Ukesuteme in Hotsuma Tsutae
Hotsuma Tsutae relates that at the time of Toyoke-sama, there lived a woman named Ukesuteme. She was a descendant of Ka-no-Kunisatsuchi who went from Hinomoto and settled in the land of Akakata in what is now China. These excerpts tell how she became known as Mother of the West. Her Chinese name is better known these days: Xi Wangmu or Hsi Wang Mu, Mother of the West.
Aya 15 Studying Michi with Toyoke
Ukesuteme was a descendant of Ka and of Toyokunnu of Akakata who lived by the Ama no Michi, the Way. When the Way declined in that land, around 3,000 years ago, Ukesuteme wanted to restore it. She knew that Toyoke of Hitakami had taught the Way. So she traveled from Akakata in China to Toyoke’s Yamate Palace in Hitakami, near today’s Sendai. She studied under Toyoke (Tamakine) with Kokori-hime (now known as the kami Shirayama-hime). This is described in aya 15.
Ukesuteme / nenokuni ni kite
Tamakine ni / yokutsuka fure wa
Mini kotae / Kokori no imoto
Musu hase te / yama no michinoku
Satsukemasu / yorokohi kaeru
Ukesuteme / Korohin kimi to
Chinami ai / Kurosono tsumoru
Miko umi te / Nishi no haha kami
Ukesuteme came to Ne-no-kuni
She studied well with Tamakine
She became sister to Kokori-hime
As they together mastered
The innermost secrets of To-no-Woshite.
Ukesuteme married the kimi of Korohin
And had a son of Kuroson
She is the kami, Nishi-no-haha.
In this aya verse, “yama” refers to important matters, while “michinoku” are the most secret teachings. Toyouke taught the Way of To-no-Woshite, the secret teachings of To-no-Kunisatsuchi. “Korohin” is the Hotsuma name of Konron or Kurosono.
Mother of the West, Nishi-no-haha
Ukesuteme, in Woshite analysis, means a strong, accomplishing, active woman. After Ukesuteme went west, back to China, she married the king of Korohin (Kurosono-kuni, Konron), and had a son. She is known by her Japanese name as the kami, Nishi-no-haha, or Seiobo, Mother of the West. Her name in Chinese is Xi Wangmu (Hsi Wang Mu) and she appears in a Chinese document around 500 years after the Hotsuma Tsutae was written.
In a history written by the Chinese writer Shibasen (Japanese name) there was a land called Akagata. Akagata/Konron is likely around the Choukou (Yangtze) river area, which became a place for Taoist hermits. Konron or Kuroso-no-kuni is a land connected with the sacred and hence it’s associated with the mythical Kunlun mountains as is Xi Wangmu.
Aya 24 Michimi Peach
From aya 24 of Hotsuma Tsutae:
Michimi no momo o / tamaure wa / hanami no momo wa / marenari to / kunitsuto ni nasu
The michimi peach / she received / rarer than the flowering peach / she took with her as souvenier.
Ukesuteme visited Hotsuma three times. The third time, Amakami Ninikine was ruling Hotsuma when she visited him. He presented Ukesuteme with the Michimi peach tree which she took home to China. Michimi means bearing 3,000 peaches.” Apparently she had only seen flowering peach trees in China, so an abundantly bearing peach was a delight. In art depicting Xi Wangmu, she is often shown holding peaches of immortality or standing under a flowering peach tree.
Print of Seiobo Queen Mother of the West by Takeuchi Keishu, 1907, from ukiyo-e.org.
Matsuo Basho, 1644-1694, left Edo on his famous journey to oku-no-hosomichi in 1689. He wrote in his travel diary:
[From The Essential Basho by Sam Hamill, Shambhala, 1998, pp 14-15]
‘At Taga Castle, we found the most ancient monument Tsubo-no-ishibumi, in Ichikawa Village. It’s about six feet high and three feet wide. We struggled to read the inscription under heavy moss:
This Castle Was Built by Shogun Ono-no-Azumabito in 724. In 762, His Majesty’s Commanding General Emi-no-Asakari Supervised Repairs.
‘Dated from the time of Emperor Shomu, Tsubo-no-ishibumi inspired many a poet. Floods and landslides buried trails and markers, trees have grown and died, making this monument very difficult to find. The past remains hidden in clouds of memory. Still it returned us to memories from a thousand years before. Such a moment is the reason for a pilgrimage: infirmities forgotten, the ancients remembered, joyous tears trembled in my eyes.’
