13A. Izanagi & Izanami 13B 

伊邪那岐・伊邪那美命

"The Male who Invites・The Female who Invites"

Main Shrines

Izanagi Jingū                     伊弉諾神宮          

Hyōgo-ken, Awaji-shi, Taga 740  

兵庫県淡路市多賀740                                

Taga Taisha                       多賀大社       

Shiga-ken, Inukami-gun, Taga-chō, Taga 604

滋賀県犬上郡多賀町多賀604                  

Eda Jinja                             江田神社

Miyazaki-ken, Miyazaki-shi, Awagihara-chō, Yabo 127

宮崎県宮崎市阿波岐原町産母127

Asashiro Jinja                    朝代神社

Kyōto-fu, Maizuru-shi, Asashiro 13

京都府舞鶴市字朝代13

Section 2 - The Island of Onogoro 

The Kojiki has Izanagi and Izanami (in Chamberlain’s translation “His Augustness the Male-Who-Invites and her Augustness the Female-Who-Invites”) being given a mandate by the Seven Heavenly Kami to “make, consolidate, and give birth to this drifting land” that was the Earth. The Nihon Shoki has the couple spontaneously deciding to start said work. 


They were either given or found a Heavenly Jewelled Spear (Ame-no-nuboko) to separate the land from the sea. Aston devotes a footnote more than a page long to discussing whether or not this spear was a phallic symbol. (Aston p.11.) 


So the Couple Who Invite stood on the Floating Bridge of Heaven (Ame-no uki-hashi) and thrust the Heavenly Spear into the morass below. As they withdrew it the drops of brine falling from the point of the spear fell back to Earth and coagulated to form the island of Onogoro.

Section 3 - Courtship of Izanagi and Izanami (Kami 13)

The couple descended to this island and made it the central pillar of the land. At this point, Chamberlain, Victorian as he was, breaks out into Latin, although his fellow Victorian, Aston, chooses to stay with English.


“Then the Male Deity asked the Female Deity, saying:- “Is there anything formed in thy body?” She answered and said:-“My body has a place completely formed, and called the source of femineity.” The male god said:-“My body again has a place completely formed and called the source of masculinity.  I desire to unite my source of my masculinity to thy source of femineity.” They then went through a courtship which consisted of the female walking round the Pillar of Heaven from the left, the male from the right. Having completed the circuit the female said “How pretty! a lovely youth!” The male responded, saying, “How pretty! A lovely maiden!” He then criticized her saying that it was not the woman’s part to speak first, but overcoming this breach of manners they entered into conjugal relations and a leech child, Hiruko, was born (#13 in the table). At this stage Chamberlain reverts to English. They were displeased with this and, reminiscent of a similar event in Ancient Egypt, they placed the child in a reed basket and let it float away. They then gave birth to the island of Awa, and were equally displeased with this: an island being more troublesome to dispose than a baby, all that happened to it was that along with the leech child it was not considered as one of their official offspring.  Troubled by these two unhappy births the two returned to the Plain of High Heaven to check with the assembled Deities there as to why this problem had occurred. Divine divination revealed that the root of the problem was, as Izanagi had seemingly known all along, that Izanami, the woman, had spoken first. 

Section 4Birth of Islands and Various Deities (Kami 14-34)

Descending again to Earth they repeated the ceremony of walking round the Pillar of Heaven but this time Izanagi was the first to speak and all was well. Returning to the business of country procreation they gave birth to the eight major Japanese islands, 14A -14H in the table. The name of no. 14 in the table, Ōyashima (lit. Great Eight Islands) is a traditional poetic name for Japan. They then bore six lesser islands (15A-15F). Raising their sights a step up the evolutionary ladder they began giving birth to a long line of deities. The Kojiki says that the couple gave birth to fourteen islands and 35 deities. 

Death of Izanami

The last of the 35 deities was Hinoyagihaya-o-kami (27), also known as Kagu-tsuchi-no-kami, the Kami of Fire. This was an extremely difficult birth for Izanami, "through giving birth to this child her august private parts were burnt, and she sickened and lay down." (Chamberlain, p34). As she lay there two deities came into existence from her vomit, Kanayama-hiko and Kanayama-hime (28 and 29); from her faeces came Haniyasu-hiko and Haniyasu-hime (30 and 31), and finally from her urine Mizuha-no-me and Wakamusubi (32 and 33). "So the deity the Female-who-Invites, through giving birth to the Deity-of-Fire, at length divinely retired i.e. died." (Chamberlain p35). 

Section 5 - Izanagi Bemoans His Wife's Death. Decapitates His Son (Kami 35-43)

Grieving at his beloved's death Izanagi broke down and from the tears which he shed the goddess Nakisawa-me-no-kami

(35) appeared.  Giving fierce and fatal  expression to his grief he then pulled out the large sword (tokatsu-no-tsurugi) he wore and beheaded his son,  the kami of fire. From the blood which surged forth from Hinoyagihaya-o-kami's decapitated body  eight kami came into existence. These are known as the Deities of the Sword and the sword that killed them is called either Ame-no-ohabari or Itsu-no-ohabari. Philippi has an interesting footnote on how this episode could be seen as a metaphor for the tempering of a sword (p59).

