The Legend of Hiruko

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Japanese Mythology

The Legend of Hiruko

Hiruko (also known as Ebisu or Hiru-ko) is a deity in Japanese mythology, featured in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. Hiruko was the first child born to Izanagi and Izanami, but he did not develop normally, leading to a life marked by hardship.

Birth and Misfortune

Izanagi and Izanami were tasked by the heavenly gods to create the islands of Japan. Their first child was Hiruko. However, Hiruko was born without bones, resembling a leech, and did not grow properly. At the age of three, he was still unable to stand, and was set adrift in the sea.

Wandering and Transformation

After being cast into the sea, Hiruko drifted for a long time. Eventually, he came to be known as Ebisu, the god of fishing, commerce, and good fortune. Hiruko, now Ebisu, is particularly revered as the god of prosperity in trade, and is worshipped at many shrines across Japan.

Worship as Ebisu

Hiruko’s transformation into Ebisu, the god of prosperity and luck, symbolizes overcoming adversity. Ebisu is depicted as a cheerful deity who brings good fortune, particularly to merchants and fishermen. Notable shrines dedicated to Ebisu include Nishinomiya Shrine in Hyogo Prefecture and Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto.

Festivals and Devotion

One of the most famous festivals associated with Ebisu is Toka Ebisu, held around January 10th each year. This festival draws numerous visitors who pray for success in business. Songs and dances dedicated to Ebisu are performed, and the festival is cherished as a traditional regional event.

Through his journey from misfortune to divinity, Hiruko/Ebisu represents resilience and the promise of prosperity, earning a cherished place in Japanese culture and worship.

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