Note: Emperor Shomu [聖武天皇, Shōmu-tennō, 701 – June 4, 756]
Photos taken at Tagajo, seat of ancient government, outside of Sendai, on October 12, 2010 below.
From Hotsuma Tsutae, Aya 4 as posted in http://www.hotsuma.gr.jp/aya/aya04-e.html, we read that about the Toyoke’s palace at Tagajo:
‘Followed in turn by their retainers and servants, they [Toyoke, Isanami, Isanagi, and Amateru] now slowly moved on their way to Hitakami, Land of the Rising Sun. There, they all arrived safely at the Palace of Yamate (Sendai), the Ketatsubo government seat. As they arrived, the person of the Prince let out a dazzling radiance that shone out in all directions. Golden flowers blossomed all around, and the sand and fish in the sea, the trees and plants on the mountains, all shone with a golden yellow. Toyoke, moved by this sight, now bestowed on the Prince the imina or personal name of “Wakahito”, the Prince of Light. … Having thus entered the Palace of Yamate in the Land of Hitakami, the Prince now threw himself into earnest study of the Amenaru-Michi (“Way of Heaven”, the ways of sovereign government) at the new Amatsu Palace (“Palace of Heaven”). ‘
According to Mr. Takabatake of Japan Translation Center, Ketatsubo no hi (Tsubo no Ishibumi) at Tagajo may be the monument to commemorate Toyoke entering Taga palace on the ketatsubo palanquin. This monument is one of the oldest three important tsubos in Japan. [A tsubo is marks a special, often sacred, spot.]
From the display regarding the tsubo-no-ishibumi monument at the Tohoku History Museum display:
‘The two-meter high stone monument stands near the south gate of Tagajo. It was erected in 762 when Tagajo was rebuilt. The carved text refers to the location of Tagajo and its original construction in 724.’
Above is photo of the monument displayed in the museum. The image has been enhanced to enable reading of the inscription. The actual engraving is quite illegible as my Tagajo photo shows.
In search of Toyoke, in June 2012, we visited Taga Jinja in Tagajo City, Miyagi ken. Southeast of the Mutsu government ruins, it is next to the Tagajo old temple ruins. It is listed in the Engishiki. Previously, in 2010 we had seen the two small Taga jinjas at the Mutsu government ruins, also in Tagajo City. At that time, we had felt Toyoke’s presence. But further study indicated that there is a Taga Taisha in Omi, now Shiga-ken, and that it was split off from a Taga Jinja in Mutsu. We now believe that this Taga Jinja is the origin of the large taisha in Shiga.
We parked in front of a large public space which turned out to be the iseki ruins of a ceremonial site of which little is known; the local government is calling it an old temple site, even though they have no evidence that it is Buddhist. Walking out to the road, we saw a sign indicating that the Taga Jinja was this way. This is the first view we had; notice the ‘old temple site’ on the left. We see the white sign and the torii entrance on the right.
The jinja is quite charming. Should we call it a hokura instead? It’s barely large enough for one person to pray at. If you enlarge the fourth photo by clicking on it, you’ll see the sun and moon carved into the doors of the haiden-honden (there is no separate honden).
We stayed for a while here because it felt so serene and comforting.
Mr. Takabatake of Japan Translation Center says that the Taga jinjas are the former palaces of Amateru’s son and heir, Oshihomimi. ‘Taga’ is the posthumous name of Isanagi. ‘Ta’ means to order, to put right, to save. ‘Ga’ means darkness. Thus, Taga would mean to put darkness to order.
We wanted next to see the famous iris gardens of Tagajo City, so we parked near the train station and started walking. On the way, we came to the hill – or is it a man-made mound? – that we had seen on our earlier trip. We decided to take a short cut by going up then down the other side. The kaidan turned out to be the entrance to a small shrine. Tonight’s research revealed its name, Ukishima Jinja, and that it is somehow connected to Taga Jinja. Was it a coincidence?
We walked down the other side of the hill and across two roads and finally found the iris growing in profusion. We had missed the peak season, but it was splendid just the same.
During the time of the 6th Amakami Omotaru [Amakami is the ruler of Hotsuma], the weather changed and there was not much food. Toyoke was born in the family of the Takamimusubi, the ruling family of Hitakami in what is now called Tohoku. He was named Tamakine.
