothers, lost a fish-hook which he had borrowed from Hian, his oldest brother, who, angered by the loss of the hook, demanded that it be found and returned to him. After much fruitless search, the culprit met a fish who asked him what his trouble was, and who, on learning the facts, promised to aid in the search, at length discovering another fish who was very ill because of something stuck in its throat. The object proved to be the long-lost hook, which the friendly fish delivered to Parpara, who thus was able to, restore it to its owner. Parpara, however, determined to have his revenge upon his brother, and so he secretly fastened a bamboo vessel full of palm liquor above Hian’s bed in such a way that when the latter rose, he would be almost certain to upset it. The expected happened, and Parpara then demanded of his brother that he return to him the spilled liquor. Hian endeavoured, of course fruitlessly, to gather it up, and in his efforts dug so deeply into the ground that he made an opening clear through the sky-world. Wondering what might lie below, the brothers determined to tie one of their dogs to a long rope and lower him through the aperture; and when they had done this, and the dog had been drawn up again, they found white sand sticking to his feet, whereupon they resolved to go down themselves, although the other inhabitants of the heaven-world refused to accompany them thither. Sliding down the rope, the three brothers and one of the sisters, together with their four dogs, safely reached the world which lay below, and which was thus discovered for the first time. As the second sister was descending, however, one of the brothers chanced to look up, at which his sister was so ashamed that she shook the rope and was hauled up by the other sky-people. In this way the three brothers with their sister were the first occupants of the world and became the ancestors of the human race.” — Myths of Origins and The Deluge of Indonesia

The inclusion of Watatsumi who has a central role in instructing Hohodemi on the location of the missing fishhook is again intriguing, and provides support of that the provenance of Watatsumi lies in a more southerly direction where crocodiles may be found. See The curious crocodile “wani” connection between the Watasumi sea god and Hooderi and Hoori brothers royal myth for a full treatment of the etymology for Watasumi.


Sources and references:


Editorial note: The rivalry of the two brothers reminds us of the Biblical Cain and Abel story, Kulabob and Manup and all of those versions of warring brother stories known throughout the Papua New Guinea.

3 thoughts on “Hoori (Hohodemi) vs. Hoderi(Hohoderi) – the quarreling brothers motif

  1. Johnnn says:

    I dont get it

  2. […] In the next article “Hoori (Hohodemi) vs. Hoderi(Hohoderi) – the quarreling brothers motif“ […]

  3. WOW, such a thourough version of the story! I read some variations but none of them was such in depth and detailed. THANK YOU! =D

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