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Ojin Tenno

by Lisa Tonecek
Ojin was the fifteenth Tenno, or emperor of Japan, the son of Emperor Chuai and Empress Jingo. According to the Nihon Shoki or Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan), he was carried in his mother's womb for the duration of her conquest of the three kindgoms of Korea. Prior to her departure she declared that if her child was to be a god, he would be born after her campaign was complete. On the day Jingo returned, she went into labor and bore a son.

At the time of his birth Ojin bore a red birthmark on his elbow in the shape of the homuda or elbow-pad designed to protect archers from recoiling bowstrings. Owing to recent military victories, this was seen as a good omen, and the child was given the childhood name Homuda-wake (literally "Elbow-pad Prince"). Both the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki state that he was a bright, cunning child who was wise beyond his years and a grand strategist. After assuming the throne following his mother's death he welcomed Korean and Chinese scholars into his court so that Nintoku, his son, might become cultured like the princes of the rest of Asia. It is believed that this is when writing first appeared in Japan. Ojin was also reputed to be a notorious drinker who slipped out of the palace to go tavern-hopping. Popular myth also states that he was born with a dragon's tail and invented a new style of robe so that he might hide it.

Following his death Ojin was deified and a shrine built to him at the site of a magnificent mound-tomb. It was several hundred years, however, before he was identified with Hachiman, the god of war. Following this association (courtesy of a priest's dream-vision) he became the patron god of archers and soldiers, who would affix small silver sword-shaped charms to their helmets as a sign of devotion to him. As Hachiman he is known as "The Bow and Arrows of the Heavens," and is one of the most popular gods in the Shinto pantheon, having half the extant shrines in Japan dedicated to him.


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