Gods are absent (kami no rusu)


Gods are absent (kami no rusu)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Early Winter
***** Category: Season


The tenth lunar month (now November), after the harvest when the Japanese gods had done their duty, they left their local shrines for a bit of a vacation. They would all go for an audience and to celebrate at the great shrine of Izumo, so the rest of Japan was "without gods".

There are various kigo related to this important event.

"gods-absent month", 10th lunar month,
kannazuki, kaminazuki 神無月 かんなづき

"gods-present month", month with the gods
kamiarizuki 神有月
This kigo could only be used in IZUMO itself, where the gods were present.

the gods are absent, kami no rusu 神の留守
the gods are travelling, kami no tabi 神の旅

saying good bye to the gods, sending off the gods
..... kami okuri 神送り

welcoming the gods, greeting the gods
..... kami mukae 神迎
This kigo could only be used in IZUMO itself, where the gods were arriving.

During this month, various taboos were observed all over Japan, after all, the protective deities were all away ! And in Izumo, they would be feasting and celebrating with the boss, so to speak. Okuni-Nushi no Mikoto (ookuninushi) 大国主命 was the most important deity, revered at the grand shrine of Izumo, Izumo Taisha 出雲大社.
Okuni-Nushi is also known as the god of happiness and marriage. In this respect, he is equivalent to the Buddhist Deity of Daikoku-Sama 大黒、大国.

The shrine compound is most serene, settled in a forest of old pines. Close by is Hino Misaki 日の岬, with a view to the sacred island where the god stood when he fished for the Japanese Islands in the sea, as the legend goes.

I visited the area a while ago and the strong impression of the actual presence of the deities is still with me.

Gabi Greve


Izumo Kaido, The Old Road of Izumo 出雲街道
Gabi Greve

The Asian Lunar Calendar. Reference


. Izumo taisha 出雲大社 Grand Shrine at Izumo .

The great shrine at Izumo, where the Gods are celebrating

Click on the PHOTO to look at more !

External LINKs
Shimane and its Important Shrines

Great Shrine at Izumo, Izumo Oyashiro
Japanese Homepage 日本語

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

Koya San in Wakayama 高野山 和歌山県
By Gabi Greve

See the Haiku below.


Grand Shrine at Izumo

"Since ancient times, there have been records of Izumo Taisha once having been housed in a 45-meter-high building, but those records couldn't be substantiated," commented the information guide at the hall. "But then in 2000, enormous pillars were discovered that could have supported a structure of that height.
That would have made it taller even than Todaiji, the temple housing the giant Buddha in Nara."

Read an interesting article:
Izumo : Here be the land of the gods


kaze samushi yabure-shooji no kannazuki

cold wind
through our torn paper doors
in the month without gods

. Yamazaki Sokan 山崎宗鑑 Yamazaki Sookan .
1465 - 1553


さをしかや 神の留守事 寝て遊ぶ
saoshika ya kami no rusu koto nete asobu

young buck--
while the gods are away
sleeping and carousing

Tr. David Lanoue

Haiga by Nakamura Sakuo

kyoo kara wa kusuri kiku beshi kami mukae

from today on
may my medicine work!
welcoming the gods

Tr. David Lanoue

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 Issa in Edo .


ranto no torii ya ge ni mo kannazuki

passing the torii gate
made of grave stones
Month without Gods


Another Haiku stone I found on Mt Koya.
This one is difficult to explain. The general meaning is: although there are torii gates (a symbol of Shinto shrines) in front of the graves, they have been built of grave stones, and on top of that, Mt Koya is the territory of the Buddha, there are no Japanese native deities here. And that beautifully fits the fact that the author, Kikaku, makes his visit to the mountain in October, the month which was called Kannazuki, or the Month without Gods. In short, this haiku is a crafty play on words.

From a great BLOG about Haiku Stones:
Copyright Ad G. Blankestijn, 2006. All rights reserved


month without gods
only this brilliant moon
and I

kawazu - Cliff T. Roberts
Fort Worth, Texas. USA, November 2011

Related words

I left the capital
and shared many nights on the road
with the gods

Matsuo Basho at Shrine Numazu Hie Jinja

***** . Sannoo matsuri 山王祭 (さんのうまつり) Sanno Festival .
Hiyoshi matsuri 日吉祭(ひよしまつり) Hiyoshi shrine festival
sarumatsuri 申祭(さるまつり)monkey festival
with the haiku by Matsuo Basho



Anonymous said...