Section 6 - The Land of Hades (Kami 45-49)

Izanagi was filled with a great longing  for Izanami again so he went to the Land of Yomi (Hades) to see her. When she came out to the entrance of Yomi to greet him he addressed her as beloved spouse and begged her to come back with him as the lands which they were making together had not yet been completed. She replied that she wished he had shown up sooner because she had already eaten in Yomi--it seems that doing this meant a person could not return to the land of living--but as she did want to return with him she would go back inside and consult the Yomi Kami; as she left she cautioned him not to look at her.

After Izanami had been away for what seemed a long time Izanagi was unable to resist temptation. Breaking off and lighting one of the teeth of his decorative head comb he entered the Hall of Yomi. Apparently the first thing he saw was Izanami's body swarming with maggots and, as had already happened with the couple's son, eight kami appeared in due course from various parts of her corpse (45). Overawed and scared at the sight Izanagi turned and fled. 

Seeing this Izanami screamed that she had been shamed and sent the Hags of Yomi in pursuit. He took off the black vinehead-dress he had on and threw it to the ground where it instantly became grapes which the hags stopped to eat. The breathing space this gave him, however, was short-lived as his pursuers were soon very close behind him again. This time another comb he took from his hair and threw to the ground became bamboo shoots, another delicacy the hags proved unable to ignore. The respite was again temporary as Izanami decided to throw in her big guns, sending the eight Thunder Kami she had borne in pursuit along with a thousand and five hundred warriors of Yomi. In partial defence Izanagi unsheathed his ten-hand sword and brandished it behind him. On finally reaching the base of the Even Pass of Hades he took three peaches that he found there and attacked his pursuers with them, causing them to flee. Out of gratitude to the peaches he enjoined them to help other human beings as they had him and bestowed on them the name "Ōkamuzumi-no-mikoto." (47).Finally Izanami herself almost caught up with him. To prevent her escaping from Yomi he blocked the entrance to the Even Pass by rolling a huge boulder into it. Interestingly this boulder is regarded as a kami, Sayari-yomido (49). The two spoke across the boulder but no reconciliation took place and they apparently divorced each other.  In response to a threat from Izanami that she would in one day "strangle to death a thousand of the  folks of thy land" Izanagi retorted that if she did that he would in one day set up a thousand and five hundred parturition-houses.  As a result of this exchange Izanami was subsequently also known as the Great Deity of Hades (46). 

Section 7 - The Purification of Izanagi (Kami 50-57)
Following his exposure to the "hideous and polluted land" that was Yomi Izanagi realized he had  to purify himself by immersion in water. To do this he went to Himuka (日向) on the island of Tsukushi (the modern Kyūshū). As he was undressing  the various items of clothing  and other things on his body which he threw to the ground produced a total of twelve kami (50A-50L).  A further eleven kami came into existence when he bathed in the river, and along with three of them, the "tsumi-watatsu" trio, (53A, B and C) Yamato politics intrudes. The Kojiki  says "These three Watatsu deities are the deities worshipped by the Muraji  of the Azumi as their ancestral deities." Philippi points out in a footnote "This verse is the first of the Kojiki's many ancestral glosses, in which the ancestries claimed by many powerful families are fitted into the official national mythology. The formulation of a "correct" genealogy relating all the aristocratic families to the Yamato ruling family was one of the primary objects of ancient Japanese historic compilation." (p70).

Emerging from his immersion Izanagi washed both his eyes and his nose and another three kami appeared. No ordinary  kami these: the world was to be divided between them. First to appear, from his left eye, was Amaterasu Ōkami (55); then from the right eye Tsukiyomi-no-mikoto (56), and finally from the nose Takehayasusa-no-o, better recognized by his Kojiki name, Susano no Mikoto (57). 

Section 8 - Investiture of the Three Deities the Illustrious August Children (Kami 55-57)
 Philippi;- "At this time, Izanagi-no-mikoto, rejoicing greatly, said: "I have borne child after child, and finally in the last bearing I have received Three Noble Children (uzumiko)." Taking off a necklace he was wearing he gave it to Amaterasu telling her that she would rule Takama-ga-hara, the Plains of High Heaven. To Tsukiyomi-no-mikoto was awarded rulership of the realms of the night, and Susano was given the oceans as his fief. 

The Crying and Weeping of Susanoo, his First Expulsion

The first two of the Three Noble Children obediently assumed the roles given them by their father but Susano's behaviour was most unfilial. Rather than assume command of the oceans "he cried and wept till his eight-grasp beard reached the pit of his stomach." (Chamberlain p52). His weeping was so universally upsetting that it caused green mountains to wither and rivers and seas to dry up. Asked by Izanagi why he was behaving as he was, Susano answered that he was weeping because he wanted to visit his deceased mother in Hades. Izanagi was enraged at this, so enraged that he told Susano he could no longer live in this land and "expelled him with a divine expulsion." (Chamberlain p53). By doing this Izanagi seems to have expelled himself from this land as well as this is his last active appearance in the Kojiki. We are told that he now dwells in Taga in Afumi: Taga is of unknown origin but Chamberlain identifies Afumi with the modern Lake Biwa in Shiga-ken, the old Ōmi Province (p53).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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© Rod Lucas 2016-2019

All text and photos by Lucas unless otherwise stated