Kamuy Fuchi is the Ainu kamuy (goddess) of the hearth. Her full name is Apemerukoyan-mat Unamerukoyan-mat (Rising Fire Sparks Woman/ Rising Cinder Sparks Woman), and she is also known as Iresu Kamuy (People Teacher). She is among the most important kamuy of Ainu mythology, serving as keeper of the gateway between the world of humans and the world of kamuy.
Kamuy Fuchi is a woman who lives in the hearth. Her position is so important that she never leaves her home. Accordingly, the fire in a hearth must never be completely extinguished.
There are a few myths of Kamuy Fuchi's origins. In the most common, she descends from the heavens, accompanied by Kanna Kamuy, the kamuy of thunder and lightning. In another version, she was born from the fire-producing drill and is the sister of Hash-Inau-uk Kamuy, the goddess of the hunt. A third holds that she is the daughter of an elm tree by the prime originator Kandakoro Kamuy.
Kamuy Fuchi instructed Ainu women in the making of kut (sacred girdles). For this gift she earned the name Iresu Kamuy (People Teacher).
She is one of the most powerful kamuy in Ainu mythology. In one myth, her husband is seduced by Waka-ush Kamuy, the deity of fresh water. Kamuy Fuchi, insulted, challenges her rival to a duel of sorcery, from which she emerges victorious with relative ease. Her chastened husband returns home.
Kamuy Fuchi is a guardian of the home, and also the judge of domestic affairs. Those who pollute a hearth or fail to maintain proper domestic relationships are said to incur her punishment. To aid her in these duties, since she does not leave the hearth, she employs a number of other kamuy, including Mintakoro Kamuy, the guardian of a home's premises, and Rukoro Kamuy, the kamuy of the privy.
In addition to being the center of the Ainu household, the hearth was considered a gateway by means of which humans and kamuy could communicate. It is also the abode of the dead; the Ainu word for ancestor translates as those who dwell in the hearth. Transmigration is a tenet of Ainu mythology, so it was doubly important for the hearth to be kept pure, because the souls of the departed who lived there would be assigned to new bodies in time.
- Ashkenazy, Michael. Handbook of Japanese Mythology. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-Clio, 2003. 191-192
- Ashkenazy, Michael. Handbook of Japanese Mythology. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-Clio, 2003.
- Etter, Carl. Ainu Folklore: Traditions and Culture of the Vanishing Aborigines of Japan. Chicago: Wilcox and Follett, 1949.
- Munro, Neil Gordon. Ainu Creed and Cult. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.