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Amaterasu Omikami
Beautiful Amaterasu.jpg
The Sun goddess
Abode the Sky
Parents Izanami and Izanagi
Siblings Tsukuyomi and Susanoo
Children three goddesses
Shinto
Shinto
This article is part of a series on Shinto
Practices and Beliefs
Kami · Ritual purity · Polytheism · Animism ·
Japanese festivals · Mythology · Shinto shrines
Notable Kami
Amaterasu Omikami · Sarutahiko Okami · Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto · Inari Okami ·
Izanagi-no-Mikoto · Izanami-no-Mikoto · Susanoo-no-Mikoto ·
Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto
Important Literature
Kojiki · Nihon Shoki · Fudoki · Rikkokushi ·
Shoku Nihongi · Jinnō Shōtōki · Kujiki
See also
Japan · Religion in Japan · Glossary of Shinto
List of Shinto divinities · List of Shinto shrines
Sacred objects · Japanese Buddhism · Mythical creatures

Shinto Portal
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Amaterasu (天照 ?), Amaterasu-ōmikami (天照大神/天照大御神 ?) or Ōhiru-menomuchi-no-kami (大日孁貴神 ?) is a sun goddess and one of the principal Shinto deities ( kami ?). Her name, Amaterasu, means literally "(that which) illuminates Heaven". She was born from the left eye of Izanagi as he purified himself in a river and went on to become the ruler of the Higher Celestial Plain (Takamagahara).

She is also said to be directly linked in lineage to the Imperial Household of Japan and the Emperor, who are considered descendants of the kami themselves.

Contents

History

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Story of Amaterasu

Amaterasu Omikami is described in the Kojiki as the sun goddess who was born from Izanagi-no-Mikoto's left eye. She was also accompanied by her siblings Susanoo-no-Mikoto, the storm deity, and Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto, the moon deity, who were born from Izanagi'-no-Mikoto's nose and right eye respectively. In the Kojiki, Amaterasu Omikami is described as the goddess from which all light emanates and is often referred to as the sun goddess because of her warmth and compassion for the people who worshipped her. Some other myths state that Amaterasu Omikami was born from water.

Most of her myths revolve around an incident where the goddess traps herself in a cave because of her brother's actions. For a while, everything among the three revered gods was peaceful and all of the world ran smoothly. One day, Susanoo-no-Mikoto, in a drunken rampage, trampled Amaterasu Omikami's rice fields, filled all of her irrigation ditches and threw excrement into her palace and her shrines. The Omikami asked her brother to stop but he ignored her and even went so far as to throw the corpse of a skinned horse at her hand-maidens who were weaving at the time. The women were killed by the splintered wood from the looms piercing their bodies (in the Kojiki it was their reproductive organs that were pierced[1]).

Amaterasu Omikami was greatly angered and in protest she shut herself in the Heavenly Cave and sealed it shut with a giant rock. As a result, the world was consumed with darkness. Without her, everything began to wither and die. Countless Kami gathered in front of her cave and devised a way to lure her out. They all sat around the cave and set up a mirror across from the entrance. Ame-no-Uzume, the voluptuous goddess of merriment turned over a wash-tub and began a sensual dance, tapping the beat on the tub. She exposed her breasts and lifted her skirts as she danced. All of the gods made a great noise of yelling and cheering and laughing. Amaterasu peeked out to see what the noise was about. She asked the nearest god what was going on and he replied that there was a new goddess. When Amaterasu asked where she was, he pointed to the mirror.

Amaterasu emerging out of a cave, bringing sunlight back to the universe.

The Omikami had never seen herself before and when she caught her reflection, she stared at the radiance of her own form. She was so surprised she said "omo-shiroi", which means both "white face", which the Omikami had, and "fascinating". When she was out of the way, Tajikara-O shut the rock behind her. Having lured her out of the cave, the gods convinced her to go back into the Celestial Plain and all life began to grow again and become strong in her light. Once back in the Celestial Plain, she made sure that she was ready for her brother's harsh actions again by having a bow and quiver at her side.

