Izanagi

Hear about Izanagi on Episodes 1, 3 and 12 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.

Izanagi
Izanami and Izanagi with the Jewelled Spear of Heaven.

Izanagi

Izanagi (伊邪那岐 or 伊弉諾, He Who Beckons2) was the brother and husband of Izanami, born as the 7th Generation of Spirits. Through sexual congress, the two of them gave birth to Japan, the seas, mountains, rivers and trees. He has numerous children, but there is one alternative verion of the Nihongi where a child listed nowhere else as his is mentioned, this is the Spirit Amenoakarudama.1

He and his sister appear to have originally been worshipped in the area of Awaji Shima.

She and her brother appear to have originally been worshipped in the area of Awaji Shima.2

Ancestry

One version of the Nihongi gives the ancestry of Izanagi, listing a group of gods descended from Kunitokotachi. None of these deities are mentioned elsewhere, their names being (in generation order). Kunitokotachi, Ame Kagami, Ame Yorodzu, Aha Nagi and then Izanagi. One version states Izanami and Izanagi are the children of Awokashikine. Another version says Izanami and Izanagi are the 4th Generation of Spirits, in a list with only 4 Generations.1

Birthing of Japan

According to the Kojiki, his and his wife were commanded by the Spirits of Heaven to create land, giving to them the Jewelled Spear of Heaven. On the Floating Bridge of Heaven they lowered the Spear churning the sea, and lifting the Spear the salt which fell from it created land, which became called Onogoroshima; and so they descended to dwell upon it2. One version of the Nihongi states when they thrust down the spear they discovered Onogoroshima.1

The Kogo Shūi states he is the first Spirit to appear in the world.

Upon the island they found a large hall and a Mighty Pillar of Heaven. Here they agreed to create the land through sexual congress, and walked around the pillar to ‘meet’ for the first time. Izanami spoke first. Izanagi chastises her for this, saying nothing good will come of a woman speaking first. The first child born they called the Leech Child and abandoned it, next creating Awashima. Again they discard the child. Together they return to Heaven to ask about their misfortune, being told that it was because Izanami spoke first. So they return to the Pillar, walk around it and Izanami this time speaks.

This appears to end their misfortune and together they create the first eight islands of Japan (Ōyashimanokuni), these in order being Awaji Shima, Iyo, Okigashima, Tsukushi, Ikinoshima, Tsushima, Sado Island and Yamato2.

Differences in the Nihongi

The Nihongi’s version of this part of creation differs slightly. In the Nihongi they hold their own counsel and are not command by Heaven to create land and upon the bridge of Heaven cast down the Jewelled Spear and create Onogoroshima. Like the Kojiki Izanami speaks first, however, Izanami displeased at this has them walk around the pillar again, this time he speaking first. After this, they together create the first eight islands, after giving birth to Ahaji no Shima, which they discard as they are displeased with it. They do not conceive the Leech Child at this early point in time.

The Nihongi gives a different list of children birthed by these Spirits. Izanami being the mother of (in order of birth), Ohoyamatonotoyoakitsushima, Iyo, Tsukushi, Oki and Sado Island, Koshi, Ohoshima, Kibi no Ko, Tsushima and Iki.1

The next Islands and Spirits

Finally, after all of this, they gave birth to six more islands (related in the Kojiki), these named, Kibinokojima, Azukishima, Ōshima, Himejima, Chikanoshima and Futagonoshima. After finishing creating these places, they went on to create more Spirits, these being Ōkotooshio, Iwatsuchibiko, Iwasuhime, Ōtohiwake, Amenofukio, Ōyabiko, Kazamotsuwakenooshio, Ōwatatsumi, Hayaakitsuhiko, Hayaakitsuhime2.

The Nihongi does not give a name to these islands or Spirits, simply stating `Izanami and Izanami then produced the sea, the rivers, and then the mountains,` after the Eightfold Isles.1

Afterwards more Spirits are born to her and Izanagi these being, as related in the Kojiki, Shinatsuhiko, Kukunochi, Ōyamatsumi, Kayanohime, Torinoiwakusufune, Ōgetsuhime and finally Kagutsuchi. In the Nihongi, only the Spirits Kukunochi, Kayanohime and Kagutsuchi are mentioned.2 The other Spirits mentioned in the Kojiki having already been born much earlier within the narrative of the Nihongi.1

Birth of Amaterasu Pt.1

According to the Nihongi, she and her husband then came together and created Amaterasu, Tsukiyomi and Susano-o. Both decided Amaterasu and Tsukiyomi should rule Heaven and so sent them there. Susano-o because of his violent nature they sent to Yomi.1

On the other hand, as the Nihongi includes alternate versions of story which begin with ‘In one writing it is said…’ there are versions where these three Spirits were created after the death of Izanami, and so are the creation of Izanagi alone.1 The Kojiki agrees with this version of events.2

Death of his Wife

When his wife gives birth to Kagutsuchi (the God of Fire) she is burnt and ultimately dies from her injuries. This is related in the Nihongi.1

It should be noted that, her death does not occur in the ‘main text’ of the Nihongi but in one of there entries beginning, ‘In one writing it is said…’, however, later Susano-o does state in the ‘main text’ he wishes to join his mother in Yomi; therefore showing she did die at some point.1

Izanagi falls into grief, this tears falling and becoming the Spirit Nakisahame. He then takes up his sword, called Itsunoohabari, and kills Kagutsuchi. The Spirits body and blood becoming multiple new Spirits.12. The Nihongi gives several different versions of this, one where he cuts Kagutsuchi into three pieces, with Spirits born from these pieces as well as from his blood. Another version states he cuts the body into five pieces, with no Spirits born from the blood of his body.1

