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Bronze Follis


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Bronze Follis

Japanese mythology

Yomi

Izanagi lamented the death of Izanami and undertook a journey to Yomi, or "the shadowy land of the dead". Izanagi found little difference between Yomi and the land above, except for the eternal darkness. However, this suffocating darkness was enough to make him ache for the light and life above. Quickly, he searched for Izanami and found her. At first, Izanagi could not see her at all for the shadows hid her appearance well. Nevertheless, he asked her to return with him. Izanami spat out at him, informing Izanagi that he was too late. She had already eaten the food of the underworld and was now one with the land of the dead. She could no longer return to the surface with the living.

Izanagi was shocked at this news, but he refused to give in to her wishes of being left to the dark embrace of Yomi. Izanami agreed to go back to the world above but first requested to have some time to rest and instructed Izanagi not to come into her bedroom. After a long wait, Izanami did not come out of her bedroom and Izanagi was worried. While Izanami was sleeping, he took the comb that bound his long hair and set it alight as a torch. Under the sudden burst of light, he saw the horrid form of the once beautiful and graceful Izanami. She was now a rotting form of flesh with maggots and foul creatures running over her ravaged body.

Crying out loud, Izanagi could no longer control his fear and started to run, intending to return to the living and abandon his death-ridden wife. Izanami woke up shrieking and indignant and chased after him. Wild shikome or foul women also hunted for the frightened Izanagi, instructed by Izanami to bring him back.

Izanagi, thinking quickly, hurled down his headdress which became a bunch of black grapes. The shikome fell on these but continued pursuit. Next, Izanagi threw down his comb which became a clump of bamboo shoots. Now it was Yomi's creatures that began to give chase, but Izanagi urinated against a tree, creating a great river that increased his lead. Unfortunately, they still pursued Izanagi, forcing him to hurl peaches at them. He knew this would not delay them for long, but he was nearly free, for the boundary of Yomi was now close at hand.

Izanagi burst out of the entrance and quickly pushed a boulder in the mouth of the cavern that was the entrance of Yomi. Izanami screamed from behind this impenetrable barricade and told Izanagi that if he left her she would destroy 1,000 living people every day. He furiously replied he would give life to 1,500.

And so began the existence of Death, caused by the hands of the proud Izanami, the abandoned wife of Izanagi.

Sun, moon and sea

As could be expected, Izanagi went on to purify himself after recovering from his descent to Yomi. As he undressed and removed the adornments of his body, each item he dropped to the ground formed a deity. Even more gods came into being when he went to the water to wash himself. The most important ones were created once he washed his face:

Amaterasu (incarnation of the sun) from his left eye,

Tsukuyomi (incarnation of the moon) from his right eye, and

Susanoo (incarnation of storms and ruler of the sea and storms) from his nose.

Izanagi went on to divide the world between them with Amaterasu inheriting the heavens, Tsukuyomi taking control of the night and moon and the storm god Susanoo owning the seas. In some versions of the myth, Susanoo rules not only the seas but also all elements of a storm, including snow and hail, and in rare cases even sand.

Amaterasu and Susanoo

Amaterasu, the powerful sun goddess of Japan, is the most well-known deity of Japanese mythology. Her feuding with her uncontrollable brother Susanoo, however, is equally infamous and appears in several tales. One story tells of Susanoo's wicked behavior toward Izanagi. Izanagi, tired of Susanoo's repeated complaints, banished him to Yomi. Susanoo grudgingly acquiesced, but had to attend to some unfinished business first. He went to Takamagahara ("heaven") to bid farewell to his sister, Amaterasu. Amaterasu knew her unpredictable brother did not have any good intentions in mind and prepared for battle. "For what purpose do you come here?", asked Amaterasu. "To say farewell", answered Susanoo.

But she did not believe him and requested a contest for proof of his good faith. A challenge was set as to who could bring forth more noble and divine children. Amaterasu made three women from Susanoo's sword, while Susanoo made five men from Amaterasu's ornament chain. Amaterasu claimed the title to the five men made from her belongings. Therefore, the three women were attributed to Susanoo.

