Creation Stories – Japan

In the beginning were two deities, Izanagi and Izanami. They first created land where there had been only ocean. Once land was there, they began to create deities to watch over the sea (Owatatsumi-no-Kami) and the harbors (siblings Kamihaya-akitsu-hiko watched the land, while sister Haya-akitsu-hime guarded the sea). Through marriage, eight other gods were later born.

Next came the wind deity, Kami-Shinatsuhiko-no-Mikoto, whose breath dispersed the clouds and mist, allowing some light to penetrate. The gods of trees, mountains, and planes sprung up to guard these areas.

Until this point, everything had gone well. At the birth of Kagutsuchi-no-Kami, the goddess of fire, Izanami was severely burned. Her mate, Izanagi, cared for her tenderly. However, her appetite was gone. Anything she swallowed was immediately vomited back up.

This led to the greatest miracle of all. As she vomited, the god and goddess of metals sprung forth. Other parts of her body issued the god and goddess of the earth. The final berth was the goddess Mizuhame-no-Mikoto, whereupon Izanami died. Before that time, there had been no death; her death was the first.

Her faithful spouse, Izanagi, yearned for his wife. Such was his grief at his loss that he resolved to visit the underworld and bring her back. He traveled millions of miles through steep and dangerous terrain, and overcame many obstacles before arriving in the underworld. Ahead of him was a giant castle, and he hurried forward.

The entrance to the castle was guarded by many massive demons, all keeping careful watch. Alarmed, Izanagi crept to the back of the castle. He foundan open gate and crept through.

As he got to the gate, he noticed his beautiful wife standing in an inner courtyard. He called her name, and they joyously approached each other. Grasping her hands tenderly, he begged her to return to Earth with him.

Izanami had already partaken of the furnace of Hades, and was no longer allowed to return. However, she was very touched by her husband’s devotion. She decided to appeal to all the deities in Hades as her husband waited. Before she left, she insisted that her husband promise not to look within the castle until her return, and he agreed.

As the day wore on, Izanagi continue to wait impatiently. By nightfall, he was afraid of the worst. Despite his promise, he could not help but look in the castle. In horror, he saw his dead wife lying on the floor. Her corpse was rotting and DK, and eight thunder deities had sprung forth from her remains. In terror, he dropped the torch and ran.

Izanami was angered at her husband, both for seeing her in this state and for breaking his promise. She ordered the Hags of Hades to chase him out of the underworld.

Kobayashi Eitaku, Izanagi and Izanami, c. 1885. From