Japanese Mythology- Amaterasu Omikami

Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865). Amaterasu Emerges from the Light.

Amaterasu Omikami is the sun goddess in Japanese tales and legends. She was born to two of the youngest and fairest gods of the High Plains of Heaven- Izanagi and Izanami.

They were filled with joy to have a beautiful daughter whose skin gleamed and shone with splendid lustre such that wherever she went, she filled the darkest air with "light and brilliance."-from the book of Japanese Tales and Legends by Helen & William McAlpine.

Amaterasu had two siblings: a Moon god whose light was described as "mellow and pale" named Tsukiyomi; and also the storm deity named Susanoo.

One day in a drunken rampage, Susanoo...

"...trampled Amaterasu Omikami's rice fields, filled all of her irrigation ditches and threw excrement into her palace and her shrines. The Omikami asked her brother to stop but he ignored her and even went so far as to throw the corpse of a skinned horse at her hand-maidens who were weaving at the time. The women were killed by the splintered wood from the looms piercing their bodies (in the Kojiki i.e. The Records of Ancient Matters it was their reproductive organs that were pierced)." -via wikipedia.com.

Upset and angered by his actions, she shut herself in a cave.

Without light from Amaterasu, all of Earth's rice and crops began to wither and die in darkness.

Other Kami (gods) devised a plan to lure her out.

They prepared and set up a large mirror outside her cave across the entrance and began making lots of noise...

" ...Ame-no-Uzume, the voluptuous goddess of merriment turned over a wash-tub and began a sensual dance, tapping the beat on the tub. She exposed her breasts and lifted her skirts as she danced. All of the gods made a great noise of yelling and cheering and laughing. Amaterasu peeked out to see what the noise was about. She asked the nearest god what was going on and he replied that there was a new goddess. When Amaterasu asked where she was, he pointed to the mirror.

The Omikami had never seen herself before and when she caught her reflection, she stared at the radiance of her own form. She was so surprised she said "omo-shiroi", which means both "white face", which the Omikami had, and "fascinating". When she was out of the way, Tajikara-O shut the rock behind her. Having lured her out of the cave, the gods convinced her to go back into the Celestial Plain and all lif
e began to grow again and become strong in her light."-via wikipedia.com.

In order to protect herself from future rampages by Susanoo, Amaterasu constantly armed herself with a bow and quiver by her side.

The Japanese imperial family is believed to be the decendents of Amaterasu and Shintoism (translated:way of Gods) is the indigenous religion in Japan.

Image credit to Bigberto via Flickr.

Above: The Ise Shrine, erected 1st century C.E., Mie Prefecture, Japan, ritually rebuilt of cypress wood some 60 times since, last rebuilt in 1993.

The Ise Shrine is dedicated to Amaterasu and is known as the shrine of the imperial family and nation.

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