A Love Tale of a Japanese Myth
Here is a very interesting story I recently read. It reminds me of a Romeo and Juliette tragedy with a more metaphorical meaning behind it. I cannot give out every detail here, but I hope this article teases your curiosity enough to go and read more about it.
The Creation of Life
The ancient storytellers of Japan write about the beginning of Life resembling that of the birth of a man. In the Japanese mythology, Life came to existence through the miraculous bond of a male (In) and a female (Yo) spiritual form. When the In and Yo met, they resulted in a chaotic mass with the shape of an egg. When this egg hatched out into life, the pure and light part formed Heaven, while the heavier element sank down and became Earth. The Japanese writers then go on to compare Earth to a fish floating on the surface of the water. A very beautiful interpretation, I would say. The divine amour of the In and Yo has thus given life to many Gods and mystical creatures, among which Izanagi and Izanami.
A Love Story
Izanagi and Izanami are two of the most important deities in the Japanese culture. They have funny translations too. Izanagi translates into “a man-who-invites” and Izanami means “a female-who-invites”. They both stood on the Bridge of Heaven wondering if there was a land down below. To answer their curiosity they let down a jewel-spear that hit the ocean. When Izanagi pulled the spear back up, a little drop fell from its tip. This drop then coagulated and became the island Onogoro-jima (spontaneously-congeal-island). Astonished by the beauty of their creation, Izanagi and Izanami came down to the island and decided to marry there, despite the fact that they are brother and sister.
The two Gods set up a pillar on the ground and started walking around it in opposite directions. When they met, Izanami (the female) saluted Izanagi (the male) and made him upset because she referred to him as “youth”. Izanagi also became furious that a woman has been the first to speak. So, they decided to start fresh. Their second try went flawless.
Their children became islands, seas, rivers, mountains, herbs and trees. Yet, they were still not satisfied. They thought if they could do this, why not give birth to a creature to be the Lord of the Universe? This is how Ama-terasu (the Sun Goddess) came to life. She was sent up to Heaven to rule with her Light. Next was her brother, Tsuki-yumi (the Moon God), who was also sent to Heaven. Ama-terasu and Tsuki-yumi could not share their powers and had soon clashed. The Sun Goddess then cursed her brother and wished they did not see each other face to face ever again. This is how they became separated by Day and Night.
Sadly, Izanami became ill after the birth of her son, Kagu-tsuchi (the Fire God). Izanagi fell down on his knees in sorrow. His wife could not bear seeing her husband like this and fled to the Land of Yomi (Hades). Izanagi quickly realized he could not live without his love and followed her to Hades. What he became a witness to was that she had already been poisoned by the food there. Izanami replied that she needed some rest and requested her husband not to look at her. He failed to comply and snuck in during the dark. The indescribable beauty of Izanami had already been gone. She had become swollen and deformed. Repelled by the sight, Izanagi ran headed for the valleys of the Underworld. Upset that her husband ignored her only wish, Izanami sent the Eight Ugly Females of Yomi after him. But as he turned his back, he took off his head-dress and threw it on the ground to distract them. It magically turned into a bunch of grapes. This helped lure the Ugly Females into eating the fruit. Izanami immediately stood up and embarked on a pursuit on her own.
She eventually reached him at the Even Pass of Yomi. There and then, Izanagi asked for a divorce to which his wife agreed. He is said to have fled to the island of Ahaji, where he dwelt for ever lasting silence and concealment.
Actually, this is not the whole story about the Creation of Life. This article focused on the relationship of two of the Japanese Gods – Izanagi and Izanami. Just like in any other culture, they had many children who had their own, and so on. There is much more drama to each character. What attracted my interest was the symbolism behind them. Every character represents a real phenomenon. It is amazing how the Japanese give meaning by humanizing them.