Tamahime Shrine and the legend of Toyotama Princess Otohime of Ryugu Castle

Tamahime Shrine, Tamano, Uno port, Okayama prefecture
“This region once had coves, and the boulder in Tamahime Shrine once stood on the shore. People moored to this boulder and often visited here.
It is said that, one night, three fireballs burst out from this boulder.
The first flew to Garyu Inari Shrine ; the second one flew to Saidaiji Temple and the third one flew to Ushimado.
Tamahime Shrine is dedicated to the Toyotama Princess Otohime of Ryugu Castle from the famous story. ”

The Legend of Toyotama Princess Otohime (Source: A Goddess A Day)

“Toyotama-hime is the Japanese Goddess of dragons and the sea. She is the daughter of the sea King Ryujin. She lived under the sea until a young hunter named Hikohohodemi-no-Mikoto came to the bottom of the sea, looking for a fishing hook that belonged to his brother. He usually hunted in the mountains, and his brother Honosusori-no-Mikoto fished, but they had decided to exchange equipment for a day. Hikohohodemi-no-Mikoto lost his brother’s best fishing hook and went under the sea to find it. Toyotama-hime saw him and asked her father to help him in his quest. He found the hook, and also found love with Toyotama-hime and they were married.

After a few years, Hikohohodemi-no-Mikoto began to long for the world above the sea. He convinced Toyotama-hime to go with him. She was pregnant with his child and consented, so long as he would promise not to watch when she gave birth. He agreed and they returned to the surface. Hikohohodemi-no-Mikoto built a house for them to live in, and it was not long until the time of the birth came. At first, he waited patiently outside, but his curiosity got the better of him, and he peeked inside. He saw a huge black dragon holding a tiny baby. Toyotama-hime, who had changed into her alternate form of the dragon to give birth, was ashamed that her husband had seen her in that form, and she left him and the baby and returned to the sea. She sent her younger sister, Tamayori, to help raise the child. The baby, Hikonagisa-Takeugaya-Fukiaezu-no-Mikoto, grew up to marry his aunt Tamayori, and their son, Kamuyamato-lwarebiko-no-Mikoto, eventually became known as Jimmu-Tenno, the first emperor of Japan.

Toyotama-hime’s name means “luminous jewel” and she is also known as Otohime or the Dragon Princess of the Sea.”

She is said to have married the hunter Hoori and gave birth to a son, Ugayafukiaezu, who in turn produced Emperor Jimmu, the first Emperor of Japan.[2] After giving birth, she turned into a dragon or a wani and flew away (Source: “豊玉姫” (in Japanese). Nihon Jinmei Daijiten [Toyotama-hime]. Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-04.

Tamahime-no-mikoto is also the principal deity worshipped at the Tagata shrine in Komaki, Aichi, famous for its phallic cult worship.

See also Wikipedia’s entry “Toyotama-hime

Tamahime Shrine, Tamano, Okayama prefecture

10 thoughts on “Tamahime Shrine and the legend of Toyotama Princess Otohime of Ryugu Castle

  1. While it is true that Tamahime Shrine enshrines Toyotamahime, and that Tagata Shrine enshrines Tamahime, the implication you seem to have drawn (that Toyotamahime is the same goddess as Tamahime) appears to be incorrect. I can find no other sources tying them together except for this very website, and the story of Tamahime doesn’t bear any apparent relation to Toyotamahime’s famous story.

    Admittedly, it’s a naturally confusing situation, due to the fact that Tamahime Shrine enshrines not Tamahime but the similarly-named Toyotamahime.

  2. The local town port authorities specifically state that the Tamahime to which Tamahime shrine (of Uno, Okayama) is dedicated is the Tamahime of the Ryugu tradition, and the Toyotamahime and dragon tales are widely thought to come from the Ryugu kingdom and acknowledged to be part of the same mythical sphere as the Toyo paradise tradition as well as including the Hoori and Hoderi tradition. The area is known from ancient times for shipbuilding, part of the salt road, and an important gateway from the west to the east Honshu island, and also to have ties with Korea, which is why it has exchanges today with its twin sister city in South Korea. There is also no reason to doubt that the local tradition of Uno and Tamano city is not true. While the earlier mentioned tale is different from the Toyotama tale, that is not particularly relevant, the elements of tale instead may throw light on the lineages and connections of early princes and administrators in early protohistoric and historic times, the identityy of the primary movers and shakers as well as the routes they took moving from west to east, as well as from north to south. As tales travel from their original sources, there are often truncated versions and spinoffs and variations. Ultimately, it is only the DNA of the local populations that can tie definitively the people, their material culture and heritage to their ancestors and ancestral or genealogical myths and traditions.

