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 is the Shinto god of war, and divine protector of Japanmarker and the Japanese people. The name means God of Eight Banners, referring to the eight heavenly banners that signaled the birth of the divine Emperor Ōjin. His symbolic animal and messenger is the dove.

Since ancient times Hachiman was worshipped by peasants as the god of agriculture and by fishermen who hoped he would fill their nets with much fish. In the Shinto religion, he became identified by legend as the Emperor Ōjin, son of Empress Consort Jingū, from the 3rd - 4th century AD. However, after the arrival of Buddhism in Japan, Hachiman became a syncretistic deity, a harmonization of the native Shinto religion with Buddhism. In the Buddhist pantheon in 8th century AD he became Hachiman Daibosatsu (八幡大菩薩).

Hachiman also came to be noted as the guardian of the Minamoto clan of samurai. Minamoto no Yoshiie, upon coming of age at Iwashimizu Shrinemarker in Kyoto, took the name Hachiman Taro Yoshiie and through his military prowess and virtue as a leader, became regarded and respected as the ideal samurai through the ages. After his descendant Minamoto no Yoritomo became shogun and established the Kamakura shogunate, he moved Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gūmarker in Kamakura, Japan from Zaimokuza to its present location, and started there the reverence of Hachiman as the guardian of his clan.

Throughout the Japanese medieval period, the worship of Hachiman spread throughout Japan among not only samurai, but also the peasantry. So much so was his popularity that presently there are over 30,000 shrines in Japan dedicated to Hachiman, the second most numerous after shrines dedicated to Inari. Usa Shrine in Usamarker, Oita prefecturemarker is head shrine of all of these shrines and together with Iwashimizu Hachiman-gūmarker, Hakozaki-gūmarker and Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gūmarker, are noted as the most important of all the shrines dedicated to Hachiman.

The crest of Hachiman is in the design of a mitsudomoe, a round whirlpool or vortex with three heads swirling right or left. Many samurai clans used this crest as their own, ironically including some that traced their ancestry back to the mortal enemy of the Minamoto, the Taira of the Emperor Kammu line (Kammu Heishi).

Cultural references

  • Hachiman Domaru set is a set of armor Samurai's can equip at Lv 70 in the online game Final Fantasy XI

Further reading

See also


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