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Japanese Legends Tour

Mythology and Shrines

Shrines are places where Shinto is practiced. ‘Shinto’ Literally means ‘The way of the gods’. It is a teaching that Japanese people learned from coexisting with nature. Shinto is not a religion but a practice of revering nature and thanking her for the many blessings. The Japanese believed that Kami ‘god’ resides in all forms of nature and paid respect to it, eventually building shrines at the places where nature was deified. The notion of Kami ‘god’ was in the olden times thought of as ‘above’. Believing that nature was above human intellect. In Japan’s oldest written book, the ‘Kojiki’, there are stories told of various Kami such as creation Kami, fire kami, mountain Kami and many more stated in its pages. 

Travel to the places where the stories originated and immerse yourself in the legends of Japan

The Deities

Izanagi & Izanami

国産み

The Legend – Pt.1

The Creation of Japan

Before the formation of the world, when the land was formless the first deities (kami)came into being at Takamanohara. The kami Ame-no-minaka-nushi assigned his descendants, Izanagi (male kami) and Izanami (female kami) to bring order and structure to the muddy shapeless world, mixed within the ocean waters. The two stirred the ocean together with the spear. As they lifted the point of the spear up a drop fell from it and formed the first island named Onogoro. Izanagi and Izanami erected a large pillar on the island, they circled the pillar, Izanagi turning to the left and Izanami walked toward the right. They circled the pillar and when they met halfway, Izanami spoke out to Izanagi and gave birth to an infant ‘Hiruko’ which was not fully formed, so it was put on a raft and drifted out to sea. It is believed that Hiruko drifted towards the west seas and later on came to be known as Ebisu god of prosperity. They circled the pillar again and this time Izanagi spoke out to Izanami and consummated their union. From the second union, Izanami gave birth to many islands, from Awaji to Shikoku, Kyushu Honshu, and so forth.

The Place

Awaji Island

Awaji Island has had many connections with the Japanese Imperial Family since ancient times. The island is known as “the region of food,” as it offered numerous ingredients to the Imperial Court. From livestock to vegetables and marine products, Awaji Island is a treasure trove of gourmet food. There are also many hots prings located on Awaji island.

Access

By Car : About 1 hour and a half drive from Osaka by expressway. Approx. 100km from Osaka central.
Train + Highway : Form Hanshin Umeda Station to Awaji IC. 1,050yen / 1way (2hrs.)
Highway Bus : Form Hankyu Umeda bus terminal to Awaji IC. 1,250yen / 1way (67min.)

Spots related to Mythology

 

Enoshima

One of the Islands believed to be ‘Onogoroshima’, the first island created by Izanagi and Izanami.

Onokoroshima Jinja

The deities enshrined at Onogoroshima shrine – Izanagi no mikoto, Izanami no mikoto, Kukuruhime no mikoto.
Oracles and Amulets – Safe birth, Harmonious marriage, Matchmaking, Health & longevity.

Iwakusu Jinja

The deities enshrined at Onogoroshima shrine – Izanagi no mikoto, Izanami no mikoto, Kotoshironushi no mikoto (Hiruko).
Oracles and Amulets – Safe delivery (birth), Harmonious marriage.

This shrine is a well-known energy spot.

Local Food and products

 

黄泉の国

The Legend – Pt.2

Izanami’s death

Izanagi’s journey to Yomi-no-kuni

After Izanami gave birth to the islands, she gave birth to many Kami. It was when she gave birth to the fire Kami that she suffered a terrible burn that she did not recover from and had to journey onto Yomi-no-kuni (the world of the dead).

Her husband Izanagi was wrought with grief, and through his sorrow went into Yomino-kuni to rescue his wife. He made a promise with her that he will not look upon her until she was ready to meet him. Izanagi could not hold back his longing and turned to look at Izanami. He saw the rotten decaying corpse of his wife breeding with maggots and fled in horror. Izanami was embarrassed and angered, that she gave chase after him to the Yomotsu-hirasaka (boundary between the land of living and the dead).

After Izanagi crossed over to the world of the living, he closed the entrance of Yomi-no-kuni with a huge rock. Izami seething with anger vowed to kill 1000 humans every day, to that, Izanagi vowed to create 1,500 birth houses. With that, Izanagi cut all connection to Izanami and ended their union as husband and wife.

天岩戸

The Legend – Pt.3

Amaterasu Oomikami

The cave and the kami’s

After escaping Yomi-no-kuni within an inch of his life, Izanagi performed Misogi (cleansing of body and soul). From the clothes that he stripped off many kami were born.

When Izanagi entered the ocean to cleanse his body, again many more kami were born. Lastly, the more kami were born. One from his left eye, Amaterasu, his right eye, Tsukuyomi, and from his nose, Susanoo.

Amaterasu was assigned to rule over Takamanohara, Tsukuyomi was to rule over the night world and Susanoo was to rule over the Ocean. But Susanoo did not perform his duty, instead he cried every day longing for his mothers’ kingdom. He’s father Izanagi finally lost he’s patience and banished him from Takamanohara.

Susanoo continued his erratic behavior even when he went to bid farewell to his sister. Amaterasu was exasperated with her brothers violent behavior, and in order to avoid him, she hid in a cave called Ame-no-iwaya and blocked the entrance with a giant rock so no one could get in.

When Amaterasu went into hiding, the world fell to total darkness. The other kami were anxious and had a meeting to get Amaterasu out of the cave so the light would return to the world. One of the female kami, Ame-no-uzumi-no-mikoto, danced wildly and started stripping her clothes off, which made all the kami watch, shout and laugh out with delight.

Hearing the ruckus from outside, Amaterasu moved the stone slightly to see what was going on. Just then an extremely strong kami, Ame-no-tajikara-ono-kami* forced the rock open and dragged Amaterasu outside, returning light to the world once again.

* Ame-no-tajikara-ono-kami is the origin of the Sumo wrestlers.

スサノオ

The Legend – Pt.4

Susanoo-no-mikoto

Defeating Yamata-no-orochi

After Susanoo was banished from Takamanohara, he descended down to Izumo-nokuni (modern day Shimane prefecture). When he set foot on earth, he met an old man and woman and a young beautiful maiden sobbing inconsolably. He asked what was wrong, the old man replied, “I had many more daughters before but a monster called Yamata-no-orochi with its 8 heads and 8 tails came yearly and took my daughters to eat. Now I only have one daughter Kushinadahime left, and the monster will come to take her away tomorrow.” Susanoo thought of a way to defeat the Yamata-no-orochi, he asked the old couple to get 8 vases ready and fill them up with sake (Japanese wine).

Susanoo hid and waited patiently for the monster to come. Finally, the monster appeared and was drawn to the smell of sake. It dipped its 8 heads in each of the barrel and drank up all the sake. The Yamata-no-orochi was drunk for the sake and fell asleep. Susanoo seized the moment and leaped up from where he was hiding, drew out the sword from its sheath and sliced up the monster and killed it. Just  then, he found a sword embedded within the Yamata-no-orochi’s tail and took it out and gave it as a peace offering to his sister Amaterasu. The sword was later known to be ‘Kusanagi-no-tsurugi’, one of the 3 holy relics that has been passed down to the emperor of Japan to this day.

Susanoo also married Kushinadahime and they settled together in Suga. Susanoo wrote a song to describe his happiness in marrying Kushinadahime.