第六章History of Izumo, Chapter 6
The Hare of Inaba
The story of a kind god who saved a hare
The god of wealth, chosen by a beautiful princess
If you visit Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, you will probably notice that there are many statues of rabbits – playing tricks, with their paws clasped in prayer, or just winking mischievously – all around its grounds. This is because the deity revered here, Okuninushi no Okami, is said to have saved a rabbit from a painful fate in the famous legend called “The Hare of Inaba.”
Here is one retelling of this legend:
There was a god called Okuninushi, who is also called Daikoku (the god of wealth), in the Land of Izumo. Daikoku had many siblings who put him in danger time and time again. Among all of his siblings, he was the kindest.
The god’s siblings had heard a rumor that in the Land of Inaba, there was a beautiful princess called Yakamihime and they decided to all go and meet her. Daikoku had to carry the heavy bags as if he were a servant, and he could only walk along behind at the very end of the group.
As the siblings were about to pass through Keta no Misaki in the Land of Inaba, there was a single rabbit whose skin had been ripped off, crying. The siblings tried to tease him, saying, "If you swim in the salty ocean and let the wind blow on you, you will feel better." Of course, this was a lie.
The rabbit didn't have a clue he was being deceived, so as he was told, he jumped into the sea, and then went up a steep hill to feel the strong wing.
Doing so, the sea water dried up, and his raw and injured skin began to sting and smart more and more.
As the rabbit was cried and cried, in even more pain than before, Daikoku came passing by, having been following behind his siblings. Daikoku asked the rabbit what happened, and he replied:
“I live in the Oki Islands, but I wanted just once to try coming to this land, and was thinking of a way to make it here without swimming. Before long, some sharks came along, so I thought of using them. I talked one of the sharks into competing to see who has more friends, me or him. So, the sharks lined up for me to count them, but while I was pretending to count them, I was stepping on them to reach the other shore. But when I was just about to reach the shore, I got ahead of myself and told them how easy it had been to trick them. They realized that I had lied, which made them angry. As payback, the sharks tore off my skin. Then as I was crying because it hurt so much, there came some gods passing by who told me to soak in the sea and dry myself in the wind to feel better. I followed their advice, but by doing so the pain got much worse than before.”
Daikoku said to the rabbit after hearing that:
“Poor thing. Go wash your body with fresh water, then pick some cattail flowers, and lie down on top of them to feel better."
The rabbit washed himself in the river and then he quietly lied down on the flowers he had gathered. As he did so, his fur began growing back, and he turned back to the normal white rabbit he previously was.
After that, Daikoku reached the land of Inaba much later than his siblings. However, the one that the beautiful Yakamihime chose was Daikoku-sama.