This page about Heaven serves to bring together information we have gathered relating to the various ‘Heaven’s’ from different religions in Japan. As we gather more information this page may be broken down into seperate pages.
Takamagahara – Shinto
Takamagahara (高天原) is the Shinto version of Heaven. Its origins say that it was once connected to Earth and that the Deity Umashiashikabihikoji was born from a reed shoot which grew after Heaven and Earth had become separated. Some stories state that there is a ‘Ladder of Heaven’ which connects Heaven to Earth, Amaterasu uses this to ascend to Heaven after her birth.12
It is the home to the Deities which came before Izanagi and Izanami (aside from a few which concealed themselves) and later the Sun Goddess Amaterasu.12 Some tales say that her brother Tsukiyomi, the moon god, was also sent to Heaven to rule it alongside his sister.1
According to another alternative tale in the Nihongi, Izanagi went to dwell here in Takamagahara in the ‘Palace of a Prince’ after his work upon Earth was completed.1 The Milky Way is also refered to being in Takamagahara, and is given the name Amenoyasunokawa (Heaven’s Tranquil Stream).2
Locations within this place include the Floating Bridge of Heaven which Izanagi and Izanagi stood upon looking on the empty world below. Takamagahara is also said to have heavenly rice fields which were first sown with the first rice after Amekumabito brings them to Heaven from the corpse of Ukemochi.12 The Wevaing Hall os Heaven is located here, which links to the events leading to Amaterasu fleeing into the Rock Cave, which also resides here. One alternate tale from the Nihongi gives names to the rice fields. Amaterasu’s were fertile and called High Market Place. Easy Rice Field of Heaven, Level Rice Field of Heaven and Village Join Rice Field of Heaven. Her brothers field were infertile and called Pile-field of Heaven, River Border Field of Heaven and Mouth Sharp field of Heaven.1
There are several items linked to this area, chiefly the Spear of Heaven and Pillar of Heaven. The spear used to create Japan and the Pillar acting as a symbolic ‘meeting point’ for Izanami and Izanagi, the Deities which birthed Japan.12
Buddhism is a religion which believes in rebirth.
There was a man known as Fujiwara no Yoshitaka who was a devout Buddhist. Upon his death he wished to be reborn to continue to read the Lotus Sutra which he loved. However, he was cremated so could not be reborn. He came to earth as a ghost to demand to know why his mother had him cremated before returning to dwell eternally in this version of Heaven.3
Kōshin (庚申) is a religion finding its origins in the 9th century. They believed that worms reside within our bodies, recording both our good and bad deeds. Every 60 days they have to leave the body to report these deeds to Heaven. However, for them to do so, one must be asleep. A chant involving the word Shōkera (later turned into a Yōkai) is used to ensure they cannot leave your body on the day they wish to commune with heaven so the human they dwell within can sleep through the night and does not have to remain awake.4
Superstitions associated with Heaven
There is the belief that you should be sure to not kill a spider in the morning as it is the bringer of bad look and may be a messenger from Heaven. Conversely, a Spider at night may bring bad luck and can be killed, and may also be a messenger from Hell.5
1. Aston. W.G. (1896) “Nihongi Volume 1: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to AD697”. Tuttle Publishing.
2. Yasumaro. O, translated by Gustav Heldt. (2014) “Kojiki. An Account of Ancient Matters”. New York: Columbia University Press.
3. MacMillan, P. (2018) ”One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Treasury of Classical Japanese Verse”. St. Ives: Penguin Classics.
4. Yoda, H. and Alt, M. (2016) “Japandemonium: Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopaedia of Toriyama Sekien.”. New York: over Publications, Inc.
5. Cummins, A. (2017) “The Dark Side of Japan: Ancient Black Magic, Folklore, Ritual.” Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing.
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