Japanese Mythology: Izanami and Izanagi, The Birth Of Japan.

October 31, 2019 Kyle

Japanese Mythology, Izanami and Izanagi.

Japans oldest mythical tale from the “Kojiki” on how Japan was created.

CONTENTS:

  • How Japan Was Created.
  • What the Kojiki Is.
  • The Tale of Izanami and Izanagi.
  • Who are the Kami?
  • Listen To The Podcast On This Story.
  • Cultural References.

ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WAS NOTHING…

Well, ok that might be an exaggeration. There had to be something! Or else this story would be pretty short! Today the story I will share with you is one of the oldest mythical tales on how Japan was created! The tale of Izanami and Izanagi. Describing the birth of Japan! So how old is this story?
  • Izanami – Meaning, She who invites. 
  • Izanagi – Meaning, He who invites.

JAPANESE HISTORY BEGINS WITH FOLKTALES!

Yes, that’s right! Fairy tales are not only for Disney! We, adults, have an excuse to utilize our imagination again! The actual history of Japan begins in a written scroll called the Kojiki. (古事記) 

Kojiki, meaning “Records of Ancient Matters.” It is the oldest known written history of Japan, created in the early 8th century (711–712). The Empress at the time named Empress Genmei decided it was important to collect all the myths, legends, songs, and such… Beginning from 641.

OH MY “KAMI!” (神)

The story of Izanami and Izanagi begins right near the beginning of the Kojiki following the explanation of the Kami, meaning “God.” In Japanese culture especially within the Shinto practice. There are MANY gods. For example god of the sea, wind, mountains… And so on. All working together to maintain the earth and energy around us.

ONE FINAL NOTE.

Before this story was officially written down, it had gone through many storytellers and various translations. Resulting in varied details depending on where you look. Regardless of which version you hear you will still get all the details you need. For more details on this story, check out our PODCAST linked Below.
THE STORY OF IZANAMI AND IZANAGI.
Read the outline, or listen to the podcast for full details.

LISTEN TO THE STORY ON OUR PODCAST EP#72.

For more details, or if you prefer not to read.

IN THE BEGINNING

The Kami had created the building blocks of our world. Time, energy, matter, and such… Basically, all the ingredients that make up our world. Now it was time for a lower level Kami to manage the human world. Who better to run the human world than humans themselves!? This is where Izanami and Izanagi come into the story… The Kami gave birth to one man Izanagi and one woman Izanami in Takamagahara, the High Plain of Heaven. They were tasked with a big job, take a look at this job description, feel qualified?
  • Create all the islands of Japan.
  • Give birth to all the Gods to run the islands. 
  • Bonus points – Create the land of the dead.
  • *Some overtime may be required… Possibly weekend shifts.

HOW TO CREATE A WORLD?

If all you had been given was a single heavenly spear named Ama no Nuboko” The Jewelled Spear” and a chaotic ocean. How would you create a series of islands? Confused…  Yup, me too. Izanagi confused looked over to Izanami, “Any Ideas?” They decided after some thought to stab this spear into the chaotic ocean of earth and stir it up a bit. Upon lifting the spear back up to the heavens a drip of water fell off the tip down to earth. Within its splash created the first island of Japan. Izanami and Izanagi soon after went down to begin their mission and set up a home base.

WHERE DO BABIES COME FROM?

An age-old question, for an age-old story! Not quite familiar with biology yet. To begin creating children it was decided the best way about this was to meet at a special pillar on the island and take things from there. Here is the sequence of events.
  • Meet at the front of the pillar.
  • Circle the pillar from opposing directions until they meet again.
  • Sounds romantic…
Once they met on the opposite side of the pillar, Izanami spoke first.
“How wonderful it is to meet such an honorable man.”
Izanagi then responded.
“How splendid it is to fall in love with such a wonderful woman.”
Shortly after this, the firstborn “Hiruko” was born.

OOPS… LEECH CHILD!