Torii at Ama-no-Iwato Shrine, Takachiho, Miyazaki Prefecture

Both gods declared themselves to be victorious. Amaterasu's insistence in her claim drove Susanoo to violent campaigns that reached their climax when he hurled a half-flayed pony (an animal sacred to Amaterasu) into Amatarasu's weaving hall, causing the death of one of her attendants. Amaterasu, angered by the display, fled and hid in the cave called Iwayado. As the sun goddess disappeared into the cave, darkness covered the world.

All the gods and goddesses in their turn strove to coax Amaterasu out of the cave, but she ignored them all. Finally, the kami of merriment, Ame-no-Uzume, hatched a plan. She placed a large bronze mirror on a tree, facing Amaterasu's cave. Then, Uzume clothed herself in flowers and leaves, overturned a washtub and began to dance on it, drumming the tub with her feet. Finally, Uzume shed the leaves and flowers and danced naked. All the male gods roared with laughter, and Amaterasu became curious. When she peeked outside from her long stay in the dark, a ray of light called "dawn" escaped and Amaterasu was dazzled by the beautiful goddess she saw, this being her own reflection in the mirror. The god Ameno-Tajikarawo pulled her from the cave and it was sealed with a holy shirukume rope. Surrounded by merriment, Amaterasu's depression disappeared and she agreed to return her light to the world. Uzume was from then on known as the kami of dawn as well as mirth.

See also: Missing sun motif

Susanoo and Orochi

Susanoo, exiled from heaven, came to Izumo Province (now part of Shimane Prefecture). It was not long before he met an old man and his wife sobbing beside their daughter. The old couple explained that they originally had eight daughters who were devoured one-by-one each year by the dragon named Yamata no Orochi ("eight-forked serpent", who was said to originate from Kosiow Hokuriku region). The terrible dragon had eight heads and eight tails, stretched over eight hills and was said to have eyes as red as good wine. Kushinada-hime ("rice paddy princess") was the last of the eight daughters.

Susanoo, who knew at once of the old couple's relation to the sun goddess Amaterasu, offered his assistance in return for their beautiful daughter's hand in marriage. The parents accepted and Susanoo transformed Kushinada into a comb and hid her safely in his hair. He also ordered a large fence-like barrier built around the house, eight gates opened in the fence, eight tables placed at each gate, eight casks placed on each table, and the casks filled with eight-times brewed rice wine.

Orochi arrived there, and found his path blocked and after boasting of his prowess he found that he could not get through the barrier. His keen sense of smell took in the sakehich Orochi lovednd the eight heads had a dilemma. They wanted to drink the delicious sake that called to them, yet the fence stood in their way, blocking any method of reaching it. One head first suggested they simply smash the barrier down... but that would knock over and waste the sake making it all for naught. Another proposed they combine their fiery breath and burn the fence into ash... but then the sake would evaporate. The heads began searching for an opening and found the hatches and eager for the sake, they were keen to poke their heads through to go and drink it. Yet the eighth head, which was the wisest, warned his brethren of the folly of such a thing and volunteered to go through first to make sure all was well. Susanoo waited for his chance, letting the head drink some sake in safety and report back to the others that there was no danger. All eight heads plunged through a hatch each and greedily drank every last drop of the sake in the casks.

As the heads finished, Susanoo launched his attack on Orochi. Drunken from drinking so much sake, the great serpent was no match for the spry Susanoo who decapitated each head in turn and slew Orochi. A nearby river was said to have turned red with the blood of the defeated serpent. As Susanoo cut the dragon into pieces, he found an excellent sword from a tail of the dragon that his sword had been unable to cut. The sword was later presented to Amaterasu and named Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi (, "Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven", which was later called Kusanagi, "Grass Mower"). This sword was to feature prominently in many other tales.

Prince namuji

namuji (also known as kuninushi) was a descendant of Susanoo. He, along with his many brothers, competed for the hand of Princess Yakami of Inaba. While travelling from Izumo to Inaba to court her, the brothers met a skinned rabbit lying on a beach. Seeing this, they told the rabbit to bathe in the sea and dry in the wind at a high mountain. The rabbit believed them and thereby suffered in agony. namuji, who was lagging behind his brothers, came and saw the rabbit in pain and instructed the rabbit to bathe in fresh water and be covered with powder of the "gama" ("cattail") flower. The cured rabbit, who was in reality a deity, informed namuji it was he who would marry Princess Yakami.