Later she sent her grandson Ninigi-no-Mikoto to pacify Japan: his great-grandson became the first emperor, Emperor Jimmu. He had a sacred sword (Kusanagi), jewel (Yasakani no magatama), and mirror (Yata no kagami) that became the Japanese imperial regalia.

Amaterasu is credited with inventing the cultivation of rice and wheat, use of silkworms and weaving with a loom.

Kukai, the founder of the Shingon Buddhist sect famously linked Amaterasu with Dainichi Nyorai, a central manifestation of the Buddha, whose name is literally "Great Sun Buddha". Thus Amaterasu Omikami is held as an divine Emanation of Buddha Vairocana.

Her most important shrine, the Grand Shrine of Ise, is in Ise in western Honshū. The shrine is torn down and rebuilt every 20 years. In that shrine she is represented as a mirror, one of the three Japanese imperial regalia. The Ise Shrine is said to be the home of Amaterasu Omikami. This shrine, however, is not open to the public.

She is celebrated every July 17 with street processions all over the country. Festivities on December 21, the winter solstice, celebrate her coming out of the cave.

It is said that Amaterasu can reproduce without the help of a shemale.

Torii at the Ama-no-Iwato Shrine in Takachiho, Miyazaki Prefecture

Difference between Kojiki and Nihon Shoki

There are slight differences between the description of the goddess in Kojiki and that in Nihon Shoki. Mainly, the story of Kojiki is much better known.

First is the story of her birth. In Kojiki, she was born after Izanagi-no-Mikoto failed to retrieve Izanami-no-Mikoto from Yomi. However, in the Nihon Shoki, Izanagi-no-Mikoto and Izanami-no-Mikoto, who was still alive, together decided to create the supreme deity to reign over the world, and gave birth to Amaterasu.

The episode of sending her grandson to Ashihara no Nakatsukuni (Japan) is also different in two myths. In Kojiki, Amaterasu Omikami commanded her son to rule over the earth, but he refused, saying that earth was too filled with chaos. Amaterasu then sent Ame-no-hohi in his place. After three years of hearing no word from him, Amaterasu's grandson, Ninigi-no-mikoto, took over control of the earth. On the other hand, the main article of Nihon Shoki records the myth that it was Takamimusubi-no-Kami who took control of the event and sent his maternal grandson Ninigi to Japan. The role of Amaterasu Omikami is ambiguous in the episode.

In both cases, Nihon Shoki records similar version of Kojiki episode as "aru-fumi", the alternative episode.

The goddess and the Imperial family

In 1946, Emperor Shōwa issued the Humanity Declaration. It was effectively a renunciation of the conception of akitsumikami (現御神 ?), divinity in human form, and claimed his relation to the people did not rely on such a mythological idea but on a historically developed family-like reliance. Many authors, such as John W. Dower and Herbert Bix, who dispute the former interpretation, consider that by choosing the word akitsumikami (現御神 ?) instead of arahitogami, Emperor Shōwa didn't actually deny his divine descent from goddess Amaterasu Omikami.

It must however be noted, that according to Shinto myths, all Japanese people descend from the gods, not only the Emperor. On this topic, Emperor Shōwa expressed in December 1945 his point of view to his vice-grand chamberlain Michio Kinoshita: "It is permissible to say that the idea that the Japanese are descendants of the gods is a false conception; but it is absolutely impermissible to call chimerical the idea that the emperor is a descendant of the gods."[2]

Cult of the sun

The worship of Amaterasu to the exclusion of other kami has been described as "the cult of the sun".[3] This phrase can also refer to the early pre-archipelagoan worship of the sun itself.[3]

See also

References

  1. ^ Readable Japanese Mythology: Selections from Nihon Shoki and Kojiki Robert Borgen; Marian Ury. The Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, Vol. 24, No. 1. (Apr., 1990), p.70
  2. ^ Wetzler, Peter (1998). Hirohito and War. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 3. ISBN 9780824819255.  
  3. ^ a b Wheeler, Post (1952). The Sacred Scriptures of the Japanese. New York: Henry Schuman. pp. 393-395. ISBN 1425487874

