Shimane Prefecture beckons with a captivating blend of nature, culture, and history, creating a tapestry of wonder that transcends time. Among the tales that echo through this picturesque region is the legendary story of Prince Okuninushi, whose compassion towards a humble hare played a pivotal role in shaping his destiny.
Unraveling the Legend
In a bygone era, the king of Izumo, a great-grandson of the deity Susanoo, had a son named Okuninushi, along with a multitude of other children from various concubines. Prince Okuninushi and his brothers embarked on a quest to win the heart of Princess Yakami of Inaba. As they approached Cape Keta, a curious encounter awaited them. A hare, having challenged crocodiles to determine whose clan was larger, cunningly used them as a bridge. However, the trickery led to the hare losing its fur, prompting a plea for help from the passing princes.
Rather than offering aid, Okuninushi’s brothers callously instructed the hare to wash in sea water and dry in the wind, exacerbating its suffering. Young Okuninushi, moved by compassion, discovered the hare in despair on the beach. Unlike his cruel brothers, he advised the hare to wash in fresh river water and roll in the pollen of cattails, bringing relief to the creature. In a twist of fate, the hare, having recovered, revealed its divine form and expressed gratitude to Okuninushi. The grateful deity declared that Okuninushi would marry Princess Yakami, setting the stage for the young prince’s remarkable journey.
Okuninushi’s story continues, unfolding in the pages of the Kojiki, until he ascends as the ruler of Izumo. The venerable Izumo-Taisha shrine in Shimane prefecture stands in homage to him, acknowledging his role not just as a ruler but also as a deity associated with farming and medicine, among other domains.
Beyond the Legend at Shimane Art Museum in Matsue
Nestled on the picturesque shores of Lake Shinji, this museum is designed around the central theme of harmonizing with water. With a focus on water-related collections, the Museum undergoes approximately 40 changes in its Collection throughout the year, ensuring a dynamic and engaging experience for visitors. The museum’s prime location offers a breathtaking view of the sunset over Lake Shinji, recognized as one of the 100 most beautiful sunsets in Japan. To allow visitors to fully savor this splendid sight, the museum extends its operating hours by 30 minutes after sunset from March to September.
Don’t forget to explore the artistic wonderland in the park adjacent to the Art Museum and along the lakeside promenade, adorned with a collection of sculptures. Among these captivating creations are twelve bronze rabbits, aptly named the ‘Lake Shinji Rabbits’, envisioned by the renowned Satoshi Yabuuchi, the creative mind behind Sento-kun, Nara City’s beloved mascot. Inspired by the legend of the Inaba Hare, these sculptures add a touch of mythology to the picturesque landscape.
A popular tradition has emerged around these bronze rabbits – rubbing the second rabbit from the front is believed to bring good luck! To amplify your fortunes, placing Shijimi clams before this particular rabbit has become a charming ritual.
Shimane’s allure extends beyond its scenic landscapes; it encompasses timeless tales that resonate through generations. The story of Prince Ōkuninushi and the Inaba Hare serves as a testament to the power of kindness, compassion, and the intricate connection between myth and reality. As you wander through the historical corridors of Shimane, let this legendary tale be your guide, unraveling the mystique that defines this captivating prefecture in the heart of Japan.