Japanese mythology is highly conected to Shinto and Buddhist religion. So before I start writing about the mythology itself and myths let me explain the differences between shinto and Buddhism. I looked up it a little bit on wikipedia and google to be correct.
Buddhism is a religion that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on teachings attributed to the Buddha. The origins of buddhism in Japan relate to Asuka period 6th to 8th century. Between these periods was Buddhism accepted by most of nations in Asia, thanks to Buddhism was Asia cultural united, unlike the European countries in the same time period.
Shinto also called 神の道-kami no michi. Shinto religion focuses on ritual practices. Shinto ritual practice were firstly described in the historical records 712 – Kojiki (records of old things;some sources says 711) and 720 – Nihon Shoki (japanese records). But there is a one problem with Kojiki and Nihon Shoki because both of these records often presents different and contradictory rituals. At the other hand both of these records starts with Myth of creation Japan and life.
In Japanese mythology exist creatures called kami (“gods”or “spirits”) they can be anything from a force of nature to people with high spiritual power (for example emperor). Kami creatures aren’t just good or bad. In the Shinto world exists all sorts and types of kami gods, every each one with different personality. Kami can be also translated as God or Gods to a different language, although this name isn’t quite right, because kami isn’t just a name only for the highest ones like in other religions (Christanity, Islam…-GOD, greek mythology – olympians gods), but for all higher and lover gods, nature forces, intelligence, dead ancestor or even for living people. Also, some people can become in their life a mediator through which kami can speak instead of becoming kami themselves.
types of kami:
- Cosmical myths kami – mythological story of creation of Japanese isles and emperor’s family
- Kami of nature forces – it is all that causes enthusiastic, astonishment, uncertainty or fear
- Kami transformed/possessed in objects – the objects what are possessed by evil kami are usually sealed to disallow kami’s mischief
- Ujikami – kami dedicatted to family clan who worships him
- People who became kami after their death – usually tragic one and their life was also filled with suffering
- People who became kami meanwhile they life – emperor or the person lived an austere life
Myth about the creation of Japan
With the creation of the first two kami comes big reverse because with their creation is the beginning of counting generations and also it creates the concept of time.
Izanagi and Izanami, siblings who created Japan, met on the floating bridge of skies with nowhere to stay because beneath them was only a mud. To help them fulfill their destiny by creating a land they were given Amenonuhoko decorated with jewels.(amenonuhoko -Niganata is similar to spear with the difference of the top, on to niganata has a blade) They took the spear and stir the mud beneath them. Successfully they create the first island so they can descend down on the island. Izanagi and Izanami fell in love. To get married, they build a palace with a pillar in the center. To be married they had to go around the pillar both of them from different sides and met at the end. When they met met Izanami has spoken to greet her husband Izanagi. But a woman should not speak first so as a consequence of this bond their first progeny looked like a leech and so was Ebisu born and second children created from this bond was Awashima an island reminiscent a mist . Then Izanagi and Izanami repeated mating ritual once more, but this time Izanagi has spoken first. And from this succesfull bond the eight great japanese islands were born: Awaji, Shikoku, Kyushu, Iki, Tushima, Sao, Honshu.
Izanami died when she was giving a birth to a kami of fire, who burned her. In anger and grief Izanagi killed his child Kagutsuchi for causing her death. He cut his body in eight pieces, which became eight volcanoes, the blood that dripped off sword created sea god Watatsumi and god of rain Kuraokami. Izanagi went to seek Izanami and make her to return. He found her hidden in shadows and beg her to come back with him, and she agreed, but he musnt’t look at her. But eventually he looked and saw his once beautiful wife now looking like a corpse, the flash of her ravaged body was rotting and was overrun with maggots and foul creatures. He lost his control to fear and started to run. Izanami was ashamed of her husband seeing her in such a stage and she sent shikome to bring Izanagi back (Shikome – ugly woman of the underworld). Izanagi escaped and he pushed a boulder to the entrance to underworld Yomi. Izanami screamed at him at him from the other side and told him, if he left her, she will destroy 1 000 people every day. And he furiously replied that he would give birth to 1 500 people each day.
And so began the existence of life and death.