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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Speak of an eight headed snake in Izumo


AGRICULTURE

AND INDUSTRY

It appears that when the Yamato immigrants reached Japan, the coast lands were overgrown with reeds and the greater part of the island was covered with primeval forests. Fabulous accounts are given of monster trees. Thus, in the Tsukushi Fudoki we read of an oak in Chikugo which towered to a height of 9700 feet, its branches shading the peaks of Hizen in the morning and the mountains of Higo in the evening. The Konjaku Monogatari tells of another oak with a stem measuring 3000 feet in circumference and casting its shadow over Tamba at dawn and on Ise at sunset. In the Fudoki of other provinces reference is made to forest giants in Harima, Bungo, Hitachi, etc., and when full allowance has been made for the exaggerations of tradition, there remains enough to indicate that the aboriginal inhabitants did not attempt any work of reclamation.

Over regions measuring scores of miles perpetual darkness reigned, and large districts were often submerged by the overflow of rivers. There is no mention, however, of a deluge, and Professor Chamberlain has called attention to the remarkable fact that a so-called "Altaic myth" finds no place in the traditions of "the oldest of the undoubtedly Altaic nations."

The annals are eloquent in their accounts of the peopling of the forests by wild and fierce animals and the infesting of the vallies by noxious reptiles. The Nihongi, several

of the Fudoki, the Konjaku Monogatari, etc., speak of an eight-headed snake in Izumo, of a horned serpent in Hitachi, and of big snakes in Yamato, Mimasaka, Bungo, and other provinces; while the Nihon Bummei Shiryaku tells of wolves, bears, monkeys, monster centipedes, whales, etc., in Harima, Hida, Izumo, Oki, Tajima, and Kaga. In some cases these gigantic serpents were probably bandit chiefs transfigured into reptiles by tradition, but of the broad fact that the country was, for the most part, in a state of natural wilderness there can be little doubt.

Under the sway of the Yamato, however, a great change was gradually effected. Frequent allusions are made to the encouragement of agriculture and even its direct pursuit by the Kami. The Sun goddess is represented as having obtained seeds of the five cereals from the female Kami, Ukemochi,* and as having appointed a village chief to superintend their culture. She had three regions of her own specially devoted to rice growing, and her unruly brother, Susanoo, had a similar number, but the latter proved barren. The same goddess inaugurated sericulture, and entrusted the care of it to a princess, who caused mulberry trees to be planted and was able to present silk fabrics to Amaterasu. In the reign of Jimmu, hemp is said to have been cultivated, and Susanoo, after his reformation, became the guardian of forests, one of his functions being to fix the uses of the various trees, as pine and hinoki (ground-cypress) for house building, maki (podocarpus Chinensis) for coffin making, and camphor-wood for constructing boats. He also planted various kinds of fruit-trees. Thenceforth successive sovereigns encouraged agriculture, so that the face of the country was materially changed.


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