So last time I mentioned that Kaguya got beamed up by some rabbits before flying back to the moon. That wasn’t an exaggeration, Japanese mythology does in fact have rabbits that live on the moon. In fact, there are both rabbits and people similar to Kaguya up there as well, typically referred to as Celestials. But the question is… what caused the Japanese to think there were rabbits up there?
Well, actually, it wasn’t just the Japanese. Most of Asia thought there was at least one rabbit up on the moon. The moon has a synchronous rotation around the Earth, meaning that it will always keep the same face towards Earth (with some variance). As a result, every night they would see…
Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
…a giant rabbit with a mortar. What’s in that mortar depends on the mythology you subscribe to but in Japan, it’s either hammering rice into paste or, more interestingly, making the elixir of immorality that Kaguya drank at the end of her story.
So what else have rabbits been doing in Japanese mythology? Another popular story in Japan is the White Rabbit of Inaba. As it turns out, there was a white rabbit that needed to get over into Inaba but between it and its destination was an entire ocean of full of hungry, ravenous wanizame.
The wanizame were horrific monsters that lives in the sea, endlessly hungry and countless in number. They were something like sharks except with the hard, outer shell of a crocodile. Yes, they were in fact Croco-Sharks. Undaunted by this challenge, the rabbit decided to get tricky about the matter and convinced the wanizame that whoever was the longest one was also the mightiest. After bickering about who was the longest, the rabbit suggested that they all line in a row so she could judge them.
As it just so happened, they made a straight line to Inaba that the rabbit could use as a bridge. Running across the backs of the wanizame, the rabbit got so full of herself that when she got to the very end of the bridge, she hopped off the last wanizame and proudly exclaimed that she had managed to deceive every last one of them. Furious, the closest wanizame lunged forward, biting at the rabbit, but only managing to grab hold of her fur. With its immense strength, it tore the skin right off the rabbit, leaving her a bloody and sore mess.
Limping through Inaba, naked and in immense pain, the rabbit eventually found a man named Okuninushi and his eight brothers. Asking them what she should do, the quarreling eight brothers managed to agree that she should bathe in the sea water and dry herself off in the wind. She did so and suffered greatly. However, Okuninushi wisely told her to wash off in a fresh water stream before rolling in the pollen of the cattails. The rabbit did so and as a result, she was both healed and no longer naked.
For his generosity and concern, the rabbit revealed herself to be a great spirit and gave him her blessing. He wound up being able to marry the princess of the land and living happily and rich while his brothers faded into obscurity. Lucky him that The Hare of Inaba just so happened to be passing by the day.