The myths of the islands of the Seto Inland Sea 瀬戸内海の島々の神話

  • Published on : 10/05/2019
  • by : S.V.
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Mythical islands

Demons, ghosts and spirits; historic Dantesque battles; pirates and brave warriors, Japanese myths and folklore ... The Seto Inland Sea is at the heart of many legends, famous throughout the archipelago. In four chapters, Experience Japan introduces you to these extraordinary stories. To start this trip, let's explore three myths related to the islands and islets of the Seto Inland Sea.

On reading this myth, you are probably already engaging in the following questioning: where is the island of Onokoro located? On this subject, the answers differ. While some Japanese consider Onokoro Island to refer to Awaji Island, others consider it to be another, much smaller place.

Thus the great scholar Motoori Norinaga (1730 - 1801) wrote in his commentary on the Kojiki that the island of Onokoro was certainly one of the small islands close to the island of Awaji like Nushima or Tomogashima.

Today, three places claim to be the first island of the archipelago: Nushima, Eshima and the Onokorojima shrine .


Le rocher Kamitategami-iwa à Nushima



Ile d'Eshima



Sanctuaire Onokorojima jinja


This boy born in a peach was picked up as a baby by an elderly couple as the fruit flowed down the river carried by the current.

A few years later, the young boy revealed his Herculean strength by easily bringing back an entire tree as firewood.

One day, Momotaro left his parents to go and fight a horde of demons who lived on the island of Onigashima . Along the way, he encountered a dog, a monkey and a pheasant who promised to help him in his difficult quest.


Momotaro et ses trois amis. Illustration de Santō Kyōden réalisée en 1804

No need to rush over a map to look for this island of demons; it does not exist ... well not under this name in any case!

Onigashima Island is traditionally associated with Megijima Island, an island in the Seto Inland Sea north of Takamatsu Town . Although this tale has been popular since the Edo period (1603-1868) , this connection with the island of Megijima is quite recent.

It is indeed at the beginning of the twentieth century that we assimilated Megijima Island storytelling after a local researcher named Sentaro Hashimoto discovered vast artificial caves atop Mount Washigamine.


Megijima Island



On Megijima, a cave is still home to oni!


This giant-looking demon is called tearai oni, the "demon washing his hands" . It is described in the Ehon hyaku monogatari or "Book of pictures of a hundred stories", a bestiary of Japanese monsters, yokai, oni, spirits and ghosts produced in 1841 by Takehara Shunsen, a painter from Osaka.

Letearai oni lived in the former province of Sanuki (now Kagawa prefecture) .

This giant was able to span straits and ride mountains; the amplitude of his legs allowing him to cover a distance of 3 ri, or 12 km! Local stories report that Sanuki's demon would have lived in the mountain, not far from the town of Marugame . He got out whenever he wanted to wash his hands and drink in the bay.

At the summit of Mount Iinoyama between Marugame and Sakaide, rocks still bear the imprints of his hands and his enormous feet!


Tearai oni du Ehon hyakumonogatari (1841)



Le Mont Iinoyama


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