Hotsuma-Tsutae The Book of Heaven (Chapters 12) [Contents] [Japanese] [French]

The Origin of Amagatsu and Hauko Dolls

At the Tsubowakamiya Palace in the government seat of Taka (now Tagajo in Miyagi Prefecture), they had just celebrated the marriage of Prince Oshihomimi, heir to the Lord Amateru, and Princess Takuhata-Chichihime, newly installed as the Prince's consort. Nobles and commoners from all over the country had gathered together, and, having partaken of the celebratory liquor, were eagerly awaiting the appearance of the newly betrothed pair.

After solemnly making their vows to the gods of heaven and earth, performing the ritual exchange of the sacred liquor, and duly fulfilling all the other rites, the Prince and his consort now turned to address the gathered throng.
Suddenly, loud cheering and cries of "Yorotoshi, Yorotoshi!" ("Long live the Prince!") rang out like peals of thunder, mixed with the reverberating sounds of the Satsusatsu song. The crowd continued to swell and flow like the tide washing up on the shore.

Some time before the Princess was installed as the Prince's consort, Haya-Akitsuhime had made an amagatsu doll. With this, she rode ahead of their palanquin, acting as a vanguard to ward off calamities.
Actually, this amagatsu doll was something that puzzled Shihogama, one of the nobles in attendance. So he asked the Lord Kasuga what it meant.

This was Kasuga's reply.
"In days long gone by, Ama-no-Masuhito, governor of the mid-northern provinces, rose up in arms against the central authority. At the same time, rebellious gangs called "Hatare" caused insurrection in six parts of the country, and started to oppress the people.
"The Lord Amateru, after purifying himself in the rapids of the Hayakawa River, then commenced battle with the Hatare in accordance with the laws for vanquishing rebels, after arming the nobles with the necessary weapons.
"Among the Hatare there was one band, the Kantsuharuna, that was particularly adept in the use of sorcery. Their plan was to trap Amateru by counting the number of breaths he took. But he already knew of this plan before setting off to engage them in battle. To counter their sorcery, he invited a three-year-old child to join him in his palanquin, and hid him under the sleeves of his garment.
"The child's breathing, now mingled with Amateru's own, became confused and agitated. The Hatare could not solve this mystery and began to doubt their own sorcery. In the end, they were unable to count Amateru's breaths and the trick failed.
"Then Amateru received the divine wisdom of the wondrous spirit that rules the world, and refined his battle strategy anew after successfully counting the breaths of the Hatare. He wrote a song on an inscription tablet, attached it to a rice dumpling, and hurled it at the enemy.
"The song was called the Satsusatsu Song, so called because it started and ended with 'sa'. It went like this:
Sasura de mo   hatare mo hanage
mitsu tarazu   kakan nasu ga mo
tedate tsuki   kare non den mo
a ni kikazu   hitsuki to ware wa
awa mo terasu sa
"As the people all sang this divine song together, the Hatare, on hearing it, lost their occult powers, were easily rounded up and captured, and peace returned to the land.
"In this way, the Satsusatsu Song became part of our kagura tradition of sacred dance and music, thereafter to be enjoyed by all.

"When the fighting was over, the child was sent to the court and brought before the Lord Amateru. The boy, frightened by the sovereign's appearance, tried to run away as fast as his unformed arms and legs would take him.
"Seeing this, Amateru smiled and praised him, saying: 'Child, your skill in child-like crawling makes you superior to all the other lords and nobles. You will henceforth be a talisman to protect my heir Oshihomimi and his consort.' So saying, he bestowed the name Kami-Amagatsu on the child.

"This was the origin of the amagatsu doll that Princess Akitsu, mindful of the Satsusatsu Song, made from cloth and presented to Princess Chichi, as a talisman that would protect her from defilement and calamity.
"If she were to bear another's jealousy, the doll would come to her rescue. If anyone bore her a grudge, the doll would protect her from its power. Murderous resentment would be absorbed by the doll's body in place of its owner.
"Also, when you wish to exorcise demons or spirits, you should collect them up in an empty cloth doll (hauko), stretch out a sacred straw festoon, and perform a rite of purification. This is the divine instrument for binding evil deities. "Empty hauko dolls should be made by taking the soft straw of new shoots from the rice stubble left after the autumn harvest, and covering it with cloth. But amagatsu dolls can be made from cloth alone.
"They should be made with Princess Akitsu's Kan-Amagatsu Song deeply ingrained in your heart."
Amagatsu ni   kami tamawareba
moro hatare   sawari nasu tomo
kimi ga mi ni   hitotabi kawari
tachimachi ni   tachi hatarakite
kimi ga oye   mina manukaruru
amagatsu no kami.
Shihogama now had another question. "Do they always work?", he asked.
"No, that is not so", replied Kasuga. "If they are simply made at random, they will be the same as dead wood. They must be imbued with the spirit. Take salt, for example. If you use it without measuring the amount, it will lose its original flavour. However hard you try to scoop up the tide and make table salt, it cannot be called salt unless it fulfils the role of salt. This amagatsu is blessed with the power of the gods because it is made with sincerity of meaning."

Now Shihogama and all the other nobles who had listened to Kasuga's speech were full of praise, saying they wished to commemorate the profound sanctity of Princess Haya-Akitsu and the tradition that had grown up around her. And they all joined voices in singing the Satsusatsu Song.

This is the origin of the amagatsu doll that acts as a talisman during the ceremony of marriage, warding off defilement and calamity.

(from the 12th aya of the Hotsuma-Tsutae)

- END -

Hotsuma-Tsutae (National Archives, Tokyo)
Hotsuma-Tsutae (period translation by Waniko Yasutoshi, ca. 1779)

Copyright 2001 (c) Hotsumatsutae Japan All Rights Reserved.
This site is operated and maintained by the Japan Translation Center, Ltd.
The contents of this site may be freely reproduced or published, but may not be used for sale or any other directly commercial purpose.Anyone wishing to reproduce or publish the contents of this site should first contact