Omoikane (思兼 or 思金) is a Shinto god of wisdom and intelligence. His name means "serving one's thoughts." A heavenly deity who is called upon to "ponder" and give good counsel in the deliberations of the heavenly deities. In the myth where Amaterasu hid in a cave, he was tasked to find a way to get her out.
He is known by other names as Tokoyo-no-Omoikane (常世思金神) in the Kojiki (古事記); Omoikane (思兼神) in the Nihon Shoki (日本書紀); Omokane (思金神, 思兼神), Tokoyo-no-Omoikane (常世思金神), Yagokoro-omoikane (八意思兼神, 八意思金神) in the Kujiki (旧事紀 or Sendai Kuji Hongi 先代旧事本紀), or Achihiko (阿智彦).
He is the son of creator deity Takamimusubi (高御産巣日神) and the older brother of Takuhatachiji-hime (栲幡千千姫命, or commonly named in the Kojiki: 万幡豊秋津師比売命 Yorozuhatatoyo'akitsushi-hime), who is the wife of the deity Ame-no-Oshihomimi (天忍穂耳命).
However in the Kujiki (旧事紀 or Sendai Kuji Hongi 先代旧事本紀). Omoikane descends to Shinano Province (信濃国 Shinano-no-kuni, a former province that is now Nagano Prefecture) to become the ancestor Shina-no-achihouri (信之阿智祝) and as in Chichibu Province (知々夫国, Chichibu no kuni), a former province in Saitama Prefecture. He then becomes the father of both deities Ame-no-Uwaharu (天表春命) and Ame-no-Shitaharu (天下春命), also through this lineage become the patriarchal ancestor of the children of Ama-no-Koyane (天児屋命, 天児屋根命).
Ōkuninushi (Japanese: 大国主) was a famous hero and one of the more personable gods as part of the Japanese Izumo mythology. His name literally translates to "Great Land-Owner" or "Great Land Master" and he was in charge of firming the land during creation. He was known as the Lord of the Central Land of Reed Plains (another name for Japan). In Shintoism, Okuninushi-no-Mikoto is considered the god of the earth and the underworld, as well as of relationships, nation-building, commerce, medicine, and agriculture.
He is also known as Ōmononushi (大物主神) or Onamuchi, and the amiable Daikoku/Daikokuten of the Seven Lucky Gods is considered his counterpart (as their names have a similar reading).
Okuninushi was the youngest sibling of 80 cruel brothers, all deities living in Izumo. Hearing of the beautiful goddess Yagami-hime in the land of Inaba, every one of the brothers decided to try and woo her. Bringing along Okuninushi in order to carry all their luggage, he soon lagged behind his brothers from the burden. On the way to Inaba, the large group of brothers came across a suffering hairless hare, and decided to play a prank on it. They advised it to bathe in seawater, then stand on top of a high peak and let the winds and sun dry it, telling the hare this would help it recover more quickly. The hare did as the brothers said, but instead of recovering, things worsened as its skin dried out and cracked, agitated further by salt from the seawater. Unable to stand the pain, the hare fell to the ground. Trailing behind his brothers, when Okuninushi found the crying rabbit he asked what had happened. The rabbit told its story.
Originally from the island of Oki, the hare had wanted to travel to the mainland but was unable to do so on his own. So coming up with an idea, he challenged the sharks surrounding the island. He told them "Let’s see which there are more of, you sharks or us rabbits. Have all your fellow sharks line up one by one from here to Cape Keta, and I’ll count you. Then we’ll know for sure which group is bigger." As the sharks lined up, the hare jumped from shark to shark, counting each one. Just before it leapt to the mainland, it boasted about tricking the sharks, so the final shark bit off the rabbit's fur. Lying on the ground, that was where he met the large group of gods whose advice had made things worse.
After hearing the tale, Okuninushi told the hare to wash itself in the nearby fresh water river, then lay out fluff from the cattails and roll in it. Doing so, the rabbit's pain was soothed and it soon completely healed. In gratitude the hare gave a prophecy that Yagami-hime would choose Okuninushi over all of his brothers. When Okuninushi finally arrived where his brother's were, the princess told the elder brothers that she would have nothing to do with any of them, but would marry Okuninushi.
