Before the heavens and the earth came into existence, all was
a chaos, unimaginably limitless and without definite shape or
form. Eon followed eon: then, lo! out of this boundless,
shapeless mass something light and transparent rose up and
formed the heaven.
This was the Plain of High Heaven, in which
materialized a deity called Ame-no-Minaka-Nushi-no-Mikoto (the
Next the heavens gave birth to a deity named
High-August-Producing-Wondrous-Deity), followed by a third
called Kammi-Musubi-no-Mikoto (the
These three divine beings are called the Three Creating Deities.
In the meantime what was heavy and opaque in the void gradually
precipitated and became the earth, but it had taken an
immeasurably long time before it condensed sufficiently to form
solid ground. In its earliest stages, for millions and millions
of years, the earth may be said to have resembled oil floating,
medusa-like, upon the face of the waters.
Suddenly like the sprouting up of a reed, a pair of immortals
were born from its bosom. These were the Deity
Pleasant-Reed-Shoot-Prince-Elder-Deity) and the Deity Ame-no-Tokotachi-no-Mikoto (The
Heavenly-Eternally-Standing-Deity). . . .
Many gods were thus born in succession, and so they increased in
number, but as long as the world remained in a chaotic state,
there was nothing for them to do.
Whereupon, all the Heavenly
deities summoned the two divine beings, Izanagi and Izanami, and
bade them descend to the nebulous place, and by helping each
other, to consolidate it into terra firma.
"We bestow on you,"
they said, "this precious treasure, with which to rule the land,
the creation of which we command you to perform."
So saying they
handed them a spear called Ama-no-Nuboko, embellished with
The divine couple received respectfully and ceremoniously the
sacred weapon and then withdrew from the presence of the
Deities, ready to perform their august commission. Proceeding
forthwith to the Floating Bridge of Heaven, which lay between
the heaven and the earth, they stood awhile to gaze on that
which lay below. What they beheld was a world not yet condensed,
but looking like a sea of filmy fog floating to and fro in the
air, exhaling the while an inexpressibly fragrant odor.
They were, at first, perplexed just how and where to start, but
at length Izanagi suggested to his companion that they should
try the effect of stirring up the brine with their spear. So
saying he pushed down the jeweled shaft and found that it
touched something. Then drawing it up, he examined it and
observed that the great drops which fell from it almost
immediately coagulated into an island, which is, to this day,
the Island of Onokoro.
Delighted at the result, the two deities descended forthwith
from the Floating Bridge to reach the miraculously created
island. In this island they thenceforth dwelt and made it the
basis of their subsequent task of creating a country.
wishing to become espoused, they erected in the center oPound
the island a pillar, the Heavenly August Pillar, and built
around it a great palace called the Hall of Eight Fathoms.
Thereupon the male Deity turning to the left and the female
Deity to the right, each went round the pillar in opposite
When they again met each other on the further side of the
pillar, Izanami, the female Deity, speaking first, exclaimed:
"How delightful it is to meet so handsome a youth!"
To which Izanagi, the male Deity, replied:
"How delightful I am to have
fallen in with such a lovely maiden!"
After having spoken thus,
the male Deity said that it was not in order that woman should
anticipate man in a greeting. Nevertheless, they fell into
connubial relationship, having been instructed by two wagtails
which flew to the spot.
Presently the Goddess bore her divine consort a son, but
baby was weak and boneless as a leech. Disgusted with it, they
abandoned it on the waters, putting it in a boat made of reeds.
Their second offspring was as disappointing as the first. The
two Deities, now sorely disappointed at their failure and full
of misgivings, ascended to Heaven to inquire of the Heavenly
Deities the causes of their misfortunes.
The latter performed the ceremony of divining and said to them:
"It is the woman's fault. In turning round the Pillar, it was
not right and proper that the female Deity should in speaking
have taken precedence of the male. That is the reason."
Deities saw the truth of this divine suggestion, and made up
their minds to rectify the error. So, returning to the earth
again, they went once more around the Heavenly Pillar.
This time Izanagi spoke first saying:
"How delightful to meet so
beautiful a maiden!" "How happy I am," responded Izanami, "that
I should meet such a handsome youth!"
This process was more
appropriate and in accordance with the law of nature.
After this, all the children born to them left nothing to be
desired. First, the island of Awaji was born, next,
then, the island of Oki, followed by Kyushu; after that, the
island Tsushima came into being, and lastly,
Honshu, the main
island of Japan.
