Japanese Language Blog

Japanese Mythological Gods Posted by on Jan 31, 2011 in Culture

There are lots of mythological Japanese gods. However, one deity in particular is the main deity that is somehow related to the other deities. Try guessing whom the deity might be! If you don’t know now, by the end of this article, you’ll find out!

Amaterasu(天照) is the goddess of the sun and is one of the major Japanese mythological gods. There is a famous story involving the goddess of the sun and her brother Susanoo. One day, Susanoo and Amaterasu had a competitive duel to see who was the strongest. When Susanoo threw a pony at Amaterasu, she hid in a cave. Since she was the sun goddess, the world was thrown into darkness. In an attempt to bring light to the world, a deity of merriment called Ame no Uzume, placed a mirror in Amaterasu’s face. When Amaterasu saw her beautiful reflection, she walked out of the cave to follow the reflection. Hence, the world was blessed with sunlight once more. A long time ago, people thought that the reason why the sun’s rays were dimmed in the winter months was due to Amaterasu’s exile within a cave.

When the other gods heard that Susanoo (須佐之男) was responsible for the sun’s disappearance, they banished Susanoo from the heavens. Susanoo had no choice but to leave and ended up meeting an elderly couple and their daughter. The elderly couple informed Susanoo that their daughter was about to become food for an eight-headed dragon. When Susanoo heard this he offered to slay the dragon. However there was a catch. The couple had to give their daughter to Susanoo as a bride. The couple consented and Susanoo prepared to slay the dragon. Susanoo knew that the dragon loved sake so he placed eight cups of sake for each head of the dragon. When all the heads became drunk, Susanoo took the opportunity to kill the dragon.

Tsukuyomi (ツクヨミ) was the god in charge of the moon. Tsukuyomi was the brother of Amaterasu. One day Amaterasu sent Tsukuyomi as her representative to a feast prepared by Uke Mochi (pictured left), or the goddess of food. Uke Mochi prepared the feast by spitting out a fish and excreting game from her body. When Tsukuyomi discovered how the food was prepared, he was repulsed. In anger, Tsukuyomi killed Uke Mochi. When Amaterasu found out about Uke Mochi’s death, she became angry with Tsukuyomi. In anger she refused to be in the same room with him. That is why to this day, the sun (Amaterasu) and the moon (Tsukuyomi) are never together.

So the answer to the challenge presented in the intro is Amaterasu.

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  1. Tim Upham:

    You can see the Siberian origins of Shintoism. Before they converted to Russian Eastern Orthodoxy and Lutheranism, the Arctic peoples believed in a supreme sun deity, who came and warmed the land after a long and cold winter. The Sun Goddess of Shintoism is a reflection of that belief. I wonder when she emerged from her cave, if that did not come from her emerging from the long and cold winter?