Sarutahiko Okami

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Sarutahiko Ōkami (猿田毘古大神, 猿田彦大神), is the leader of the earthly kami, deity of the Japanese religion of Shinto. Norito also mentions him with the title Daimyōjin (大明神 great bright god, or greatly virtuous god) instead of Ōkami (大神 great god).

Sarutahiko Ōkami is seen as a symbol of Misogi, strength and guidance, which is why he is the patron of martial arts such as aikido.[1] He enshrined at Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture, first among the 2000 shrines of Sarutahiko Ōkami, Sarutahiko Jinja in Ise, Mie and Ōasahiko Shrine in Tokushima Prefecture. In the Nihon Shoki, he is the one who greets Ninigi-no-Mikoto, the grandson of Amaterasu, the Sun goddess, when he descends from Takama-ga-hara.[2] He is depicted as a towering man with a large beard, jeweled spear, ruddy face, and long nose. At first he is unwilling to yield his realm until persuaded by Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto, the kami of dance and the arts, whom he later marries.[3]

Sarutahiko Ōkami, in a somewhat comical depiction; taken from a late-19th-century Japanese painting.


Sarutahiko's name consists of an etymologically obscure element, Saruta, which is traditionally transcribed with kanji that suggest the meaning "monkey-field" as a sort of double entendre, followed by the Classical Japanese noun hiko "a male child of noble blood, a prince."[4] Thus, Sarutahiko Ōkami's embellished name could be roughly translated into English as "Great God, Prince Saruta." Many variant pronunciations of his name exist, including Sarudabiko and Sadahiko. Although it is usually not written, the Japanese genitive case marker, -no, is often suffixed to his name in speech when it is followed immediately by one of his honorific titles, such as Ōkami or Mikoto.[citation needed]

Anthropologist Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney lists three factors that identify Sarutahiko as a monkey deity: saru means "monkey", his features "include red buttocks, which are a prominent characteristic of Japanese macaques", and as macaques gather shellfish at low tide, the Kojiki says his hand got caught in a shell while fishing and "a monkey with one hand caught in a shell is a frequent theme of Japanese folktales".[5]


Sarutahiko has the distinction of being one of only six kami to be honored with the title Ōkami (Japanese: 大神) or "Great Kami"; the other five are Izanagi, Izanami, Michikaeshi (also known as Yomido ni sayarimasu ōkami (?) who is the kami of the great rock used by Izanagi to obstruct the way to Yomi, and thus, preventing emergence of evil spirits from the Underworld), Sashikuni, and Amaterasu. The special honor paid to Sarutahiko is particularly notable for the fact that he is the singular kunitsukami, or earthly kami, to be given the title; the other five are all amatsukami, i.e., heavenly kami.[citation needed]

References in music[edit]

The name of this deity appears incorrectly spelled as "Sarundasico" in Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gleason, William (1995). The Spiritual Foundations of Aikido. Destiny Books. p. 18. ISBN 0-89281-508-6. 
  2. ^ "English". 尾張猿田彦神社. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  3. ^ "Shrine History". Tsubaki Grand Shrine America. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  4. ^ Ashkenazi, Michael (2003). Handbook of Japanese Mythology. ABC-CLIO. p. 70. ISBN 1-57607-467-6. 
  5. ^ Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko (1987), The Monkey as Mirror: Symbolic Transformations in Japanese History and Ritual, Princeton University Press, pp. 42-43.
  6. ^ "2004 Regular Opera Performance "Madama Butterfly / revised edition"". NPO Opera del Popolo. Retrieved 13 August 2012.