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The Earthquake Fish

Source: Japanese Fairy World

Mukashi, mukashi, (as most Japanese stories begin), long, long ago, when
the gods came down from heaven to subdue the earth for the mikados, and
civilize the country, there were a great many earthquakes, and nothing to
stop them. The world continually rocked, and men's houses and lives were
never safe.

Now the two gods who were charged with the work of subduing the
northeastern part of the world were Kashima and Katori. Having done their
work well, and quieted all the enemies of the Sun-goddess, they came to
the province of Hitachi. Kashima, sticking his sword into the earth, ran
it through to the other side, leaving the hilt above the ground. In the
course of centuries this mighty sword shrunk and turned to stone, and the
people gave it the name of Kaname ishi, (The rock of Kaname).

Now Kaname means the rivet in a fan, that holds all the sticks together,
and they gave the name "rivet-rock," because it is the rivet that binds
the earth together. No one could ever lift this rock except Kashima the
mighty one who first set it in the earth.

Yet even Kashima never raises it, except to stop an earthquake of unusual
violence. When the earth quivers, it is because the great earthquake-fish
or jishin-uwo is restless or angry. This jishin-uwo is a great
creature something like a catfish. It is about seven hundred miles long,
and holds the world on its back. Its tail is at Awomori in the north,
and the base of its head is at Kioto, so that all Japan lies on top of
it. To his mouth are attached huge twirling feelers, which are just like
the hideous moustaches which the hairy-faced men from beyond the
Tai-kai (Pacific Ocean) wear on their lips. As soon as these begin to
move, it is a sign that the monster is in wrath. When he gets angry, and
flaps his tail or bumps his head, there is an earthquake. When he
flounders about or rolls over, there is terrible destruction of life and
property on the surface of the earth above.

In order to keep the earthquake-fish quiet, the great giant Kashima is
appointed to watch him. His business is to stand near by, and when the
monster becomes violent Kashima must jump up and straddle him, and hold
his gills, put his foot on his fin; and when necessary lift up the great
rock of Kaname and hold him down with its weight. Then he becomes
perfectly quiet, and the earthquake ceases. Hence the people sing this
earthquake verse:

"No monster can move the Kaname rock
Though he tug at it never so hard,
For over it stands, resisting the shock,
The Kashima Kami on guard."

Another verse they sing as follows:

"These are things
An earthquake brings;
At nine of the bell they sickness fortell,
At five and seven betoken rain,
At four the sky is cleared thereby,
At six and eight comes wind again."

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