Wishing his wife to return to him he descends into the land of Yomi to find her.12

In the Land of Yomi

After they are reunited he begs her to return with him and the land of the living. Unfortunately she cannot return as she has already eaten at the hearth of the Underworld and cannot leave, however, she asks him to not look at her as she goes to talk to the Spirits of Yomi (thus implying she could convince them to leave to allow her to leave?). This is told in the Kojiki.2

In the Nihongi she merely states that she is going to rest and Izanagi is not look upon her.1

He of course ignores her, and looks at her, and seeing her rotten body he flees.12

Izanami is enraged at her husband fleeing from her rotten body and so sends the Shikome after him and so Izanagi throws down a vine binding his hair which turns into mountain grapes to stall the Shikome, they eat them and continue pursuit. Next he throws down his comb which becomes bamboo, again they eat them and continue pursuit. The Eight Thunder Spirits then join in pursuit with an army of 1500 (the Nihongi excludes the army of 1500 and Thunder Spirits pursuing).12

In one version of the Nihongi it says Izanagi made water against a tree, making a river which the Shikome had to cross, but while they were preparing to do so he had blocked the entrance to Yomi with the boulder Chigaeshinoōkami.1

The Kojiki relates that he scares away the Thunder Spirits and Shikome by holding up three peaches and striking a threatening pose at the place known as Hirasaka. In thanks he gives them the name Ōkamizumi.2

His wife eventually catches up with him, finding her way out of Yomi blocked by the giant boulder now there. And so they declare themselves divorced, with Izanami swearing to kill 1000 people everyday, so in answer Izanagi says he will create 1500 people.12

In addition to everything stated above, the Nihongi has alternative versions of this story all beginning with ‘in one writing it is said…’

In one version Izanagi visits his wife in Yomi. However she turns invisible after asking him not to look at her. He ignores her and lights a torch and so sees her rotting body; her body covered in the Thunder Spirits. He then flees and the Thunder Spirits pursue him. Reaching a peach tree he throws one to the floor causing the Thunders to flee and then throws down his staff Funadonokami.1

In yet another version, Izanami says to not look at her, however, Izanagi refuses to stop. Angered by this she says if he is to look upon her naked form, she will do the same. In their anger they divorce in Yomi. Izanagi spits on the floor creating the Spirit Hayatamanoo and then purifies himself creating the Spirit Yomotsukotosakanoo. At the Even Pass of Yomi, Izanagi says he was weak to mourn over the ending of a relationship. He is then visited by the Road Wardens of Yomi who give him a message from Izanami saying that together they will no longer create islands together. Apparently then the Spirit called Kukurihime appears and says something enjoyable to Izanagi and disappears.1

Cleansing after Yomi

Izanagi
Izanagi cleansing himself. (Shibukawa Genji)

Izanagi now feeling defiled after his journey through Yomi goes to the mouth of the Tachibana River in Tsukushi to cleanse himself.12

Here he throws down his clothes and staff, each one becoming a new Spirit.2 The Nihongi differs in that Izanagi takes off his clothes after decreeing at the entrance to Yomi that Izanami can come no further.1

The amount of Spirits differs between the Kojiki and Nihongi.

The Nihongi gives five Spirits, these being Funadonokami (Staff), Nagachiha (Girdle), Wadzurahi (Upper Garments), Akigui (Trousers) and Chishiki (Shoes).1

The Kojiki gives 12 Spirits, these being Tsukitatsufunato (Staff), Michinonagachiha (Sash), Tokihakashi (Satchel), Wazurainoushi (Mantle), Chimata (Trousers), Akiguinoushi (Hat). Okizakaru, Okitsunagisabiko, and Okitsukaibera (Left Arm Band). Hezakaru, Hetsunagisabiko and Hetsukaibera (Right Arm Band).2

Entering the river he washes in the middle, finding the upper stream to fast and the lower one too slow. Washing away the impurities of Yomi causes the Spirit Yasomagatsuhi to be born. Next whilst remedying the evil of Yomi, the Spirits Kaminaobi and Ōnaobi are born.1 The Kojiki differs slightly, giving Ōmagatsuhi in addition to Yasomagatsubi and Izunome as an additional Sprit from Izanagi’s remedying the evils of Yomi.2

Sinking to the bottom of the river to clean he creates Sokotsuwatatsumi and Sokotsutsuo, from cleaning in the middle he creates Nakatsuwatatsumi and Nakatsutsuo; finally from floating upon the waters surface to clean he creates Uhatsuwatasumi and Uhatsutsuo.12

Birth of Amaterasu Pt.2

Izanami then goes to clean his eyes. From the washing of his left eye comes Amaterasu, from his right Tsukiyomi, and from his nose Susano-o.

He charges Amaterasu with the governing of Heaven, Tsukoyomi the Oceans (realm of Night in the Kojiki) and Susano-o the Earth (realm of the Sea in the Kojiki. However, neglecting his duties upon Earth, Susano-o is sent to Yomi by Izanagi after the child states he wishes to be with his mother.12 In the Kojiki version he bestows Amaterasu with a necklace; the necjlace being the Spirit Mikuratana.2

Retirement

After he has cleansed himself and given birth to these new Spirits he decides his work is completed. In the events recorded in the Kojiki it says he retires to Taga in Ōmi2. However, the Nihongi gives two different accounts. In one he retires to the island of Awaji and there dwells in silence and concealment, and in the second it states he ascended to Heaven to dwell there in the ‘palace of a Prince.’1

Footnotes

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.

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