After the disappointing birth of a broken baby named Hiruko. Considered a Leech Child, born without any bones, abilities, or potential for growth. Literally just a leech-like form of a human. They did what any loving parents would do. They built a boat and sent Hiruko off into the ocean. HARSH! I’m just sticking to the story I was told, sorry Hiruko! Confused at what went wrong they tried again with the same result!

THEN A BIRD FLEW DOWN SOME WISDOM…

Yup, you read that right. Next comes a wise bird suggesting next time they circle the pillar. Izanagi the man needs to speak first. If the women speak’s first then it will cause problems… Makes sense? Again just sticking to the story. Still not sold on a talking bird. Izanami and Izanagi returned to heaven to consult with the KAMI for further advice. The Kami confirmed, the man must speak first and you will have no issues from there.

THE BIRTH OF JAPAN

Now that the problem had been solved, after returning to earth Izanami and Izanagi created all the islands of Japan such as. Awaji, Shikoku, Oki Kyushu, Tsushima, and Honshu the greatest of them all.
Declaring the lands as Oyashimakumi, meaning the Land of Eight Great Islands. Following this, Izanami created the remaining smaller islands of Japan. With so much new land the trees, winds, mountains, rivers, and all other elements were quickly becoming too much to handle for both of them. It was decided to give birth to more than 800 new lower level KAMI to manage the elements within each land.

YOU MAY FEEL A BURNING SENSATION WHEN…

Eventually, Izanami experienced one birth that changed everything! The birth of Kagu-Tsuchi, the Kami of fire! During delivery, Izanami was nearly burnt alive. This devastated Izanagi. After trying everything to rescue his beloved wife, she soon passed. With her last reserve of energy, she somehow ended up birthing 4 more Kami of water. Helping to calm the fire god’s power. Izanagi then buried Izanami at the top of Mt. Hiba, near modern-day Yasugi of Shimane PrefectureAs Izanagi cried his tears containing great sadness this world had yet to see. within the energy of his tears sprouted a giant boulder and apparently another beautiful woman. But Izanagi would have none of this. He wanted Izanami back whatever it took!

A WHOLE NEW WORLD. THE LAND OF “YOMI”

In order to separate life and death. Yomi was created, the land of the dead. At this point, Yomi was an open door anyone willing to travel millions of miles and fight the beasts along the way are more than welcome. Yomi was now where Izanami was trapped for eternity. Izanagi, fueled by his rage and sadness lifted his mighty sword Totsuka-no-Tsurugi “ten-grasp sword” and struck the boulder created by his tears. He then found his son Kagu-tsuchi, the god of fire and sliced his head clean off. His blood splashed across all islands of Japan. Spawning eight new Kami of skillful swordsmen to help protect the lands. Izanagi now began his journey MILLIONS of miles down the stairs to Yomi determined to bring back Izanami. Fighting all the beasts along the way.

ARE WE THERE YET!? IM HUNGRY!

Once Izanagi reached Yomi he encountered a great big castle. Upon entering this dark castle he lit a torch to light his way. Not only did this torchlight his way, but it also illuminated his beloved wife Izanami. Sitting all alone on a small bench across the room looking empty and distant. Izanagi called out to Izanami.
“My dearest love, I have come here to rescue you from this dark land so we can complete our mission on earth.”
Izanami replied “I am sorry, you are too late! I have already eaten the food of Yomi. Due to this, I am unable to leave this place.”
Apparently, once you eat the food of Yomi you are stuck for eternity. Who’s making these rules?
Izanagi would not accept this he demanded her to go speak with the rulers and ask to leave. Izanami agreed and told Izanagi to wait for her patiently. As once leaving this room she will transform into the hag of the dead and does not want to be seen.

EWWW GROSS!

An hour later, Izanagi grew impatient. Deciding to wander the halls in search of Izanami against her wishes. Upon finding Izanami, Izanagi was shocked at what he saw. His wife Rotting, covered in maggots and dripping off pieces of flesh that were spawning small thunder KAMI. Noticing this shocking response, Izanami grew terribly embarrassed and angry. As a result, she sent the lightning god Yakusa no ikazuchi and the horrible hag Yomotsu-shikome to chase him out of Yomi.

