Ame no Hiboko

From SamuraiWiki
Jump to navigationJump to search
  • Mythological character within both the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki
  • Distinction: prince Korean kingdom of Silla
  • Possible alternate name: Hiboko, Ama no Hihoko, Ama no Hi-hoko, Ame-no-Hihoko
  • Name meaning: Spear of the Heavenly Sun (Aston's translation), Prince of the Shining Spear (Aoki's translation)


Ame no Hiboko is believed to have traveled from Silla to Japan, with "magical jewels" that made for tranquil ocean travel.

In the Cambridge History of Japan, it is suggested that he was reverenced by those Koreans that had traveled to the Japanese archipelago and brought continental technology.

In the Chikuzen fudoki, a deity called Hiboko is listed as being the tutelary kami of a strong family located in northern Kyushu. This Hiboko may be one and the same with Ame no Hiboko. This Hiboko, within the fudoki is supposed to have came to earth in Koguryo.

The items carried by Ame no Hiboko resemble those usually bore by other ancestor kami[1].

Kidder's description of Ame-no-Hihoko is much more detailed. He describes a Silla prince who travels to Harima Province, bearing either seven or eight (depending on the source) sacred, ritual objects, during the reign of Emperor Suinin.

Upon hearing of the foreigner's location, he sent two powerful family leaders to investigate. Ame-no-Hihoko claimed (in a fashion somewhat suspiciously similar to a past immigrant from the Korean kingdom of Kaya named Tsunoga-arashito) that he wished to "offer his services" to a worthy ruler such as Suinin. Suinin attempted to convince Ame-no-Hihoko to move from Harima to a region closer to Suinin's capital. Hihoko requested to be allowed to choose his residence, instead, and traveled throughout central Honshu until he found himself residing again near Harima: in Tajima. His descendants (through a Korean wife in a sizable Korean population) continued to live in Tajima.

The potters (traditionally Korean immigrants to those instructed by past immigrants) in the city of Ômi are said to have become his servants (he stayed there during his wanderings for a residence).[2]

Ame no Hiboko within the Nihon Shoki

Nihon Shoki. Aston, 1.168-9

B.C. 27: 3rd year, Spring, 3rd month. The Silla prince, Ama no hi-hoko (this means 'The sun-spear of Heaven,' and is purely Japanese. It cannot be a Corean name) arrived. The objects which he brought were-one Ha-buto gem, one Ashi-daka gem, one red-stone Ukaka gem, one Idzushi short sword, one Idzushi spear, one sun-mirror, one Kuma-himorogi, seven things in all. These were stored in the Land of Tajima, and made divine things for ever.

One version says:--In the beginning, Ama no hi-hoko, riding in a ship, anchored at the land of Harima, where he dwelt in the village of Shisaha. Then the Emperor sent to Harima Ôtomonushi, the ancestor of the Yamato no Atahe, and inuired of Ama hi-hoko, saying:--'Who art though, and to what country dost thou belong?'

Ama no Hi-hoko answered and said:--'I am the son of the King of Silla. Hearing that in the Land of Japan there was a sage monarch, I gave my country to my younger brother, Chiko, and have come to offer my allegiance and to bring tribute of the following objects, viz.--a Ha-boso gem, an Ashi-daka gem, an Ukaka red-stone (or Akashi) gem, an Idzushi short sword, an Idzushi spear, a sun-mirror, a Kuma-himorogi, and an Isasa sword-eight objects in all.'

So the Emperor gave orders to Ama no hi-hoko, saying:--'Do thou dwell in either of these two villages--Shisaha in the land of Harima, or Idesa in the island of Ahaji, at thy pleasure.' Then Ama no hi-hoko addressed the Emperor, saying:--'In regard to a dwelling-place for thy servant, if the celestial favour is bestowed on him so far as to grant thy servant the place of his desire, thy servant will himself proceed to and visit the various provinces, and he hopes that he may be granted the place which is agreeable to his mind.'

This was agreed to. Thereupon, Ama no hi-hoko, ascending the river Uji, went northwards, until he arrived at the village of Ana, in the province of Ômi.

Afterwards, he proceeded onwards, from the province of Ômi, through the province of Wakasa, and going westward arrived at the province of Tajima. So there he fixed his dwelling place. Therefore the potters of Kagami no Hasama, in the province of Ômi, are the servants of Ama no hi-hoko. Accordingly, Ama no hi-hoko took to wife Matawo, the daughter of Futomimi, a man of Idzushi in Tajima, who bore to him Tajima Morosuke, ho was the father of Tajima no Hinaraki, who was the father of Kiyohiko, who was the father of Tajima-mori.

Nihon Shoki. Aston, 1.185-6

A.D. 59: 88th year, Autumn, 7th month, 10th day. The Emperor [Suinin] commanded the Ministers, saying:--'We hear that the divine treasures which the Silla Prince Ama no hihoko brought with him when he first came here are now in Tajima. They were originally made divine treasures because the people of that province saw that they were admirable. We desire to see these treasures.'

That same day messengers were despatched with the Imperial commands to Kiyo-hiko, great-grandson of Ama no hihoko, directing him to present them to the Emperor. Thereupon, Kiyo-hiko, when he received the Imperial orders, brought the divine treasures himself, and laid them before His Majesty.