Enraged by and jealous of their younger brother who obtained the affection of the goddess-princess of Inaba, the elder brothers schemed to kill Okuninushi. They killed him twice, once with a smoldering boulder and once with a trap in the woods. Both times he was killed, Okuninushi was revived by his mother Sashikuni-waka-hime, a clam goddess. After the second time, Okuninushi was able to escape to the underworld ruled by Susanoo.
After fleeing to the underworld Ne no Kuni, Okuninushi met and fell in love with Suseri-hime. Her father, Susanoo, however, did not approve of the relationship and so decided to test the young man. First, he was told to sleep in a room full of snakes. Suseri-hime gave him a scarf that, when waved three times, would freeze the snakes, allowing Okuninushi to pass the night without incident. Second, he was to stay in a room full of wasps and centipedes. Again he was helped by Suseri-hime with a scarf that worked in the same way as the first. Finally, Susanoo took him to a big field and shot an arrow, telling Okuninushi to retrieve it, before setting the field on fire. About to succumb to the flames, a mouse ran up to him and told him that the "Once inside, it’s big and hollow, but the entrance is narrow and tight." Recognizing the invitation into the mouse's home, Okuninushi stomped on the hole where a large burrow opened up and he was able to wait out the fire. The mouse also helped him find the arrow and he returned it to Susanoo.
Still not completely unsatisfied, Susanoo then told Okuninushi to pick the lice out of his hair. However, rather than lice, Okuninushi found many centipedes. Suseri-hime again came to help him, giving him red clay and berries, which he chewed together and spat out, causing Susanoo to think it was the centipedes he was chewing and spitting out. Eventually falling asleep, Okuninushi then tied Susanoo's hair to the rafters of the house and blocked the door with a boulder. Then taking the sleeping god's sword, harp, and bow and arrows, Okuninushi and Suseri-hime fled together. But when the harp knocked against a tree. Susanoo awoke and his house fell around him, before he chased the couple all the way to the entrance to the underworld.
Fortunately, during the trials Susanoo had grown fond of Okuninushi, and so instead of catching them he let them go. Instead he told Okuninushi to take his tools to the surface and defeat his brothers, then build a palace for Suseri-hime that would reach the heavens.
Using the magical items lent by Susanoo, Okuninushi defeated all of his brothers in Izumo, allowing him to become ruler of the land. With the help of the dwarf god Sukunabiko, Okuninushi began to firm/form the land. Along with his friend the dwarf god they also developed medicine and managed to decrease the destructiveness of birds and insects. For this a shrine was built in Izumo for Okuninushi.
When Takemikazuchi descended to heaven with the command to pacify and unify the Central Land of Reed Plains, Okuninushi transferred his power over to Niningi, the grandson of Amaterasu. For this he was given rulership of magic and the unseen, where he then moved to the land of darkness, the underworld.
Inari Ōkami (Japanese: 稲荷大神), also called Ō-Inari (大稲荷), is the Japanese kami of foxes, fertility, rice, tea and sake, of agriculture and industry, of general prosperity and worldly success, and one of the principal kami of Shinto. In earlier Japan, Inari was also the patron of swordsmiths and merchants. Inari appears to have been worshiped since the founding of a shrine at Inari Mountain in 711 AD, although some scholars believe that worship started in the late 5th century.
By the 16th century, Inari had become the patron of blacksmiths and the protector of warriors, and worship of Inari spread across Japan in the Edo period. Inari is a popular figure in both Shinto and Buddhist beliefs in Japan. More than one-third (32,000) of the Shinto shrines in Japan are dedicated to Inari. Modern corporations, such as cosmetic company Shiseido, continue to revere Inari as a patron kami, with shrines atop their corporate headquarters.
Inari's foxes, or kitsune, are pure white and act as their messengers.
According to myth, Inari, as a goddess, was said to have come to Japan at the time of its creation amidst a harsh famine that struck the land. "She [Inari] descended from Heaven riding on a white fox, and in her hand she carried sheaves of cereal or grain. Ine, the word now used for rice, is the name for this cereal. What she carried was not rice but some cereal that grows in swamps. According to legend, in ancient times Japan was water and swamp land.
