Nirai Kanai

Mizuki_Shigeru_Nirai_no_Kuni

Translated from Kitaro no Tengoku to Jigoku

What the mainland of Japan called the Distant Lands (Toko no Kuni) the people of the southern islands of Okinawa referred to as Nirai Kanai.  There are still many stories remaining of this land.

Probably the most numerous legends of Nirai Kanai are explanations of how rice farming began.  Sometimes an eagle, other times a hawk or a crane, took a grain of rice from Nirai Kanai and flew back to Japan.  In other versions it is a human who visited Nirai Kanai and brought the grain of rice back.  In one of the most unusual tales, it is a whale who brings the grain of rice from Nirai Kanai.

A long time ago, in Amami (Modern day Kagoshima prefecture) in a place called Omoto beach a massive 15-meter whale came swimming up.   Now this whale was wearing a kimono, and written on its flank was “From Nirai Kanai, to the parents of Omoto beach.”

The people of Omoto beach promptly cut into the whale’s flank, and found in his stomach the grain of rice.

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