HAIR ACCESSORIES TO THE RESCUE

Realizing there is no way to outrun this old lady Yomotsu-Shikome. Izanagi was forced to use his head. Well not quite. He used an accessory he had in his hair made from a vine. After throwing this vine towards his chaser it quickly sprouted fresh juicy grapes. The hag immediately stopped to gobble up all the grapes.

SECOND COURSE

Next Izanagi decided to toss his trusty hair comb towards the hag. This comb sprouted out BAMBOO! Yet again, the hag stopped to snack. At this point, Izanami grew upset and yelled out.
“YOU USELESS OLD WOMEN!” Then she decided to chase after Izanagi herself.

TIME FOR DESSERT

Izanagi nearly escaping, somehow decided he had time to quickly harvest a peach tree. Upon the harvest, the Kami chasing after him had caught up. Izanagi then threw a peach at his enemies causing them to scream and run away… I happen to like peaches but to each their own. Izanami not scared of peaches and quickly caught up to Izanagi. After quickly declaring divorce this enraged Izanami even further. Frightened now Izanagi mustered the strength to pick up a massive boulder and block the entrance to Yomi. Forever separating the land of the dead from the land of the living. Izanami scratched at the rock trying to dig her way out, but it was no use. She gave up and screamed out. “I will never forgive you! I will kill 1000 people from your world every day!”
Izanagi then replied. “Then I will create 1500 new people every day.”

TIME FOR A SHOWER

After running millions of miles, battling demons, divorce, and harvesting peaches within the land of the dead. It was about time to purify and get cleaned up! Izanagi performed a specific purification ritual called Harai. This same ritual is performed today at Shinto shrines in Japanese religion. Throughout this process not only did Izanagi bathe, he apparently gave birth to the sun goddess, Amaterasu, from his left eye, the moon god, Tsukiyomi, from his right eye, and the storm god, Susanoo, from his nose.
Izanagi is now known as the Kami of the living,
Izanami is now renamed to Yomotsu-o-kami, Goddess of the Dead.

AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER. KIND OF… MAYBE?

STORY IN CULTURE

VISIT THE ENTRANCE TO YOMI.

Yomotsu Hirasaka, the entrance to the underworld is said to be located near the Iya shrine in Matsue. Several large boulders are in the area, no one knows exactly which one was rolled over to block the entrance. Also, the Iya Shrine in the area contains a slope nearby that is said to lead to the underworld’s entrance.

IZANAMIS GRAVE

Izanami’s grave is said to be on the top of Mt. Hiba, in the Hakuta area of Yasugi City. Kume Shrine, at the base of the mountain, also enshrines Izanami.

PURIFICATION RITUAL HARAE

Harae, performed at all shrines you will visit in Japan. Is based on the ritual Izanagi went through to clean himself after escaping Yomi. Based on the Shinto practice.

IZANAGI’S SHRINE

Izanagi Jingu located in the Hyogo Prefecture within Japan. Is where he spent the rest of his time after completing his task of creating Japan. The spiritual benefits of this location are the following. Longevity, warding off bad luck, and matchmaking.

TAGATAISHA

This location in the Shiga prefecture of Japan is a place to worship Izanagi and Izanami. The Spiritual Benefits of this location are the following. Matchmaking, longevity,  and warding off bad luck.

THE TOWN OF AMANOHASHIDATE

Amanohashidate north of Kyoto roughly translates as a ladder to the heavens.  This ladder was used by Izanagi to travel between heaven and earth. The story goes, one day Izanagi fell asleep on earth and failed to return to heaven before night causing the ladder to fall to the groundbreaking the link between heaven and earth forever. The impact from the ladder falling created the massive Amanohashidate sand bar. Funny Izanagi is responsible for breaking the connection to the land of the dead, and the heavens.

TSUMAKIRISHIMAJINJYA

This shrine located in the Miyazaki prefecture worships Izanagi and enshrines the divine rock made from his tears along with his mighty sword Totsuka no Tsurugi. This shrine also contains a staircase made from a demon one night to access Yomi. If you make a wish while walking the stairs without looking back apparently it may just come true…

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