The Food Goddess in Japanese mythology may be referred to by few different names: Ukemochi-no-kami, Ogetsu-no-hime, Ōgetsuhime or Toyouke-hime-no-kami. The myth associated with her, about the appearance on Earth of all basic foods available to the Japanese, also has two slightly different versions depending on their source (Kojiki or Nihonshoki). Either way, her death was not a waste.
In the first version of the myth Susano arrives at Ogetsu-no-hime’s palace (it happened before his banishment) and tells her to feed him. Ogetsu-no-hime wanting to entertain Susano, started to pull out of her nose, mouth and anus various foods and treat Susano with them. Unfortunately, Susano took it as an insult and killed her. After Ogetsu-no-hime’s death, from her body grew various grainss: millet from the ears, rice from eyes, and wheat (or barley) from her genitals. In addition, from her nose grew red beans, and from anus – soybeans.
According to the second version of the myth presented in Nihonshoki, the Tsukiyomi (not Susano) killed Ogetsu-no-hime (called in this book Ukemochi), and then went to Amaterasu to admit to his offense. Shocked Amaterasu scolded him for his behavior and promised that she would never look at him again. The event was the reason why the sun and the moon do not appear together in the sky. It is also believed that this version of the myth is older, and later Tsukiyomi was replaced by Susano to show the violent nature of Susano. In this version of the myth from the Ogetsu-no-hime’s body grew not only grains and beans but also horses, cattle and silkworms.
What is more, in other mythologies one can find similar stories explaining the origins of the crops.
In China, the body of the Pan Gu giant gives rise to not only food, but also the basic materials used by humans. It is argued, however, that the Japanese version of the myth is older than the Chinese one. Additionally, in Indonesia it was believed that it was the body of the goddess Hainuwele that, after killing her and burying the remains, formed their native plants. Myths of this kind, called by Adolf Jensen “Hainuwele”, may have been created to explain the rise of agriculture.
- Littleton C. Scott – Japanese Mythology
- Matsumae Takeshi – Early Kami Worship in „The Cambridge History of Japan – Ancient Japan”, Cambridge University Press