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Namazu, the gigantic wels catfish considered a god of earthquakes in Japanese tradition

According to the legend, a huge wels catfish called Namazu is the cause of earthquakes according to Japanese tradition.

The god of earthquakes in the Japanese worldview was a huge fish called Namazu. His legend has gone around the world and explains why, from time to time, the Earth shakes violently causing unpredictable earthquakes.

Nature is beautiful, but at the same time, its dynamics can be disastrous for human logic. This is why, since ancient times, men have sought explanations to make sense of events that surpass them in understanding, such as the huge rabbit that seems to be printed on the moon or even to make sense of death itself. But one of the most shocking natural phenomena that can be experienced are earthquakes, which were explained by the Japanese thanks to this huge wels catfish called Namazu, who was considered the god of earthquakes, this is his legend.

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A huge wels catfish

According to traditional Japanese legend, Namazu was a huge wels, a species of freshwater fish commonly known as wels catfish, which inhabits the depths of the world. The gigantic fish belongs to the so-called yokai or Japanese mythological monsters that are associated with various natural disasters. However, beyond trying to explain a natural phenomenon, the story of Namazu teaches balance and how what could be seen as a misfortune, is a restoration of harmony.

Japanese legend has it that Namazu has uncontrollable strength and a bad temper, so he doesn’t like to be ordered around and doesn’t like to be dominated. But such a great force must have a caretaker, and the deity, Kami Kashima, is in charge of appeasing his brusque movements. Kashima holds a huge rock called Kaname-ishi, with which he prevents Namazu from moving.

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But there are times when Kami Kashima must fulfill his other duties, and then he cannot press the rock against Namazu. It is at these times that the gigantic silurium violently shakes and squirms, causing the earthquakes, but then Kashima returns to appease it and imprisons it again with Kaname-ishi.

Restoration of equilibrium

During the 1855 earthquake in Edo, which is known as the city of Tokyo, the impetuous event was seen as Namazu’s punishment for human greed. It was because of this that the ancient Japanese were forced to distribute their wealth equally, as an apprenticeship for Namazu’s deeds. In that sense, these natural events are not seen as evil, but as a restoration of balance.

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After the Edo earthquake, about 300 woodblock prints known as ukiyo-e were published in which the giant silurio can be seen being seized by Kami Kashima or by different men representing the Kaname-ishi stone.

Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera

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