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Japanese mythology is full of legendary stories and folktales that are associated with the origin of this beautiful country. Japanese mythology is said to date back 2,000 years, and it is worth learning about Japanese history, tradition, and worship of gods. Legendary stories are surprisingly creative with emotional characters, and the lives of the gods are full of difficulties and challenges, just as we experience in modern times. What is Japanese mythology? How was it originally created? How is it associated with religions like Shinto and Buddhism? Here we will present an overview of Japanese mythology and some of its famous stories and deities!
What is Japanese mythology?
Basically, Japanese mythology is a collection of legendary stories and traditional folk tales that have been passed down since ancient times in Japan. The oldest Japanese mythology is found in historical documents such as Kojiki (古事記) and Nihon-shoki (日本書記), which were written in the early 8th century.
Japanese mythology was created on the basis of nature worship, which is the key to understanding the principle of Shinto. Shinto is an indigenous Japanese religion said to date back to prehistoric times. In Shinto, deities are believed to be present in everything from living things to natural phenomena. Specifically, nature such as the sun, mountains, rivers, and oceans are considered deities. This is the reason why deities involved in Japanese mythology are often worshiped at Shinto shrines throughout Japan. There are also elements of traditional Buddhist beliefs that influenced the creation of Japanese mythology.
japanese creation myth
Japanese mythology begins with the primitive story called the “Japanese Creation Myth.” This part of the story interestingly describes the birth of the universe and the first generations of Japanese deities. The following stories involve the legends of the deities that created the islands of Japan. According to some legendary stories, his descendants later became the first emperor of Japan known as “Emperor Jimmu (神武天皇).”
There are also a variety of stories about mythical creatures and animals that appear in Japanese mythology. Some of the creatures that appear in Japanese mythology are Tengu (天狗), Dragon (竜), and Kappa (河童), which are also often found in traditional Japanese folklore. These creatures do not actually exist, but have been loved as symbolic creatures in Japan for centuries.
Famous deities and stories from Japanese mythology.
Izanagi and Izanami: The divine and tragic couple
Izanagi and Izanami: The divine and tragic couple
Izanagi was part of the seventh generation of the first gods born in Takamagahara, a heavenly place where the gods live. He married his sister Izanami (イザナミ) and they became a divine couple. They were given a mission to create a world with a holy spear. From a sky bridge, Izanagi pointed the spear towards the ocean, where the first island of Japan called “Onokoro Island”, suddenly emerged from the water. They landed on the island and gave birth to the next generation of gods.
However, her first offspring, who was named Hiruko (ヒルコ), came out without limbs or bones, physically deformed. They put his son in a boat and threw it into the ocean. Unfortunately, his second son was also unsatisfactory, so he was not treated as his son.
They returned to heaven and sought the advice of the other gods. They found out that it was because Izanagi, the famous male deity, did not take the lead in her wedding ceremony. They performed the ceremony again, but this time correctly, resulting in the birth of eight islands that today make up the main islands of Japan.
Amaterasu (天生大神): The goddess of the sun
Amaterasu was the daughter of Izanagi and Izanami. She is depicted as the goddess of the sun, agriculture, and peace in Japanese mythology. She is also the ruler of heaven and is historically known as the ancestor of the Japanese Empire. family.
It is famous for the legendary story in Japanese mythology called “Amano-Iwato”. In this story, she was intrigued by the arrogant behavior of her brother known as “Susanoo” (スサノオ), the god of the sea. One day, she was upset by his selfishness, she was devastated and decided to hide from the rest of the people. world. She ran into a dark cave and blocked the entrance with a giant stone so that no one could enter.
After he disappeared, the world lost the sunlight and became completely dark. Other deities got lost and gathered in the cave to persuade her to come out, which was ultimately unsuccessful. Suddenly, one of the deities had a brilliant idea. They started a party with musical instruments and a dance show in front of the cave. The party was filled with the pleasant sounds of singing, dancing, and laughter. Out of curiosity, Amaterasu peeked out of the cave to see what was going on outside. The moment she slightly opened the entrance to the cave, one of the powerful deities pulled her out of the cave and she returned to the world with her light again.
Surprisingly, Amano-Iwato exists in real life, and anyone can visit the legendary place to experience the mystical atmosphere directly. It is located in the Takachiho area, Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu, which is best known for the beautiful scenery of the gorge. Also, if you want to visit Amaterasu, please visit the Ise Grand Shrine located in mie Prefecture!
In addition to the stories we have featured above, there are many other stories from Japanese mythology that are worth reading. Each story is not only interesting to read, but also contains significant messages from ancient times. If you are also interested in the history of Japan, check out our other articles below to understand how Japan became one of the largest countries in the world and the history of the last 2000 years.
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