Shinto

This article is part of a series on Shinto
Beliefs
KamiTemplate:· PolytheismTemplate:· AnimismTemplate:·
MatsuriTemplate:· Ritual purityTemplate:· Mythology
Notable Kami
AmaterasuTemplate:· Ame-no-UzumeTemplate:· InariTemplate:·
IzanagiTemplate:· IzanamiTemplate:· SusanooTemplate:·
KotoamatsukamiTemplate:· Tsukuyomi
Scripture
KojikiTemplate:·FudokiTemplate:· RikkokushiTemplate:·
Shoku NihongiTemplate:· Jinnō Shōtōki
See also
JapanTemplate:· Japanese BuddhismTemplate:·
List of Shinto shrines
Glossary of Shinto

Shinto Portal
 v • d • e 
Amaterasu (天照?), Amaterasu-ōmikami (天照大神/天照大御神?) or Ōhiru-menomuchi-no-kami (大日孁貴神?) is, in Japanese mythology, a sun goddess and perhaps the most important Shinto deity ( kami?). Her name, Amaterasu, means literally "(that which) illuminates Heaven". She was born from the left eye of Izanagi as he purified himself in a river and went on to become the ruler of the Higher Celestial Plain (Takamagahara). She is also said to be directly linked in lineage to the Imperial Household of Japan and the Emperor, who are considered descendants of the kami themselves.

Contents

History

Story of Amaterasu

in 1868]]

Amaterasu is described in the Kojiki as the sun goddess who was born from Izanagi's left eye. She was also accompanied by her siblings Susanoo, the storm deity, and Tsukuyomi, the moon deity, who were born from Izanagi's nose and right eye respectively. In the Kojiki, Amaterasu is described as the goddess from which all light emanates and is often referred to as the sun goddess because of her warmth and compassion for the people who worshipped her. Some other myths state that Amaterasu was born from water.

Most of her myths revolve around an incident where the goddess traps herself in a cave because of her brother's actions. For a while, everything among the three revered gods was peaceful and all of the world ran smoothly. One day, Susanoo, in a drunken rampage, trampled Amaterasu's rice fields, filled all of her irrigation ditches and threw excrement into her palace and her shrines. The Omikami asked her brother to stop but he ignored her and even went so far as to throw the corpse of a skinned horse at her hand-maidens who were weaving at the time. The women were killed by the splintered wood from the looms piercing their bodies (in the Kojiki it was their reproductive organs that were pierced[1]).

Amaterasu was greatly angered and in protest she shut herself in the Heavenly Cave and sealed it shut with a giant rock. As a result, the world was consumed with darkness. Without her, everything began to wither and die. Countless Kami gathered in front of her cave and devised a way to lure her out. They all sat around the cave and set up a mirror across from the entrance. Ame-no-Uzume, the voluptuous goddess of merriment turned over a wash-tub and began a sensual dance, tapping the beat on the tub. She exposed her breasts and lifted her skirts as she danced. All of the gods made a great noise of yelling and cheering and laughing. Amaterasu peeked out to see what the noise was about. She asked the nearest god what was going on and he replied that there was a new goddess. When Amaterasu asked where she was, he pointed to the mirror.

The Omikami had never seen herself before and when she caught her reflection, she stared at the radiance of her own form. She was so surprised she said "omo-shiroi", which means both "white face", which the Omikami had, and "fascinating". When she was out of the way, Tajikara-O shut the rock behind her. Having lured her out of the cave, the gods convinced her to go back into the Celestial Plain and all life began to grow again and become strong in her light. Once back in the Celestial Plain, she made sure that she was ready for her brother's harsh actions again by having a bow and quiver at her side.

Later she sent her grandson Ninigi-no-Mikoto to pacify Japan: his great-grandson became the first emperor, Emperor Jimmu. He had a sacred sword (Kusanagi), jewel (Yasakani no magatama), and mirror (Yata no kagami) that became the Japanese imperial regalia.

Amaterasu is credited with inventing the cultivation of rice and wheat, use of silkworms and weaving with a loom.

