East Asian Mythology: China and Japan

The Creation: Izanagi and Izanami

What happened to Izanagi and Izanami?

The strange story of the two creator gods continues with their procreation of the many deities who inhabit or personify the various aspects of the natural world. Tragedy struck, however, when, while giving birth to the fire kami, Izanami’s genitals were so badly burned that she died. In a rage, Izanagi beheaded the fire god, from whose blood more deities sprang. Longing for his lost wife, Izanagi, like Orpheus in Greece, descended to the Underworld, Yomi, in hopes of bringing her back. When he found Izanami in the pitch darkness, she agreed to ask the gods of the Underworld to release her, but meanwhile, Izanagi was not to look at her. After a time Izanagi lit a fire and saw his wife, disfigured and infested with maggots. Ashamed, Izanami chased her husband out of Yomi. Izanagi fled and closed the door to the Underworld with a huge rock. Izanami screamed out that she would kill one thousand people a day in their created islands. In response, Izanagi said he would see that 1500 were born each day. This is why although people die, more are always born.

Izanagi bathed to purify himself after his ordeal in the Underworld and more deities arose from his discarded clothing. The sun goddess Amaterasu was born when Izanagi washed out his left eye. Tsukuyomi, the moon god, was born from Izanagi’s right eye. Susanowa, the god of the sea and storms, was born of the creator’s nose.


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