The second of the deities dispatched by the heavenly deities to subdue the Central Land of the Reed Plains. He was armed with the heavenly deer-slaying bow and the heavenly arrows. He descended to the land and took as his wife Shitateruhime, Πkuninushi’s daughter. He plotted to gain control of the land for himself and resided there for eight years.
The senior deities, Amaterasu-π-mikami and Takamimusubi-no-kami, convened all the deities and sent the pheasant to inquire why Ame-no-wakahiko had not returned. Advised by a wise woman who heard the pheasant’s queries, he shot the bird with one of his heavenly arrows. It rebounded from the pheasant’s body up to heaven, coming to rest by Amaterasu and Takamimusubi. After showing the arrow to the rest of the heavenly deities, Takamimusubi bespelled
the weapon to kill Ame-no-wakahiko if his arrow had been shot with evil intent; otherwise it would do no harm. He then thrust it down the way it had come.
Ame-no-wakahiko was killed instantly as the arrow pierced his breast. The myth gives rise to a traditional Japanese saying about the returning arrow, implying something similar to “Evil to him whom evil thinks.” The myth is partly an elaboration on the common human motif of “third time lucky,” with Ame-no-wakahiko being the unsuccessful second try. At the same time, it is probably also a mythicization of the various attempts made by the Yamato state to impose its rule over the neighboring nation states.
References and further reading:
- Aston, William G., trans. 1956. Nihongi. London: Allen and Unwin.
- Philippi, Donald, trans. and ed. 1968. Kπjiki. Tokyo: Tokyo University Press.
Handbook of Japanese Mythology written by Michael Ashkenazi – Copyright © 2003 by Michael Ashkenazi