Japanese God

Hoderi

Hoderi is the Japanese kami of the sea, whose magical fish hook gave him power over all the ocean’s bounty. Jealous of his younger brother Hoori, he treated him cruelly, but eventually became his brother’s servant.

By Gregory WrightLast updated on Nov. 19th, 2021
  • Why did Hoderi treat his brother cruelly?

    Hoderi was jealous that his brother could hunt in all weather, while he could only fish when the seas were calm.

  • How did Hoderi become his brother Hoori’s servant?

    Hoori was given two jewels that raised and lowered the tide, and he used them to trap his brother and make him bargain for his life.

Hoderi is the kami (a type of Shinto god or spirit) of the sea and fishermen. Although he once had power over all the fish in the sea through his magic fish hook, a popular legend recounts how Hoderi’s cruelty and his jealousy of his brother Hoori, a master hunter, proved to be Hoderi’s undoing.

Etymology

Hoderi is the short-form of Hoderi-no-Mikoto (火照命), which means “The Great God Hoderi.” Hoderi is said to mean “fire skirt” in archaic Japanese. He has many other names, including Umisachi-hiko (海佐知毘古/海幸彦) or “Skillful Fisher,” and Ho-no-Suseri-no-Mikoto (火酢芹命) (or Ho-no-Susori-no-Mikoto, 火闌降命), which are variations on Hoderi-no-Mikoto.

Attributes

Hoderi was first and foremost a master fisher, unmatched because of his magic fish hook, which his own jealousy caused him to lose. Before that, he could catch any fish while he was at sea, but this gift left him at the mercy of the elements. This flaw to his magic hook, a gift from his father, left Hoderi quite jealous of his kind younger brother Hoori, who could hunt in any weather. Hoderi’s terrible jealousy manifested in cruelty toward his brother, which came back to haunt Hoderi and his descendants.

Hoderi is said to be the ancestor of the Hayato people who lived in southern Kyushu. Though they resisted the rule of the Yamato clan, the Yamato nonetheless became the Imperial family, at which point the Hayato people moved to central Japan.

Family

Hoderi is the son of Ninigi-no-Mikoto, who established civilization throughout Japan; and Konohanasakuya-hime, the Blossom Princess. Most stories describe Hoderi as the eldest of three triplet brothers: Hoderi, Hoori, and Hosuseri. Hoderi is known as the ancestor of the Hayato people of Kyushu and the uncle of the First Emperor, Jimmu.

Family Tree

  • Parents
    father
    mother
    • Konohanasakuya
  • Siblings
    brothers
    • Hoori
    • Hosuseri

Mythology

Hoderi’s tale is found in various classical Japanese texts, including the Kojiki and Nihon Shiki.

The Tale of Hoderi and Hoori

Thereupon his elder brother [Hoderi] asked him for the fish-hook, saying: ‘A mountain-luck is a luck of its own, and a sea-luck is a luck of its own. Let each of us now restore [to the other] his luck.’
-Kojiki, trans. Basil Hall Chamberlain

As Ninigi-no-Mikoto began courting Princess Konohanasakuya, she announced she was with child. He publicly stated the child could not be his and was instead the child of an earth kami. Outraged, the princess declared she would undergo trial by fire to prove she’d been faithful to Ninigi. Locking herself in the maternity house, she set it aflame, and soon it became engulfed in fire. Hoderi was the first to emerge, followed by his siblings. The children and their mother survived, proving the Princess had been true.

In time, Hoderi and Hoori received divine gifts from their father. Hoderi received a magic fish hook, giving him mastery of fishing and the bounty of the sea. Hoori received a bow that would always hit its quarry. Both brothers loved their gifts dearly, but Hoderi noticed a flaw with his own: if the weather was bad, he could not fish. Meanwhile, in rain or shine his brother could hunt, and not only the creatures of the forest but the fish of streams, lakes, and seas. Hoderi was furious and demanded that, as the eldest, he be given the better gift. Hoori dutifully traded gifts with his brother.

Hoori proved a poor fisher, and one day while trying to fish, he lost the fish hook. Hoderi, in the meantime, had proven a poor hunter, the bow always missing its mark. When the two next met, Hoderi insisted they switch back. Hoori sheepishly told Hoderi he had lost the hook. In a fit of rage, Hoderi took his brother’s beloved sword and broke it into pieces.

To make amends, Hoori used the shards of his sword to make five hundred fish hooks, but this only infuriated Hoderi further. The eldest brother threatened his younger brother, saying that if Hoori didn’t find the magic fish hook, Hoderi would kill him. Hoori left at once, determined to find it.

When he next saw his brother, Hoderi fulfilled his promise and tried to kill him. Little did he know that not only had Hoori found the fish hook with the help of his father-in-law, the Dragon kami of the Sea, but he had been given two magical jewels. With one hand Hoori raised one jewel, and the tide rose suddenly, engulfing Hoderi. Unable to resist the power of the tide, Hoderi begged his brother for mercy, lest he surely drown. Hoori agreed, on the condition that Hoderi promise that he and his descendants would serve Hoori and his descendants for all eternity. More scared of death than servitude, Hoderi agreed, and Hoori raised the second jewel, which washed away the tide and left Hoderi alive.

Since that day, Hoderi has served Hoori.

Pop Culture

Hoderi appears rarely in popular culture, although his tale is often retold. One of the few references to Hoderi outside mythology and folklore is a limited express train by JR Kyushu Railway Company called Umisachi Yamasachi, referencing other names for the two brothers.

More in Japanese Gods
Benzaiten, Japanese Goddess of the Flows (3:2)
Japanese Goddess

Benzaiten

Japanese goddess of luck and wisdom, kami of all that flows, from water to time.

By Gregory Wright
Ame-no-Uzume, Japanese Goddess of the Dawn (3:2)
Japanese Goddess

Ame-no-Uzume

Japanese goddess of the dawn, who saved the world from eternal night.

By Gregory Wright
Raijin, Japanese God of Thunder (3:2)
Japanese God

Raijin

Chaotic but popular Japanese god of thunder, lightning, and storms.

By Gregory Wright
Fujin, Japanese God of the Wind (3:2)
Japanese God

Fujin

Japanese god of the wind, frighteningly powerful and neither good nor evil.

By Gregory Wright
Ebisu, Japanese God of Fisherman (3:2)
Japanese God

Ebisu

Smiling Japanese god of luck, wealth, and prosperity, patron of fishermen.

By Gregory Wright
Susanoo, Japanese God of Storms (3:2)
Japanese God

Susanoo

Tempestuous Japanese god of seas and storms and slayer of dragons.

By Gregory Wright
Amaterasu, Japanese Goddess of the Sun (3:2)
Japanese Goddess

Amaterasu

Japanese sun goddess, the queen of heaven, kami, and creation itself.

By Gregory Wright
Izanagi, Japanese God of Creation (3:2)
Japanese God

Izanagi

One of Japanese mythology’s divine creators, father of the islands of Japan.

By Gregory Wright