Objects Sacred to or Revered in Shintō

Latest revision April 10, 2017

 

The Three Imperial Regalia (三種の神器)

Swords

The Three Imperial Regalia ("Sanshu no Jingi," 三種の神器) also referred to in English as the Three Divine Treasures

The three divine treasures are a mirror, a string of comma shaped jewels (“magatama”), and a sword. In the standard mythology they were given by Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, to her grandson, Ninigi, prior to his descent to Earth to pacify Japan. This is a symbolic representation of the Yamato Dynasty consolidating power in Japan, and the three treasures are central to the dynasty's spiritual legitimacy. They have been lost and found, and are shrouded in mystery. The spiritual locus of the dynasty is the Ise Grand Shine, its home page describes the regalia thus:-

“The three sacred imperial treasures consist of the sacred mirror called Yata-no-Kagami 八咫鏡, the sacred sword called Ame-no-murakumo-no-Tsurugi and the sacred jewel called Yasakani-no-Magatama 八尺瓊勾玉. According to Shintō thought, the mirror as reflecting everything properly is a symbol for "Honesty," the sword for "Braveness," and the jewel for "Affection." Now, the sacred mirror is enshrined as the august symbol of Amaterasu Ōmikami at Ise Jingū, while the sacred sword is enshrined as the august symbol for kami at Atsuta Jingū of Nagoya City, and the sacred jewel Yasakani-no-Magatama is preserved in the Imperial Palace.”

The three treasures are shielded from public view. As part of the coronation ritual of new emperors they are taken from  their sacred resting places and handed over to the new emperor, although they are shrouded. One has to assume that the emperors and chief priests of the shrines where they are kept have seen them, but it is virtually an article of faith that nobody else has seen them.  There are, however, assertions to the contrary

 

 

Swords

 

Groups

Tenka-Goken 天下五剣 "The Five Swords Under Heaven"

A group of five famous swords, considered by some to be the best five swords in Japan's history. They are the Dōjigiri, the Juzumaru, the Mikazuki, the Onimaru, and the Ōtenta.

Dōjigiri 童子切, lit: "Slayer of Shuten-dōji." A national treasure owned by the Tōkyō National Museum. Said to have been used by Minamoto Yorimitsu to kill Shuten-dōji (酒呑童子), a mythical oni (demon)

Juzumaru 数珠丸, lit: "Rosary"

Mikazuki  三日月, lit: "Crescent Moon"

Onimaru 鬼丸, lit: "Demon"

Ōdenta  大典太, lit: "Great Denta"

Named Swords

Ame-no-murakumo-no-Tsurugi, 天叢雲剣, “Sword of the Gathering Cloud of Heaven.”

One of the Three Imperial Regalia. Is was retrieved by Susanoo from the fourth tail of the Yamata no Orochi monster. Somehow it came into the possession of the founder and High Priestess of the Ise Grand shrine, Yamato-hime-no-Mikoto. She was the daughter of the eleventh Emperor, Suinin, and hence Yamato-Takeru’s aunt. Prior to his setting out on a mission to subdue the Emishi, Yamato-hime-no-Mikoto gave her nephew a package containing two items. One was the Ame-no-murakumo-no-Tsurugi and Yamato Takeru used this to save his life when he was lured onto a deserted moor and encircled by burning grass. After this the sword was known as Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi

Ame-no-ohabari, 天之尾羽張, also known as Itsu-no-ohabari, 伊都之尾羽張. The sword with which Izanami killed his son Hinoyagihaya-o-kami, the God of Fire.

Inyomaru Ōdachi sword   陰陽丸大太刀: The shrine treasure of the Atsuta Jinja in Tōkyō's Taito-ku

Ōhakari, 大量, "Great Blade Mower," also known as Kamido-no-Tsurugi, 神度剣, "Divine Keen Sabre"

The sword used by Ajishikitaka-hikone-kami (88A), to cut down the mourning house for Ama-waka-hiko in anger at being mistaken for him.

Generic Terms

Kabuchi-no-taichi 頭椎の大刀, Large mallet-headed sword.  A type of sword probably used more for decorative than  practical use. Dates to the late 6th - 7th centuries.

Kusungobu-no-tsrugi

 

9寸5分の剱: a short sword with a 29.5cm-long blade.

 

Ōdachi sword   大太刀: generic name for a large sword usually carried slung across the bank. Minimum blade length was 3 shaku, and there were usually religious inscriptions on the handle.

Tokatsu-no-tsurugi 十掬剣. "Ten scoop sword," A generic name used for the swords appearing in the Kiki.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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© Rod Lucas 2016-2019

All text and photos by Lucas unless otherwise stated