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Namazu: Mythical Creature Overview and History

Namazu is a mythical creature in Japanese folklore that has captured the imagination of people for centuries. This giant catfish is believed to live deep under the earth and is responsible for causing earthquakes and tsunamis by thrashing its tail. Namazu is also known as Onamazu, and its legend has been passed down from generation to generation through art, literature, and oral tradition.

According to Japanese mythology, Namazu is guarded by the god Takemikazuchi, who restrains the catfish with a stone. The creature is said to live under the islands of Japan and is believed to be a helper of the poor. In the traditional legend, Kashima, the god responsible for controlling Namazu, would hold the catfish in place with a giant stone. Namazu is a fascinating creature that has played an important role in Japanese culture and history, and its legend continues to captivate people today.

Defining Namazu

Origin of the Name

Namazu is a mythical creature from Japanese folklore that is also known as Onamazu. The name Namazu comes from the Japanese word for catfish, and the creature is often depicted as a giant catfish that lives beneath the earth’s surface. According to legend, Namazu is responsible for causing earthquakes and tsunamis when it thrashes its tail.

Physical Characteristics

Namazu is typically depicted as a large, whiskered catfish with a long, muscular body. Its size varies depending on the story, but it is often portrayed as being large enough to cause earthquakes. Namazu is also sometimes depicted with human-like features, such as arms and legs. Some legends describe Namazu as having the ability to talk and communicate with humans.

Cultural Significance

Namazu has been an important figure in Japanese folklore for centuries and has played a significant role in shaping Japanese culture and mythology. The creature is often used as a metaphor for natural disasters and the destructive power of nature. Namazu has also been featured in various works of art and literature throughout Japanese history, including paintings, sculptures, and plays.

Overall, Namazu is a fascinating and complex creature that has captured the imagination of people in Japan for generations. Its role in Japanese folklore and culture is a testament to the enduring power of myth and legend.

Namazu in Japanese Mythology

The Earthshaker Legend

Namazu is a giant catfish in Japanese mythology that was believed to live deep under the earth. According to the Earthshaker legend, Namazu was responsible for causing earthquakes by thrashing around in the mud. The legend states that the god Kashima was responsible for controlling Namazu by holding him in place with a giant stone. However, when Kashima was not paying attention, Namazu would wiggle free and cause earthquakes.

Connections to Other Myths

Namazu is also connected to the myth of Ebisu, one of the seven lucky gods in Japanese mythology. In this myth, Ebisu falls asleep while guarding the stone that keeps Namazu in place. When Kajima, who is supposed to relieve Ebisu, returns late on horseback, Namazu wiggles free and causes an earthquake. Additionally, Namazu is often depicted in artwork and literature alongside other Japanese mythical creatures such as dragons, foxes, and kappa.

Moral Lessons

The story of Namazu and the Earthshaker legend has several moral lessons. One lesson is the importance of responsibility, as Kashima is responsible for controlling Namazu and preventing him from causing earthquakes. Another lesson is the importance of punctuality, as Kajima’s tardiness led to Namazu’s escape and the resulting earthquake. The legend also emphasizes the power of nature and the importance of respecting it.

Historical References

Namazu, the giant catfish of Japanese mythology, has been a popular subject of ancient texts, artistic depictions, and modern interpretations. Here are some historical references that shed light on the creature’s origins and significance.

Ancient Texts

The earliest known reference to Namazu can be found in the Nihon Shoki, a chronicle of Japanese history and mythology compiled in the 8th century. According to the text, Namazu is a giant catfish that lives in the mud beneath the islands of Japan and causes earthquakes when it thrashes its tail. The text also mentions a god named Kashima who is said to have subdued Namazu and prevented it from causing further damage.

Another ancient text that mentions Namazu is the Wamyō Ruijushō, a Japanese dictionary compiled in the 10th century. The dictionary describes Namazu as a fish that lives in the mud and causes earthquakes by moving its body.

Artistic Depictions

Namazu has been a popular subject of Japanese art since the 15th century. The creature is often depicted as a giant catfish with a human face, thrashing its tail in the water. In some depictions, Namazu is shown causing chaos and destruction, while in others it is shown being restrained by the god Kashima.

Namazu has also been depicted in kabuki theater, where it is portrayed as a mischievous creature that causes earthquakes for its own amusement.

Modern Interpretations

In modern times, Namazu has taken on new meanings and interpretations. Some see the creature as a symbol of Japan’s vulnerability to natural disasters, while others see it as a representation of the destructive power of nature.

