The origins of Japan

Traditional Japanese Tattooing by HORIGA

The origins of Japan

The Beginings of Japan

Going back to mythical times and drawing from the stories of the Kojiki (712 ad) and Nihon Shoki (720 ad), the oldest surviving chronicles of Japan, the first heavenly Kami were Izanagi and Izanami, who in turn created the islands of Japan and and many deities. Izanami dies while giving birth to the Fire Deity, which in turn is killed by the enraged and grieving Izanagi.

Not being able to overcome his loss, Izanagi goes to the Yomi (underworld) to get his wife back. Unfortunately he breaks his promise to wait in the Great Hall while his wife goes to ask permission from the Kami of the underworld and spies on her, lighting a tooth of his haircomb to see. When he spots his formerly beautiful Izanami in her present putrified and maggot-riddled state, he riles and flees. Enraged about his faithlessness, Izanami sends the old hag of Yomi and eight thunder kami that had been formed from the maggots to hunt down Izanagi. He manages to distract his persuers by casting away first his headdress, which turned into a bunch of grapes that the hag picked up and ate; then by throwing his comb which turn into bamboo shoots, to be eaten by the hag as well. With the eight thunder snakes and 1500 warriors of Yomi still on his trail he managed to reach the pass of Yomotsu Hirakaza, spotting a peach tree with three peaches on it. Using the peaches, a symbol of life, he ambushes and forced them back and reached the exit of Yomi. There he used a big boulder to block the entrance to the underworld, just in time as Izanami was personally trying to exact revenge on him. As they parted their way either side of the boulder, she vowed to kill a thousand people of the land every day to avenge herself. In return, Izanagi vowed to bring forth 1500 people a day, to outweigh her efforts.

Realizing that his visit to the underworld had polluted him he went to the river mouth near Tachibana in Himuka on the island of Kyushu to purify himself. Washing himself in the river, fourteen kami, some of pollution and consequently of more purity were born. Washing out his left eye, he created Amaterasu (Amaterasu-o-mikami), giving her his jewel necklace and charging her with ruling of the heavens by day. Washing out his left eye he created Tsukiyomi (Tsukiyomi-no-mikoto), making him responsible for the night. His third child, Susa-no-o was born from washing out the nose and was given responsibility over the sea.