Since the seventeenth century, Japanese legend has spoken of the namazu (鯰) or ōnamazu (大鯰), a giant catfish living in the mud of the depths of the earth, on whose spine Japan rests. Previously, it was believed to be a dragon.
The namazu is very turbulent and its sudden movements tend to cause earthquakes which Japan suffers.
The god Takemikazuchi (武甕槌) or god Kashima (鹿島神, Kashima no kami) is the only one who can hold it in place with his stake, and by immobilizing its head under the stone kaname-ishi (要石, literally "keystone", "keystone").
But sometimes the god relaxes his attention and the namazu takes advantage of this to run away and cause new earthquakes.
Following the three great earthquakes of the Ansei era in 1854 and 1855, namazu was often represented in ukiyo-e (prints) called namazu-e.
In addition to the god Takemikazuchi, it is then regularly accompanied by the god Daikoku (大黒天, Daikokuten) distributing wealth to victims.
Strangely, catfish seem to be particularly sensitive to the warning signs of an earthquake, sometimes up to 24 hours in advance.
Namazu In popular culture
- Pokémon Barbicha is inspired by namazu (hence its Japanese name Namazun). Like it, it is a catfish, has a scar on its forehead, and masters seismic attacks.
- In League of Legends, the character Tahm Kench could be inspired by this legend.
- In Yo-Kai Watch the boss of the pond of Mount Sylvester, Carpitaine, seems to be inspired by namazu.
- In Final Fantasy XIV, the Stormblood expansion introduces the Namazu tribe.
- In Dragon Ball GT, an enemy called Zunama is a giant catfish who claims to cause earthquakes by waving his whiskers. His name is an anagram of namazu.