Namazu has also been used in popular culture, appearing in video games, comic books, and movies. In these depictions, Namazu is often portrayed as a powerful and dangerous creature that must be defeated by the hero.

Overall, Namazu remains a fascinating and enduring part of Japanese mythology and culture, inspiring artists and storytellers for centuries.

Namazu’s Influence on Culture

Festivals and Celebrations

Namazu has been a significant figure in Japanese culture for centuries. The catfish is often associated with earthquakes, and as such, it has been revered as a powerful deity that must be appeased. One of the most prominent festivals dedicated to Namazu is the Kashima Gatalympics, which takes place every year in the city of Kashima. The festival features a variety of games and events that are meant to honor the deity and prevent earthquakes from occurring.

Literature and Folklore

Namazu has been a popular subject in Japanese literature and folklore for centuries. The catfish is often depicted as a powerful and dangerous creature that has the ability to cause earthquakes. In many stories, Namazu is portrayed as a villain that must be defeated by a hero or a group of heroes. Some of the most famous stories featuring Namazu include the legend of Kashima and the story of Namazu and Takemikazuchi.

Media and Entertainment

Namazu has also made appearances in various forms of media and entertainment. The catfish has been featured in numerous anime and manga series, as well as video games and movies. In many of these depictions, Namazu is portrayed as a powerful and fearsome creature that must be defeated by the heroes of the story. Some of the most popular anime and manga series featuring Namazu include Naruto, One Piece, and Fairy Tail.

Overall, Namazu has had a significant impact on Japanese culture and continues to be an important figure in the country’s mythology and folklore. Whether it’s through festivals, literature, or entertainment, Namazu remains a powerful symbol of Japan’s unique cultural heritage.

Scientific Perspective

Seismological Theories

Namazu, the giant underground catfish, has been a popular character in Japanese mythology for centuries. According to seismological theories, the myth of Namazu is based on the real phenomenon of earthquakes, which are common in Japan due to its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Scientists believe that the myth of Namazu was created as a way to explain the occurrence of earthquakes in Japan.

In recent years, seismologists have conducted studies to understand the causes of earthquakes and their relationship with the myth of Namazu. According to these studies, earthquakes are caused by the movement of tectonic plates beneath the earth’s surface. When two plates collide or slide past each other, it creates a sudden release of energy that causes the ground to shake. The myth of Namazu, in which the giant catfish thrashes its tail and causes earthquakes, is believed to be a metaphor for this process.

Myth vs. Reality

While the myth of Namazu is based on the reality of earthquakes, there are many aspects of the myth that are purely fictional. For example, the idea that a giant catfish lives beneath the earth’s surface and causes earthquakes is not scientifically accurate. However, the myth of Namazu has served an important cultural purpose in Japan, helping people to understand and cope with the reality of earthquakes.

In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the myth of Namazu, particularly in the wake of major earthquakes in Japan. Some scientists believe that the myth of Namazu can be used as a tool to educate the public about the science of earthquakes and the importance of earthquake preparedness. By understanding the causes of earthquakes and the reality of seismic activity, people can take steps to protect themselves and their communities in the event of a major earthquake.

Namazu in Popular Culture

Film and Television

Namazu has made appearances in various Japanese films and television shows, often portrayed as a giant catfish responsible for causing earthquakes. In the 1966 film “Daikaiju Gamera vs. Gyaos,” Namazu is referenced as the creature responsible for causing an earthquake that awakens Gamera. In the anime series “Naruto,” Namazu is mentioned as a creature that can cause earthquakes and is summoned by the character Gamabunta.

Video Games

Namazu has also appeared in various video games, including “Okami,” “Final Fantasy XIV,” and “Monster Hunter: World.” In “Okami,” Namazu is portrayed as a helpful character who can provide the player with useful items. In “Final Fantasy XIV,” Namazu is a playable race and a prominent character in the game’s storyline. In “Monster Hunter: World,” Namazu appears as a creature that can be hunted for rewards.


Namazu has also been featured in various forms of merchandise, including plush toys, keychains, and t-shirts. Many of these items feature Namazu’s distinctive appearance, including its large size and whiskers. Some items also feature Namazu’s association with earthquakes, such as t-shirts with the phrase “Namazu Shook My World.” Overall, Namazu has become a popular figure in Japanese popular culture, and its unique appearance and association with earthquakes continue to make it a popular subject for merchandise and media.