When reading about Shintoism, there’s one deity whose names you’ll see over and over again – Inari Ōkami, Ō-Inari, or just Inari. This kami (deity, spirit) is neither the most powerful deity in Shintoism, nor a Creator or a Ruler god of some kind.
And yet, Inari is the most popular and most commonly worshiped Shinto deity. About a third of all Shinto temples in Japan are devoted to this peculiar kami. So, who exactly is Inari and why is she or he so popular?
Inari is the Shinto kami of rice, foxes, agriculture, fertility, trade, industry, prosperity, and much more. Depicted as an old man, a young and beautiful woman, or an androgenous deity, Inari’s worship differs greatly depending on where in Japan you are.
Rice, foxes, and fertility seem the constants in Inari’s worship, as they are the base symbols of Inari. The very name Inari comes from Ine Nari or Ine ni Naru, i.e. rice, to carry rice, or rice load. Needless to say, with rice being such a popular food in Japan, the widespread popularity of Inari's cult is quite understandable.
As for the foxes – while their (positive) connection with rice is difficult to decipher, foxes are a popular symbol in Japan. The famous kitsune spirits (literally translating as fox in Japanese) were magical foxes with up to nine tails that could transform into people. Their preferred humanoid form was that of a beautiful young woman, which they used to trick, seduce, but also often help people.More importantly – foxes and kitsune spirits are said to be servants and messengers of Inari. The benevolent kitsune serve the rice kami whereas the malevolent ones rebel against the deity. In fact, many depictions of the deity, regardless of their gender, show Inari with foxes or riding a large white kitsune.
Inari is also a kami of dozens of different and completely unrelated things. She is a kami of agriculture, as well as of trade and prosperity. Fertility also remains a large part of Inari’s symbolism, not just in an agricultural sense but in terms of procreation as well.
In later periods, Inari became a kami of industry and progress as an extension of the prosperity symbolism. Tea and sake also became associated with Inari although we can’t really say why. Swordsmiths, blacksmiths, and swordsmen fell under Inari’s favor too, during Japan’s more militant periods in the Middle Ages.
Inari even became a patron kami of fishermen, artists, and prostitutes (not geishas) – as many of Inari’s shrines were built in the sections of towns and cities where these groups of people lived.
Such aspects associated with Inari were typically localized in one part of Japan or another. Eventually, some of them spread while others remain local.
Inari doesn’t just symbolize various things; they seem to be more than just one deity too. That’s why the kami is portrayed as both male, female, or androgynous – because it’s literally not just one person.
For example, Inari, the old man, is said to be married to the goddess of agriculture Uke Mochi. In other myths, Inari is herself an agricultural and fertility goddess with many names. Inari is even present in many Japanese Buddhist sects. In Shingon Buddhism, she is associated with the Buddhist concept of the divine feminine daikiniten as that too is connected to foxes.
There’s also the connection with another Buddhist deity Benzaiten, one of the Seven Lucky Gods. Inari is also often equated with the Shinto grain deity Toyouke. In fact, she or he is often viewed as a variant of either of the many different Shinto grain, rice, and agricultural deities.
The reason behind this is simple – Japan’s islands used to be made up of dozens of different small city-states and self-governing areas. This had continued for centuries before the eventual, slow unification of the country. So, as this happened, and Inari’s cult started spreading through the land, many such local agricultural deities began to be substituted by or conjoined with Inari.
Inari isn’t just a humanoid deity that gives rice and grain to people, of course. Despite the fact that most of her myths are localized and not widely spread, a through-line can be noticed – Inari is a shapeshifter.
This is a quality that the kami shares with her kitsune fox spirits who are also famous for their shapeshifting abilities. Like them, Inari also most commonly shapeshifts into a fox. Inari is also known to occasionally transform into a giant snake, a dragon, or a giant spider too.
Because Inari is essentially a collection of many local agricultural deities, there isn’t a solid base of myths about this kami as there is for others. One of the few widespread myths about Inari depicts her as a female kami that comes to Japan shortly after the islands’ creation. Inari came precisely at the time of a severe and long-lasting famine, riding on a white fox, and brought with them sheaves of grain to help the people in their time of need.The myth isn’t really anything elaborate, but it perfectly encapsulates what Inari is to the followers of Shintoism.