The name of Oyashi- ma-kuni (the Country of the Eight Great
Islands) was given to these eight islands.
After this, the two
Deities became the parents of numerous smaller islands destined
to surround the larger ones.
The Birth of the Deities
Having, thus, made a
country from what had formerly been no more than a mere floating
mass, the two Deities, Izanagi and Izanami,
about begetting those deities destined to preside over the land,
sea, mountains, rivers, trees, and herbs. Their first-born
proved to be the sea-god, Owatatsumi-no-Kami.
Next they gave birth to the patron gods of harbors, the male
deity Kamihaya-akitsu-hiko having control of
the land and the goddess Haya-akitsu-hime
having control of the sea.
These two latter deities
subsequently gave birth to eight other gods.
Next Izanagi and Izanami gave birth
to the wind-deity, Kami-Shinatsuhiko-no-Mikoto.
At the moment of his birth, his breath was so potent that the
clouds and mists, which had hung over the earth from the
beginning of time, were immediately dispersed.
every corner of the world was filled with brightness.
Kukunochi-no-Kami, the deity of trees, was the
next to be born, followed by Oyamatsumi-no-Kami,
the deity of mountains, and Kayanuhime-no-Kami,
the goddess of the plains. . . .
The process of procreation had, so far, gone on happily, but at
the birth of Kagutsuchi-no-Kami, the deity of
fire, an unseen misfortune befell the divine mother,
Izanami. During the course of her confinement, the
goddess was so severely burned by the flaming child that she
Her divine consort, deeply alarmed, did all in his power to
resuscitate her, but although he succeeded in restoring her to
consciousness, her appetite had completely gone. Izanagi,
thereupon and with the utmost loving care, prepared for her
delectation various tasty dishes, but all to no avail, because
whatever she swallowed was almost immediately rejected.
It was in this wise that occurred the greatest miracle of all.
From her mouth sprang Kanayama- biko and
Kanayama-hime, respectively the god and goddess of
metals, whilst from other parts of her body issued forth Haniyasu-hiko and Haniyasu-hime,
respectively the god and goddess of earth.
her "divine retirement," which marks the end of her earthly
career, in a manner almost unspeakably miraculous she gave birth
to her last-born, the goddess Mizuhame-no-Mikoto.
Her demise marks the intrusion of death into the world.
Similarly the corruption of her body and the grief occasioned by
her death were each the first of their kind.
By the death of his faithful spouse Izanagi was
now quite alone in the world. In conjunction with her, and in
accordance with the instructions of the Heavenly Gods, he
had created and consolidated the Island Empire of Japan.
In the fulfillment of their divine mission, he and his heavenly
spouse had lived an ideal life of mutual love and cooperation.
It is only natural, therefore, that her death should have dealt
him a truly mortal blow.
He threw himself upon her prostrate form, crying:
"Oh, my dearest
wife, why art thou gone, to leave me thus alone? How could I
ever exchange thee for even one child? Come back for the
sake of the world, in which there still remains so much for
both us twain to do."
In a fit of
uncontrollable grief, he stood sobbing at the head of the bier.
His hot tears fell like hailstones, and lo! out of the
tear-drops was born a beauteous babe, the goddess
Nakisawame-no-Mikoto. In deep astonishment he stayed his
tears, a gazed in wonder at the new-born child, but soon his
tears returned only to fall faster than before. It was thus that
a sudden change came over his state of mind.
With bitter wrath, his eyes fell upon the infant god of fire,
whose birth had proved so fatal to his mother. He drew his
sword, Totsuka-no-tsurugi, and crying in his
"Thou hateful matricide," decapitated his fiery
Up shot a crimson spout of blood. Out of the sword
and blood together arose eight strong and gallant deities.
"What! more children?" cried Izanagi, much
astounded at their sudden appearance, but the very next moment,
what should he see but eight more deities born from the lifeless
body of the infant firegod!
They came out from the various parts of the body, head, breast,
stomach, hands, feet, and navel, and, to add to his
astonishment, all of them were glaring fiercely at him.
Altogether stupefied he surveyed the new arrivals one after
Meanwhile Izanami, for whom her divine husband
pined so bitterly, had quitted this world for good and all and
gone to the Land of Hades.
Izanagi's Visit to
the Land of Hades
As for the Deity Izanagi, who had now become a widower, the presence
of so many offspring might have, to some extent, beguiled and
solaced him, and yet when he remembered how faithful his
departed spouse had been to him, he would yearn for her again,
his heart swollen with sorrow and his eyes filled with tears.