Kukai, the founder of the Shingon Buddhist sect famously linked Amaterasu with Dainichi Nyorai, a central manifestation of the Buddha, whose name is literally "Great Sun Buddha". Thus Amaterasu is held as an divine Emanation of Buddha Vairocana.

Her most important shrine, the Grand Shrine of Ise, is in Ise in western Honshū. The shrine is torn down and rebuilt every 20 years. In that shrine she is represented as a mirror, one of the three Japanese imperial regalia. The Ise Shrine is said to be the home of Amaterasu. This shrine, however, is not open to the public.

She is celebrated every July 17 with street processions all over the country. Festivities on December 21, the winter solstice, celebrate her coming out of the cave.

at the Ama-no-Iwato Shrine in Takachiho, Miyazaki Prefecture]]

Difference between Kojiki and Nihon Shoki

There are slight differences between the description of the goddess in Kojiki and that in Nihon Shoki. Mainly, the story of Kojiki is much better known.

First is the story of her birth. In Kojiki, she was born after Izanagi failed to retrieve Izanami from Yomi. However, in Nihon Shoki, Izanagi and Izanami, who was still alive, together decided to create the supreme deity to reign over the world, and gave birth to Amaterasu.

The episode of sending her grandson to Ashihara no Nakatsukuni (Japan) is also different in two myths. In Kojiki, Amaterasu commanded her son and other gods to pacify Japan. On the other hand, the main article of Nihon Shoki records the myth that it was Takamimusubi-no-Kami who took control of the event and sent his maternal grandson Ninigi to Japan. The role of Amaterasu is ambiguous in the episode.

In both cases, Nihon Shoki records similar version of Kojiki episode as "aru-fumi", the alternative episode.

The goddess and the Imperial family

In 1946, Emperor Shōwa issued the Humanity Declaration. It was effectively a renunciation of the conception of akitsumikami (現御神?), divinity in human form, and claimed his relation to the people did not rely on such a mythological idea but on a historically developed family-like reliance. Many authors, such as John W. Dower and Herbert Bix, who dispute the former interpretation, consider that by choosing the word akitsumikami (現御神?) instead of arahitogami, Emperor Shōwa didn't actually deny his divine descent from goddess Amaterasu Omikami.

It must however be noted, that according to Shinto myths, all Japanese people descend from the gods, not only the Emperor. On this topic, Emperor Shōwa expressed in December 1945 his point of view to his vice-grand chamberlain Michio Kinoshita: "It is permissible to say that the idea that the Japanese are descendants of the gods is a false conception; but it is absolutely impermissible to call chimerical the idea that the emperor is a descendant of the gods."[2]

Amaterasu in popular culture

In film

  • In the 2003 film Onmyoji II, the story of Amaterasu (played by Kyōko Fukada) is revisited when the main character, based on Abe no Seimei (played by Mansai Nomura), assumes the role of the dancer in bringing the goddess back to earth.

In anime and manga

  • In Dream Saga, the earth is destroyed and recreated whenever humans have polluted it. This is done when Susanoo, the god of destruction, consumes Amaterasu, the sun. The two main characters, Yuuki and Takaomi, are given key roles in the process.
  • In Naruto, Amaterasu is personified as a powerful fire jutsu (technique) consisting of unquenchable black flames that burn everything in the user's field of vision for seven days and seven nights. The technique uses the left eye, which is a reference to Amaterasu's birth from Izanagi when he cleansed himself. It is performed by Uchiha Itachi and Uchiha Sasuke.

In video games

Amaterasu is mentioned in many video games where a character receives power from the sun or has some light-based qualities, both literal or symbolic. A notable example can be found in Persona 4 where the goddess represents a character's status as the deity who illuminates the heavens. Amaterasu will also be used to stress the Japanese culture of a character, as can be seen when the Samurai in Nethack prays to the goddess. Other notable examples include:

