5 Famous Japanese Legends 有名な日本の説話

  • Published on : 23/04/2020
  • by : Ph.L
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Japanese Myths

Legends have served as a means of rationalizing the world and providing clarity for the habits and customs of a given culture. Whether it is about the origin of the universe, politics, or holidays and festivals, the following myths have shaped Japanese cosmogony and are an integral part of local folklore.

The history of the creation of Japan goes back to the time when the universe was in chaos and the birth when the children of the first gods were born. Among them, Izanagi and his sister and the wife, Izanami were ordered to organize the world.

Shortly after the invention of their fertility ritual, several kami (Japanese deities) and islands were born from the union of the two gods, including the Japanese archipelago and some major deities of Shintoism such as the god of fire, Kagutsuchi (or Homasubi).

The birth of the latter is also a fundamental element of the story since Izanami died of burns from childbirth and went to the kingdom of the dead. The sequel recalls the myth of Orpheus.

Izanagi, saddened by the disappearance of his wife, travels to the underworld to try to bring her back to life. 

Izanami et Izanagi

Izanami and Izanagi

Wikimedia

Back in the world, the god made ablutions to heal his wounds. This is how, according to legend, the purification ritual, still used today in Shinto rites was born.

Stains from which he purified himself were then born from other deities highly honored in Japan, such as the sun goddess Amaterasu, the god of storms Susanoo, and Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon.

Ema at an Amaterasu shrine

Flick/ jmurawski

Literally "Divine Power", Jinmu would be a direct descendant of the gods since he would be the great-great-great-grandson of Amaterasu.

His grandfather, the great-great-grandson of the goddess, would have married Princess Toyotama, the daughter of Owatatsumi, the god of the sea and brother of Amaterasu, with whom he would have had a son. The latter would then have married his mother's sister with whom he would have had four children including the future Emperor Jinmu. A complicated family history, which serves as legitimacy that the Emperor Jinmu is a direct line as a contender to the throne of the Chrysanthemum for almost 14 centuries!

The Emperor would have received Amaterasu's three mythical objects allowing it to have absolute power over Japan: a magic mirror allowing him to see the entire Pacific islands, the Kusanagi sword to defeat its enemies, and the Magatama, a necklace to increase fertility. These three objects are said to be hidden today in three temples across the country, and the exact locations are said to have been kept secret by the imperial family for generations.

 

L'Empereur Jinmu

L'Empereur Jinmu

Wikimédia

Momotaro and his friends in Okayama

Flick/ jpellgen (@1179_jp)

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