In this mood, sitting up alone at midnight, he would call her
name aloud again and again, regardless of the fact that he could
hope for no response. His own piteous cries merely echoed back
from the walls of his chamber.
Unable any longer to bear his grief, he resolved to go down to
the Nether Regions in order to seek for Izanami
and bring her back, at all costs, to the world. He started on
his long and dubious journey.
Many millions of miles separated the earth from the Lower
Regions and there were countless steep and dangerous
places to be negotiated, but Izanagi's indomitable
determination to recover his wife enabled him finally to
overcome all these difficulties. At length he succeeded in
arriving at his destination. Far ahead of him, he espied a large
"That, no doubt," he mused in delight, "may be where she
Summoning up all his courage, he approached the main entrance of
the castle. Here he saw a number of gigantic demons, some red
some black, guarding the gates with watchful eyes. He retraced
his steps in alarm, and stole round to a gate at the rear of the
castle. He found, to his great joy, that it was apparently left
He crept warily through the gate and peered into the interior of
the castle, when he immediately caught sight of his wife
standing at the gate at an inner court.
The delighted Deity
loudly called her name.
"Why! There is some one calling me,"
sighed Izanami-no-Mikoto, and raising her
beautiful head, she looked around her.
What was her amazement but to see her beloved husband standing
by the gate and gazing at her intently! He had, in fact, been in
her thoughts no less constantly than she in his. With a heart
leaping with joy, she approached him.
He grasped her hands tenderly and murmured in deep and earnest
"My darling, I
have come to take thee back to the world. Come back, I pray
thee, and let us complete our work of creation in accordance
with the will of the Heavenly Gods,--our work which was left
only half accomplished by thy departure. How can I do this
work without thee?. Thy loss means to me the loss of all."
This appeal came
from the depth of his heart. The goddess sympathized with him
most deeply, but answered with tender grief:
"Alas! Thou hast
come too late. I have already eaten of the furnace of Hades.
Having once eaten the things of this land, it is impossible
for me to come back to the world."
So saying, she
lowered her head in deep despair.
"Nay, I must
entreat thee to come back. Canst not thou find some means by
which this can be accomplished?"
husband, drawing nearer to her. After some reflection, she
"Thou hast come
a very, very long way for my sake. How much I appreciate thy
devotion! I wish, with all my heart, to go back with thee,
but before I can do so, I must first obtain the permission
of the deities of Hades. Wait here till my
return, but remember that thou must not on any account look
inside the castle in the meantime. " I swear I will do as
thou biddest," quote Izanagi, " but tarry not
in thy quest."
confidence in her husband's pledge, the goddess disappeared into
Izanagi observed strictly her
injunction. He remained where he stood, and waited impatiently
for his wife's return. Probably to his impatient mind, a single
heart-beat may have seemed an age. He waited and waited, but no
shadow of his wife appeared. The day gradually wore on and waned
away, darkness was about to fall, and a strange unearthly wind
began to strike his face.
Brave as he was, he was seized with an uncanny feeling of
apprehension. Forgetting the vow he had made to the goddess, he
broke off one of the teeth of the comb which he was wearing in
the left bunch of his hair, and having lighted it, he crept in
softly and glanced around him. To his horror he found
Izanagi lying dead in a room: and lo! a ghastly change
had come over her.
She, who had been so dazzlingly beautiful, was now become naught
but a rotting corpse, in an advanced stage of decomposition.
Now, an even more horrible sight met his gaze; the Fire Thunder
dwelt in her head, the Black Thunder in her belly, the
Rending-Thunder in her abdomen, the Young Thunder in her left
hand, the Earth-Thunder in her right hand, the Rumbling-Thunder
in her left foot, and the Couchant Thunder in her right foot:
altogether eight Thunder-Deities had been born and were dwelling
there, attached to her remains and belching forth flames from
Izanagitno-Mikoto was so thoroughly
alarmed at the sight, that he dropped the light and took to his
The sound he made awakened Izanami from her
death-like slumber. For sooth!" she cried:
"he must have
seen me in this revolting state. He has put me to shame and
has broken his solemn vow. Unfaithful wretch! I'll make him
suffer, for his perfidy."
Then turning to the
Hags of Hades, who attended her, she commanded
them to give chase to him.
At her word, an army of female demons
ran after the Deity.