How timely, Gabi san!
I was reading earlier this evening, a tanka written by Monk Noin (988 - 1050), that refers to Izumo:

kannazuki/nezame ni kikeba/ yamazato no/ arashi no koe wa/ ko no ha narikeri

In the Godless Month
I wake at night and listen
to what gives voice
to a storm on this hillside . . .
the sound of falling leaves

translated by Steven D. Carter
Says Dr. Carter:

"The Godless Month is an "ancient name for the tenth month of the lunar calendar; derived from an ancient belief that the gods left their normal shrines during that period to gather at Izumo, site of an ancient shrine dedicated to the diety, Okuninushi."

Thanks as always for your sharing of Japanese culture.

robert wilson


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Gabi san
for the pictures and sharing the spirit of the place.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for this information, it is facinating. Imagine a form of worship where the gods get the month off to vacation!

S. from America !

Anonymous said...

kami-gami no rusu sentaku ya kyoomo ame

trying to do my laundry
while the gods are away...
another day of rain

Issa, tr. David G. Lanoue

A note says:

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa is playing with the idiomatic
expression, oni no inain ma no sentaku ("laundering while the devil's away" => "when the cat's away, the mice will play"). Issa
substitutes "the gods" for "the devil."


rusu no ma ni aretaru kami no ochiba kana

the gods gone
everything desolate among
the dead leaves

Basho (Tr. David Barnhill)

Barnhill says of this haiku:

"This hokku has been read symbolically to reflect Basho's long absence from Edo and his disciples there."


Zendera ni matsuno ochiba ya kannazuki

In the Zen temple,
Pine needles are falling;
The god-less month.

Bonchoo, tr. Blyth


entei no ikari ni waga no kami midare

in the fire god's
anger my hair gets
all tangled up

Yasushi Ueno, tr. Higginson, from "Haiku World" under "Summer--the Season"

Compiled by Larry Bole


Anonymous said...

black kites reeling
reeling in the sky...
the gods depart

tobi hyoro-hyooro kami no o-tachigena


by Issa, 1815

According to Shinto belief, in Tenth Month all of Japan's gods vacate their shrines to congregate at the Izumo-Taisha Shrine. The "black kite" in the scene (tobi) is a bird, not the paper kind. R. H. Blyth believes that the phrase, hyoro-hyooro ("staggeringly," "reelingly"), is an onomatopoeic representation of the birds' cry, which resembles the "piercing, melancholy sound" of ceremonial flutes; A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.382. For this reason, he doesn't translate it (1.381).

The ending gena is the equivalent of rashii or yooda in modern Japanese; it denotes a presumption or estimation. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 567. Therefore, a more literal but wordy translation of the final phrase would be: "the gods are departing, it seems."

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

The verse above is the hokku of a famous renku composed by Issa and Ippyō (Ippyō was the priest of Hongyōji, a temple located near Nippori in Edo.

From Scot Hislop's commentary to the han-kasen:


the kite p-peeps, p-p-peeps
the gods too,
seem to be getting ready to depart

Tobi, or kite, is raptor that lives in cities and by the sea and feeds mostly on small dead animals. It was also slang for those without steady jobs and for dilettantes and gamblers. Perhaps Issa is referring to himself.

The kigo (seasonal word) is kami no tabidachi which refers to the 10th month when the gods travel to Izumo. This hokku does not have a formal kireji (cutting word) in it but there is a natural pause after “ひよろひひよろ” which has been “translated” as a line-break here.

Maruyama (in Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa to sono shūhen, Tokyo: Kashinsha, 2000) writes that the kites can be seen as providing the music for the gods who are getting ready to travel and that the “nursery tale style of expression and the colloquial style of the last phrase are interesting.”

Norman Darlington

Ella Wagemakers said...

stormclouds ...
a curtain of rain
hides the gods

thunder ...
yet I do not hear
the gods

in the sky
nameless gods
but then
the strong earth
the straight tree

Gabi Greve said...

ko-zaru domo kami no o-rusu o kuruu kana

these little monkeys -
while the gods are absent
they run around like crazy

Kobayashi Issa

Monkeys - WKD

Gabi Greve - WKD said...

. Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規 visiting shrines and temples

sasoi-au massha no kami ya tabi detachi

the gods of the subordinate shrines
are inviting each other -
time for travelling


Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho and

- rusu 留守 nobody at home -

Gabi Greve - WKD said...

kamidana mo butsudan mo naku kami no rusu

no altar for the gods
and no Buddhist family altar -
the gods are absent

Yamauchi Yuushi 山内遊糸 (born 1925)

about kamidana