  • In Castlevania Aria of Sorrow, a shrine to Amaterasu (Tensho Doijin) is used to invoke an eclipse. In the game, eclipses can contain anger and evil intentions (and Dracula's castle), just as Amaterasu contained Susanoo's rampage by hiding her light in a cave.
  • In Ōkami, the main character is Amaterasu in the form of a white wolf. She was trapped in a statue of Shiranui, her earlier form. A main theme is Amaterasu's association with nature and her task of restoring it.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, three rare items are obtained after defeating the Sword Dancer monster three times throughout the game. The items you obtain from it are the Yata no Kagami (or Yata Mirror in the English version), Yasakani no Magatama (Yasakani Jewel), and the Kusanagi Blade. When viewing the descriptions of the items, they all state that they are items used by the eastern gods to defeat evil spirits. In fact, all three are Imperial Regalia of Japan and can be found in the legends of Amaterasu.

See also

References

  1. ^ Readable Japanese Mythology: Selections from Nihon Shoki and Kojiki Robert Borgen; Marian Ury. The Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, Vol. 24, No. 1. (Apr., 1990), p.70
  2. ^ Wetzler, Peter (1998). Hirohito and War. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 3. ISBN 9780824819255. 

Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

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Etymology

From Japanese 天照 (amaterasu).

Proper noun

Singular
Amaterasu

Plural
-

Amaterasu

  1. (mythology, Shintoism) The Japanese sun goddess.

Simple English

Amaterasu (天照), Amaterasu-ōmikami (天照大神 or 天照大御神) or Ōhiru-menomuchi-no-kami (大日孁貴神), in Japanese mythology, is the Sun Goddess, and the most sacred of all Shinto deities (神 kami). Her name, Amaterasu, means literally "(that which) illuminates Heaven." Her shrine is located at Ise.

Beginning

In the Kojiki tradition, Amaterasu is the sister of Susano'o, the god of the sea and storms, and of Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon. All three were created from Izanagi, when he washed his face to clean the dirtiness of Yomi, the underworld. Amaterasu was born when Izanagi washed out his left eye, Tsukuyomi was born from the washing of the right eye, and Susano'o from the washing of the nose.

Story

The tales tell of great rivalry between Amaterasu and Susano'o. When he was to leave Heaven forever because Izanagi ordered him to, he went to say goodbye to his sister. Amaterasu, suspicious, proposed him a challenge: each of them was to turn an object of the other's into people. Amaterasu created three women from Susano'o's sword while he created five men from her necklace. Amaterasu said the men were hers because they were born of her necklace. Susano'o destroyed her rice fields, threw a dead pony into her loom, and killed one of her assistants in anger. For this, Amaterasu, sad, angry and scared, went to hide inside Ama-no-Iwato, the "heavenly rock cave", so the Sun was hidden and the world became dark for along time. The Oni (devils of Japanese mythology) came out to the dark world, and the gods could not make Amaterasu come out of the cave.

The intelligent goddess of happiness, Ama-no-Uzume (天宇受売命), took a small boat, turned it upside down near the cave entrance, and began a dance on it, tearing off her clothing in front of the other Kami. They thought this was so funny that they laughed happily.

Amaterasu heard them, and looked out to see why the gods were laughing. When she opened the cave, she saw her wonderful reflection in a mirror Uzume had put on a tree, and slowly came out of the cave.

At that moment, the god Ameno-Tajikarawo (天手力男命) closed the cave behind her, so she could not go back in. Another god tied a magic rope across the entrance. The sun goddess was then asked by the Kami Ame-no-Koyane (天児屋根命) to go back with the gods. She agreed, and light came back to the earth, but Susano'o was punished by being banished from Heaven.

Other websites

Japanese Mythology & Folklore

Mythic Texts and Folktales:
Kojiki | Nihon Shoki | Otogizōshi | Yotsuya Kaidan
Urashima Tarō | Kintarō | Momotarō | Tamamo-no-Mae
Divinities:
Izanami | Izanagi | Amaterasu
Susanoo | Ama-no-Uzume | Inari
List of divinities | Kami | Seven Lucky Gods
Legendary Creatures:
Oni | Kappa | Tengu | Tanuki | Fox | Yōkai | Dragon
Mythical and Sacred Places:
Mt. Hiei | Mt. Fuji | Izumo | Ryūgū-jō | Takamagahara | Yomi


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