Toyoke governed Hitakami as the 5th Takamimusubi. He organized ceremonies for kami so that people could pray together in the same manner. He made the Futomani Motoake chart.
Toyoke was successful in increasing food production for his people. He was called Higashi-no-kimi, King of the East, and also Hotsuma-kimi. The people bestowed upon him the name Toyoke, or Toyouke. Here, ‘toyo’ means abundant, ‘u’ means greatness, and ‘ke’ is food.
Since the 6th Amakami Omotaru had no children, Toyoke resolved to find a solution. He asked his daughter Isako to marry Takahito and they would serve as the 7th Amakami. Takahito was the eldest son of Awanagi, ruler of Ne-no-kuni. This was the area known today as Hokuriku at the Sea of Japan and including Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures.
The couple became the 7th Amakami, Isanami and Isanagi. For a long while they had no children, and Toyoke was concerned that there would be no heir to rule Hotsuma. By his earnest praying a prince was born. This child became the 8th Amakami, Amateru.
Toyoke taught the young Amateru together with another grandson, Furimaro, in the Yamate Palace at Tagajo. The latter became Takagi, the 7th Takamimusubi, after his father Yasokine / Kanmimusubi.
Toyoke excelled at government, engineering, and education. He taught about horseback riding, obstetrics, metalwork, and yuki-no-michi.
Late in age, Toyoke was asked by Amateru to govern the San-in region, so he relocated to Miyazu in Tango (now Kyoto-Fu). When Toyoke knew he was about to die, he had a hokora tomb dug in the Kujigatake mountain of Mineyama-cho, 20 km northwest of Miyazu. He entered the tomb while still alive – this is called Toyoke-nori. He is deified at the Hinumanai Jinja at the foot of Kujigatake. Amateru, later, was also entombed at Kujigatake.
Note: As Ikeda exclaims, Toyoke cannot be compared with anyone else. This is exemplified by Toyoke creating the Futomani chart to teach the Way. That is why we are devoting many posts to the life and teachings of Toyoke. We have also visited his shrines in Hitakami, Omi, and San-in, as well as the Geku of Ise Jingu and the Moto-Ise shrines of Tanba.
This is an edited excerpt from the encyclopedia of Ikeda Mitsuru, 1999, 308pp.
Isanami and Isanagi raised the prince at their palace at Okitsu. When Amateru reached the age of sixteen, they asked Toyoke to prepare him to rule by the Amenaru-Michi, the Way of Heaven. Toyoke came to Harami to escort the prince and his parents to Hitakami. When they arrived at Toyoke’s Yamate palace, the prince was surrounded by brilliant light, golden flowers bloomed, the trees shown like gold. Toyoke was moved to give the imina personal name Wakahito, the Prince of Light, to the prince.
Toyoke built a new Amatsu palace and assigned his grandson Furimaro to be Wakahito’s study partner. Furimaro became Takakine, the 6th Takamimusubi and ruler of Hitakami. The two youths diligently studied and practiced the Amenaru-Michi as taught by Kunitokotachi and Toyoke.
After the completion of his preparation, Amateru was installed as the 8th Amakami. The ohoname Grand Rite of Accession was held on the winter solstice.
Toyoke, seeing that the dynasty of To-no-Kunisatsuchi remained without an heir to the Amakami rulers, took matters into his own hands. He arranged for a marriage between his daughter Isako and Takahito. They are known to us as Isanami and Isanagi, and they lived at their palace in Isawa.
They were duly married with all the proper ceremony and ritual. After a time when no heir to the Way appeared, Toyoke made a Futomani divination which directed him to Nakakuni (now Nara area). He had purified himself eight thousand times on Mount Katsuragi and prayed for a successor to Isanami and Isanagi.
Finally the grandson Amateru was born as the sun rose on the first day of the year kishiye. Lord Yamazumi was so overjoyed that he recited a waka:
Mube naruya, yuki no yoroshi mo, miyotsugi mo, yoyo no saiwai hirakeri
‘Tis true to say: a good past life, and a royal heir; joy for generations now to commence.
Princess Shirayama, Isanami’s sister, gave the baby his first bath and his name, Uhirugi, Great Sun-Spirit Sovereign. All the people were overjoyed.