|This article is about a piece of terminology in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.|
Oyashiro-sama (オヤシロさま) is the guardian deity of Hinamizawa and is the central focus of many of the series' mysteries.
It is unclear how Oyashiro-sama's name is truly spelled, as he has been given various titles that have changed over time. One theory posits that Oyashiro-sama's name came from "yashiro" or "shrine", suggesting that the Furude Shrine itself was the object of worship. Attaching the "O" character thus means Oyashiro-sama's name is "lord honorable shrine."
The name may also mean "honorable eighth generation." Oyashiro-sama contains the character "ya", meaning "eight", and "shiro", meaning "generation." The Furude family long believed that if a firstborn daughter is born for eight generations in a row, then that eighth generation will be Oyashiro-sama's reincarnation.
In the distant past, Hinamizawa used to be known as Onigafuchi Village and was located next to a swamp that was said to lead to Hell. One day, demons emerged from the swamp and terrorized the villagers. The villagers were too weak to fight back, and they didn't want to leave the village because it was their home and were too attached. When all seemed hopeless, Oyashiro-sama descended from heaven, and the demons immediately prostrated themselves before his radiance. The god mediated between the two groups and peacefully asked the demons to return to Hell, however they were exiled and couldn't go anywhere else. Feeling pity for the demons, the villagers decided to coexist with them. The demons became overjoyed and in exchange shared many secrets and power with the villagers. Oyashiro-sama then gave the demons human forms and oversaw the two races as they began to intermix, producing half-human half-demon offspring. As time passed, the humans and demons became virtually indistinguishable from one another and started calling themselves "transcendents", believing they were superior to other humans. As such, other human villages praised them and were afraid of them.
- Main article: Watanagashi Festival
The demons were originally man-eating demons and had periods of uncontrollable hunger, which wound up passed down to their half-human offspring. The demons were unable to feast on fellow villagers, and so Oyashiro-sama permitted them to go down to regular human villages and kidnap people from them, a phenomenon that would come to be known as "demoning away." The nights of demoning away would come to be called Watanagashi.
Despite Oyashiro-sama's origin as a kindhearted, benevolent god, the villagers believed he would become angry and curse them if any of them left Onigafuchi or if outsiders came to the village. If he weren't appeased, then his wrath would manifest as the destruction of the village through miasma erupting from the swamp.
Present Day Beliefs
Research would suggest that many of the Onigafuchi legends were based on the premise that the villagers were descended from demons and were influenced by recent incidents. Miyo Takano theorized that the rumor of Hinamizawans being cannibals was inspired by a dismembered corpse being discovered in Onigafuchi sometime in the Meiji Era. This corpse was brutalized and missing limbs in a fashion that matched the customs of the old Watanagashi Festival. She also theorized that Oyashiro-sama may have actually been a foreign doctor, who became revered as a god after treating a deadly illness suffered by Onigafuchi's inhabitants. Modern day historians believe this to be an exaggerated form of homesickness.
As time passed, belief in Oyashiro-sama fell thin, but it was revived shortly after the dam war began. The villagers of Hinamizawa wanted the dam to stop construction at once and believed that Oyashiro-sama's wrath would fall upon them were the village to be destroyed. The dam construction foreman was finally murdered one night, putting at end to the project. The villagers saw it as Oyashiro-sama's doing, and the phenomenon known as "Oyashiro-sama's curse" began.
Several people have had very spiritual experiences with Oyashiro-sama, as it was said that those cursed by him would start hearing extra footsteps. Rena Ryuugu, a resident of Hinamizawa, started believing that she was being cursed when her family moved to Ibaraki. She claimed that Oyashiro-sama would watch over her when she slept and possessed her at school, making her destroy windows and attack people. Meakashi shows that Satoshi Houjou, shortly before his disappearance, also claimed to be watched by Oyashiro-sama and heard extra footsteps.
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Demons really did come to Onigafuchi long ago, and Oyashiro-sama was originally a being known as Hanyuu, a member of said demons. She spoke with the head of the Furude family on behalf of her people to coexist with the villagers, and they were soon accepted. The demons took human form and mixed with the villagers, with Hanyuu herself producing a half-human child, Ouka. The villagers worshiped Hanyuu as Oyashiro-sama.
When violent arguments began to arise amongst the villagers because they were unable to tell who was human and who was demon, Hanyuu offered to cease their fights by masquerading as a demon lord. Hanyuu went to the swamp and was later discovered by the human villagers, who blamed her for all of their troubles. Hanyuu was then sacrificed by her own daughter Ouka, and the humans and demons let go of their hatred and suspicion for each other, unaware that Oyashiro-sama and the demon lord were one and the same.
Although Hanyuu died, she remained in an incorporeal form but was unable to directly communicate with others. It wasn't until Rika Furude was born as the firstborn daughter of the eighth generation that Hanyuu could finally interact with another human.
It is possible that many cases of people hearing extra footsteps or feeling watched are caused by them being patients of Hinamizawa Syndrome.