The kami who enticed Amaterasu-π-mikami from her cave by dancing a lewd dance. Ama-no-uzume is one of the most active deities in Shintπ mythology. One of the most aggressive, powerful, and crafty of the deities, she features in many of the world foundation myths.

When the sun goddess, incensed by the behaviour of her brother, hid herself in a cave, it was Ama-no-uzume-no-mikoto who enticed her out. She bound up her sleeves and hair with sacred vines and carried a fan of sasa leaves (a grass similar to bamboo). Overturning a bucket, she stamped and danced upon it, then becoming possessed, she danced a lewd dance, exposing her breasts and genitals, causing the audience of worried kami to laugh out loud, thus enticing the solar deity from her hiding place.

When Ninigi-no-mikoto was ready to descend from the Plain of Heaven to the Central Land of the Reed Plains, his way was blocked at the Eightfold Crossroads by Sarutahiko-no-kami, an earth kami. Ama-no-uzume—considered a woman of great character and force—was dispatched by Amaterasu-π-mikami and Takamimusubi-no-kami to demand explanations and subdue him as necessary, which she promptly did. As a consequence, she became one of Ninigi’s advisers and companions in the descent to the land. As she had been the first to recognize Sarutahiko, Ninigi-no-mikoto commanded her to accompany Sarutahiko home when the latter’s work as guide to the Central Land of the Reed
Plains was done. Subsequently she became the ancestress of an important imperial clan and assumed the name of her protégé, Sarutahiko. It is possible, and some people hold, that they became man and wife. The accounts of her are a testimony to her determination and ruthlessness: Incensed by the sea cucumber’s refusal to support the heavenly grandson, she promptly slit its mouth with her dagger, so that it is silent to this day.

She is sometimes worshiped as patroness of performers and dancers. She also appears as Otafuku or Okame: a full-cheeked, plump peasant woman laughing happily, whose name Otafuku means “large breasts.” As such she is considered
by some to be the kami of mirth, and she is accompanied by her husband, the peasant Hyottoko, who is identified with Sarutahiko. Both of these deities are addressed fervently during the November festival of Tori-no-ichi (Cock market), when merchants buy pictures or masks of the pair, together with wide bamboo rakes “to rake in fortune.”

See also Amaterasu-π-mikami; Animals: sea cucumber; Ninigi-no-mikoto; Sarutahiko.
References and further reading:

  • Aston, William G., trans. 1956. Nihongi. London: Allen and Unwin.
  • Joly, Henri L. 1967. Legend in Japanese Art. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co.
  • Philippi, Donald, trans. and ed. 1968. Kπjiki. Tokyo: Tokyo University Press.


Handbook of Japanese Mythology written by Michael Ashkenazi – Copyright © 2003 by Michael Ashkenazi