    • Thanks for the response!

      I think you have misunderstood my intended meaning; it certainly is a bit confusing with the names of the various shrines and goddess(es?) involved. I do not question, in the slightest, that Toyotama Hime no Mikoto is the goddess enshrined at Tamahime Shrine in Tamano City. My question is whether the goddess, named Tamahime no Mikoto, enshrined at Tagata Shrine over in Aichi, bears any connection to (possibly only homophonic) Tamahime Shrine back in Okayama. Is that clearer?

      Toyotama Hime no Mikoto is a fairly major goddess, at least in Kyushu — I actually just paid her my respects at lovely Aoshima Shrine in Miyazaki this past weekend — and it would certainly cast her in quite a different light to learn that she is also the fertile force behind the annual thousands of phalli on parade at the Honen Matsuri!

      By the way, what is the “Toyo paradise tradition”?

  3. It is almost a certainty that the Tamahime belongs to the same Yamato royal house tradition, both the histories of the Tagata shrine and the paired and related Ogata jinja shrine nearby … relate that warrior rulers from the Yamato land, Nara, came to settle the area and that Tamahime-no-mikoto was the princess daughter of the feudal ruler. Tagata shrine allegedly stands over where the Tamahime princess’s residence. The phallic cults probably belong to the older northeastern indigenous traditions (Jomon and Yayoi) but may also have been practised or easily adopted by the Nara warriors if they were of Eurasian nomadic horsemen lineages as phallic cults were prominent all over Eurasia and the henges stand over burial mounds all over Mongolia all the way to north of Korea and northeastern China. I will try to add to this post more exact details of the two shrines’ historical legend later. Another thick tome by George H. Kerr writes in his book on Okinawa’s history ties the Ryugu palace ancestral genealogy and legends to the Yamato royal house as well over two or three chapters. I should like to include excepts of his research, but it is extremely lengthy and difficult to do justice to in the short space I have here, and perhaps will be the subject of a new post.

    The Toyo legend is the legend of the eastern islands being the islands of immortality, legends that bind China, Korea and Japan, but they have piqued historians, scholars and myth-busters alike, because they all conform or unite to point to Japan as the Toyo land of immortals to which the continentals arrived in search of immortality elixirs or the plants from which they are made. Kerr also goes into detail in his book to identify who those arrivals were. There are two distinct Eastern traditions of paradise, the Underworld and Mt Meru tradition being one (which is the same as the Indo-European/eurasian and W. Asian tradition) and there is the North Asian ( Mansi-khanty) tradition of underworld river which in the East, flows and merges with the Eastern Seas and where the Toyo paradise island of immortals may be found. There are any number of research papers laying out theories of their origins. But the Undersea Ryugu palace is one of the centres, the Indian ocean to Southeast Asian khmic-Cham-Kamboja realms of nagas is another, the two are probably related and indicate the oral traiditions of the ancient maritime-trading empires.

    • Thank you for the clarification on the Toyo paradise legend. It’s fascinating. I had no idea. I hope to find out more about it.

      I didn’t know there was any doubt that the Toyotamahime/Hikohohodemi lineage was connected with the Yamato royal house. After all, they are the grandparents of Emperor Jimmu. At the moment, the argument that Toyotamahime of the Ryugu tradition and Tamahime who presides over ancient phallic rituals are directly related seems tenuous to me– kind of like arguing that John the Baptist and John the Apostle are the same person because they are both connected to Christ. But I certainly don’t have a deep understanding of the historical facts surrounding Tagata and Tamahime Shrines. I look forward to the additional detail you suggest you might share later.

      • Sorry, i didnt directly address your statement … I think you have it backwards, a. it is local historical fact that the Tamahime was a royal princess and part of the warrior intrusions from Nara. b. The ryugu palace and hooderi-hoori myths are part of the royal genealogies, and were formulated out of Nara, so any royal arrivals would have brought with them those royal traditions c. It was customary practice for feudal lords to preside over local matsuri festivals. d. Syncretism and the practice of having lesser gods added to an ancestral shrine are also known practices all over Japan and within royal house shrines. e. Phallic cult was predominant in northeast japan and all over Honshu and Hokkaido since Jomon era – this is fact and borne out by archaeology. These reasons and factual practices combined should make our conclusions obvious and logical, rather than tenuous.