Aston's Nihongi writes Ame no Hiboko as Ama no hi-hoko, or Ama no hihoko, and "Izushi" as "Idzushi", but it is of little matter. Many of the names contained within his work differ from modern history books.

Continuing, Kiyo-hiko attempted to hide the Izushi short sword from Emperor Suinin, but was caught in the act. However, it magically disappeared from Suinin's posession, and found itself on the Island of Awaji, where it was worshiped and enshrined.

Ame no Hiboko as a representative figure

Michiko Aoki, in her Records of Wind and Earth (pages 15-19) chronicles the disagreements between Ôkuninushi and Ame no Hiboko. She raises the interesting point that Ôkuninushi belonged to the Izumo region, which lies along the Japan Sea side of the archipelago. Ame no Hiboko, the foreign immigrant, came to the region and was denied entrance to the land by the aforementioned diety. However, by means of magic (Ame no Hiboko's powers have already been brought up), he proved to Ôkuninushi that he was not going to flee. The fudoki are filled with occurences of battles between these two deities.

Aoki suggests that the name Ame no Hiboko (Spear of the Heavenly Sun) gives clues to the foreign immigrants' place in early Japan. The people already established in the Izumo region must have had to contend with immigrants who brought with them iron weapons or implements. If you pay attention to the dates (usually not to be trusted within many of the books within the Nihon Shoki) given by Aston, above, you'll notice they roughly correspond to the time when iron and bronze was brought to Japan. It is an interesting hypothesis, one that is given much credit by the fact that the Izumo kami are barely mentioned in the Nihon Shoki, as compared to the earlier Kojiki (Cambridge History of Japan).

Records of Wind and Earth. Aoki. Page 201n

Ame no Hihoko and Ashihara no Shikowo [(Ôkuninushi)]: Ame no Hihoko repreents newcomers (immigrants) to this area. Ashihara no Shikowo represents the local people who were already settled there when the newcomers arrived. It is reasonable to interpret this story as a reflection of conflict between the indigenous leadership and an intruding power.

Ame no Hiboko's involvement in place names

Following the order given by Empress Gemmei in 713, fudoki were to note why place names had the name that they did. In the Harima no Kuni Fudoki, Ame no Hiboko is listed as being involved in multiple place name origins.

  • Ihibo Woka
    • The Ihibo, which means grain of rice, comes from the grain that fell when Ôkuninushi ate rice ceremoniously on top of a mountain to secure the territory from the intruding Ame no Hiboko. The woka means "hill"[3].
  • Hamlet of Kahato
    • The recorded origin of the Hamlet of Kahato is strikingly simple. Ame no Hiboko is supposed to have commented on the noise level of a nearby river, which in ancient Japanese corresponded to Kahato.[4]
  • Ubahi Tani
    • Another recorded instance of fighting between Ôkuninushi and Ame no Hiboko. While wrestling, the two warped the valley they were arguing over. Thus, the descriptive Ubahi Tani ("grapling ravine," according to Aoki) was born.[5]
  • Village of Takaya
    • Ame no Hiboko commented on the height of the village, here, and thus "Tall Houses" was used.[6]
  • Inaka Gaha
    • Again a case of fighting with Ôkuninushi. During a scuffle, they both saw a crying horse by a river thereafter called Inaku. A note by Aoki mentions that contemporaries of the authors of the Harima no Kuni Fudoki then called the river Inaka.[7]
  • Village of Mikata
    • Mikata refers to "the third piece" of vine that Ôkuninushi tossed, and landed in what was then called "The Village of Mikata". Ame no Hiboko and Ôkuninushi were vying for control of land, and settled their dispute by throwing vines with their toes. Ôkuninushi's landed in Tajima province's Keta District and Yafu (Aoki says that can also be read as "Yabu") District, while the third landed in Mikata. Ame no Hiboko's all landed in Tajima. Because of this, he established dominance in Tajima's Izushi District[8]. It is interesting to note that the weapons presented to Suinin were from Izushi. Ame no Hiboko may have therefore passed through the region, acquiring them. Also, after his journeys following his meeting with Emperor Suinin, he resided in Tajima province's Izushi District. This account in the Harima no Kuni Fudoki has thus agreed with the vague Nihon Shoki accounts. It seems that after conquering the Izumo people in one way or another, whoever or whatever is represented by Ame no Hiboko established residency in Tajima province.

It is believed that the Nihon Shoki drew from provincial fudoki for local myths and stories. One can see this in two ways: 1)a desire to represent Japan in a well-rounded fashion 2)a desire to pick and choose from local Japanese myths those that would help legitimate the ruling class.

  • Yachigusano
    • This refers to the 8,000 soldiers gathered under Ame no Hiboko[9].


  1. The Cambridge History of Japan Volume One: Ancient Japan; Page 345
  2. J. Edward Kidder, Jr. "Himiko and Japan's Elusive Chiefdom of Yamatai." Hawaii: 2007, Page 197
  3. Michiko Aoki, Records of Wind and Earth, page 201, 211n
  4. ibid. pg. 210
  5. ibid. pg. 210
  6. ibid. pg. 211
  7. ibid. pg. 211
  8. ibid. pg. 213
  9. ibid. pg. 217