The trials of namuji were many and he died twice at the hands of his jealous brothers. Each time he would be saved by his mother Kushinada-hime. Pursued by his enemies, he ventured to Susanoo's realm where he would meet the vengeful god's daughter, Suseri-hime. The crafty Susanoo would test namuji several times but in the end, Susanoo approved of the young boy and foretold his victory against his brothers.

Although the Yamato tradition attributes the creation of the Japanese islands to Izanagi and Izanami, the Izumo tradition claims namuji, along with a dwarf god called Sukunabiko, would contribute to or at least finish the creation of the islands of Japan.

Installation (1920)

Amaterasu ordered her grandson Ninigi to rule over the ground. She gave him the Three Sacred Treasures:

the magatama necklace of Yasakani no magatama (now situated in the imperial palace);

the bronze mirror of Yata no kagami (now in the Grand Shrine of Ise); and

the sword Kusanagi (a possible replica of which is now in Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya).

The first two were made to lure Amaterasu out of Amano-Iwato. The last was found in the Orochi, an eight-headed hydra. Of these three, the mirror is the token of Amaterasu. The three together constitute the Imperial Regalia of Japan.

Ninigi and his company went down to the earth and came to Himuka, there he founded his palace.

Prosperity and eternity

Ninigi met Konohanasakuya-hime (symbol of flowers), the daughter of Yamatsumi (master of mountains), and they fell in love. Ninigi asked Yamatsumi for his daughter's hand. The father was delighted and offered both of his daughters, Iwanaga (symbol of rocks) and Sakuya (symbol of flowers). But Ninigi married only Sakuya and refused Iwanaga.

"Iwanaga is blessed with eternity and Sakuya with prosperity", Yamatsumi said in regret, "by refusing Iwanaga, your life will be brief from now on". Because of this, Ninigi and his descendants became mortal.

Sakuya conceived by a night and Ninigi doubted her. To prove legitimacy of her children, Sakuya swore by her luck and took a chance; she set fire to her room when she had given birth to her three babies. By this, Ninigi knew her chastity. The names of the children were Hoderi, Hosuseri and Howori. Another figure in mythology was the tree contentor Sayuri, a maiden who can only be spotted when the wind is mild and the weather is frosty. Legends tell that she strangled unfaithful men with her long greasy hair, coal-black, with no light. She can be seen wondering in the fog or the inner tree of tranquility. Scholars say that dark beauties are often referred to as Sayuris because of their dark hair and foggy mane. Folklore states to beware a maiden with coal hair and a chalky expression, derived from her name Sa-, meaning dark, black, coal, or greasy, and yuri, meaning lady, girl or maiden. However, the name evolved into meaning early lily, or little lily, in Japanese kinji.

Ebb and flow

Hoderi lived by fishing in sea while his brother Howori lived by hunting in mountains. One day, Howori asked his brother to swap places for a day. Howori tried fishing, but he could not get a catch, and what was worse, he lost the fishhook he borrowed from his brother. Hoderi relentlessly accused his brother and did not accept his brother's apology.

While Howori was sitting on a beach, sorely perplexed, Shihotsuchi told him to ride on a ship called the Manashikatsuma and go wherever the current went. Following this advice, Howori reached the house of Watatsumi (master of seas). There he met Toyotama, Watatsumi's daughter, and married her. After three years of marriage, he remembered his brother and his fishhook, then told Watatsumi about it.

Watatsumi soon found the fishhook in the throat of a bream and handed it to Howori. Watatsumi also gave him two magical balls, Shihomitsutama, which could cause a flood, and Shihohirutama, which could cause an ebb, and sent him off, along with his bride, to land.

As Toyotama was giving birth, she asked Howori not to look at her delivery. However, Howori, filled with curiosity, peeped in, and saw her transforming into a shark at the moment his son, Ugaya, was born. Aware of this, Toyotama disappeared into sea and did not return, but she entrusted her sister Tamayori with her yearning for Howori.

Ugaya married his aunt Tamayori and had five children, including Itsuse and Yamatobiko.