  4. As i said, the phallic cult practices may or may not be related to the Tamahime royal traditions, at this point we know for certain only however, that religious practice was syncretic not only in Japan, but all throughout Asia, and especially in China, and increasingly, we find that much religious dogma was adopted in syncretic form in Japan, although this is often fudged by the historical events of infighting between temples and shrines, swings of merging and uncoupling of shrines and temples, so that it is now harder to discern whether the practices came together or not. Nevertheless, archaeological finds of material culture helps greatly towards these investigations and should present a subject for future studies. The phallic traditions are rather well documented regionally, so if the late arrivals of royal house members didnt bring the tradition with them, then we can surmise that the tradition must have been of such regard and pre-eminence locally that they felt the need to incorporate the symbol and the beliefs therein represented into their main shrines…to secure perhaps the favor of the phallic god as well as the local populace. Elsewhere on this blog, I have traced in a comparative survey of the phallic cult, the identifiable gods and associated beliefs in their geographical locations.

  5. Thanks for addressing my comment directly, and for all of your comments for that matter.

    I thought you were suggesting before that Tamahime is a local variant name of Toyotamahime. Is it that you’re suggesting that Tamahime is the possible historical root of Toyotamahime; and that the Ryugu legends that became associated with her name arrived with her, in preexisting form, when her family came to Nagoya from Nara?

    I’m sorry if I’m seeming a bit thick here; I’d just like to understand.

  6. Are Hoori and Toyotamahime’s strong associations with Kyushu considered an integral part of the Ryugu palace traditions, as far as they can be traced pre-Kojiki/Nihonshoki? (*Can* they be trace pre-Kojiki/Nihonshiki?)

  7. Hi, I think that this particular Tamahime was a real warrior chieftain’s daughter, but she would have existed too late in time to have been the original Tamahime princess of the well-known myths. But coming from the royal household in Nara not too far off from when the genealogies were written, she must have been named after the Tamahime goddess character of the royal ancestral line, the character who was part of the genealogical tree of Nara royals, even though mythical, if that makes sense. Like someone who is named Esther, but who can trace their lineage back to the family line said to be a descendant of queen Esther, by analogy.

    Now as to the actual identity of Tamahime, there are several versions of the legend, even within Kojiki and Nihonshoki, and then we have to compare the localized tales of Urashima, and the Ryugu Okinawa royal genealogies, also there were two Tamahimes who were sisters, one was Tama-yori hime, and the other Toyo-tama hime, they are a sort of mirror mythical types of the Hoori and Hoderi brothers, for one of them stayed on land, or the mountain, while the other returned to the sea (in some versions, exiled to the coast). One of both pairs made it into the royal bloodline according to the genealogical chronicles. That is the short summary of it, but a full survey and comparisons of the differing versions and connexions would take a much longer paper. I will post more as soon as I can. One thing that might help one in understanding the genealogies is to see the process of the chronicling of Kojiki and Nihonshoki genealogical aspects as being much like most of the Indo-European genealogies, the earliest heaven-descended kings (and queen-princess consorts) have universally recognizable mythical hero archetypes, and adventures and events, such as Orphean underworld adventures, dragon-slaying heroes, Herculean feats, Pandora box-like events or no-peeking misadventures and catastrophes, and twin or half-brother rivalries as well as sibling rivalries. Because the chronicles were a kind of national compendium drawn from (presumably) local and regional ruling chieftain’s ancestral household tales (we can often match or compare with local versions found in local fundoki, temple and shrine records (which were non-politically motivated). The further back in time to the mythological ages of the gods before the time of the manufacture of the genealogies, the more fudged the mythical tales, but also the more recognizable the universal archetypes are. It might also help to remember that many of the “ancestral” ruling stories would have been told in the form of bardic songs or performed at court or in chieftain’s residences, hence the kind of exaggerated details of Beowulf-like heroes, Therefore, many of these tales make sense if you think in terms of the source of the in-migrating tribal clans bringing with them the traditional tales and customs from different parts of the continent (or SEA islands for that matter). The Nara court was also clearly influenced by Chinese, Korean chronicling practices, which were borrowed from Eurasian or Turk-Mongolic bardic traditions. However, because many of the myths are tied to actual physical and historical ancient shrines and occasionally nearby barrow tombs, along with both material archaeological cultures and religious ritual artefacts, we can surmise that the bardic tales weren’t entirely borrowed fabrications, but mirrored religious, agricultural and other rituals that followed in-coming migrants to Japan, the practices throwing light on the continental origins of the ancestral ruling clans and elites.

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