Legends

First emperor

The first legendary emperor of Japan is Iwarebiko, posthumous alias Emperor Jimmu (Transition from God to Emperor). He established the throne in 660 BCE. His pedigree is summarized as follows.

Izanagi is born of his own accord.

Amaterasu is born from the left eye of Izanagi.

Oshihomimi is born from an ornament of Amaterasu.

Ninigi is a son of Osihomimi and Akizushi.

Howori is a son of Ninigi and Sakuya.

Ugaya is a son of Howori and Toyotama.

Iwarebiko is a son of Ugaya and Tamayori.

Conquest of the east (2326)

Yamato Takeru (4448)

Spelling of proper nouns

Many deities appear in Japanese mythology, and many of them have multiple aliases. Furthermore, some of their names are comparatively long. (For instance, Ninigi, or Ame-Nigishikuni-Nigishiamatsuhiko-Hikono-no-Ninigi-no-Mikoto in full, may also be abbreviated as Hikoho-no-Ninigi or Hono-Ninigi.)

In some parts of this article, proper names are written in a historical manner. In this article, underlined h, y, and w denote silent letters; they are omitted from modern spelling. Other syllables are modernized as follows (see also Japanese romanization systems). Note that some blend of these conventions is also often used.

hu is modernized as fu.

zi and di are modernized as ji. (distinction disappeared)

oo is modernized as o or oh.

For instance, various spellings of Ohonamuji include Oonamuji, Ohnamuji, and others.

k, s, t, and h can be changed to,g, z, d, and b or p by adding either two small lines (called dakuten or ten-ten) or a tiny circle (called handakuten or maru) above these Japanese characters.

Japanese characters

"S"

"T"

"K"

"H"

sa

ta

ka

ha

shi

chi

ki

hi

su

tsu

ku

hu/fu

se

te

ke

he

so

to

ko

ho

See also

Japanese folklore

Shinto

Kami

Japanese Buddhism

Okami

Notes

^ Yang, Jeff, Dina Gan and Terry Hong. Eastern Standard Time. p. 222. Metro East Publications, 1997.

^ Yang, 2005, p.222.

^ Yang, 2005, p.222.

^ Kelsey, W. Michael (1983). "Untitled", Asian Folklore Studies Vol 42, No 1, p. 1423.

^ Littleton, C. Scott, (May 1983). "Some Possible Arthurian Themes in Japanese Mythology and Folklore", Journal of Folklore Research. Vol 20, No 1, p.6781.

^ Fairchild, William (1965). "Mika: Jar Deities in Japanese Mythology", Asian Folklore Studies. Vol. 24, No 1, p. 81101.

^ Littleton, 1983, p. 72.

^ Fairchild, 1965, p. 94.

^ Metevelis, Peter (1983). "A Reference Guide to the Nihonshoki Myths", Asian Folklore Studies. Vol 52, No 2, p. 3838.

External links

Kojiki, Records of Ancient Matters: Yamato-Takeru Slays the Kumaso Brothers

Romance stories from old Japan, pre-1919ree to read and full text search.

Mukashibanashi Library resource including a wide variety of Japanese folktales and other folklore.

A Multilingual Electronic Text Collection of Folk Tales for Casual Users Using Off-the-Shelf Browsers

v  d  e

Japanese mythology and folklore

Mythic texts and folktales:

Kojiki | Fudoki | Nihon Shoki | Kujiki | Otogizshi | Kogo Shi | Nihon Ryiki | Konjaku Monogatarish | Urashima Tar | Kintar | Momotar | Tamamo-no-Mae | Issun-bshi | Shita-kiri Suzume | Yotsuya Kaidan

Divinities:

Izanami | Izanagi | Amaterasu | Susanoo | Tsukuyomi | Ame-no-Uzume | Inari | List of divinities | Kami | Seven Lucky Gods

Legendary creatures:

Oni | Kappa | Tengu | Tanuki | Kitsune | Ykai | Dragon | Shj | Mythology in Popular Culture

Mythical and sacred locations:

Mt. Hiei | Mt. Fuji | Izumo | Ryg-j | Takamagahara | Yomi

Religions | Sacred objects | Creatures and spirits | Japanese deities

Categories: Japanese mythologyHidden categories: Articles lacking sources from July 2007 | All articles lacking sources

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