Izanami

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

Izanami
Izanami and Izanagi with the Jewelled Spear of Heaven.

Izanami

Izanami (伊弉冉尊 or 伊邪那美命, She Who Beckons2) was the sister and wife of Izanagi, born as the 7th Generation of kami. Through sexual congress, the two of them gave birth to Japan, the seas, mountains, rivers and trees.

Ancestry

The main text of the Nihongi states they were the 7th Generation of kami to come into existence, however, some other versions states otherwise.

One version states Izanami and Izanagi are the children of Awokashikine. Another version says Izanami and Izanagi are the 4th Generation of kami, in a list with only 4 Generations.1

Birthing of Japan

According to the Kojiki, she and her husband were commanded by the kami 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

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 kami. 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 Kami

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 kami, these being Ōkotooshio, Iwatsuchibiko, Iwasuhime, Ōtohiwake, Amenofukio, Ōyabiko, Kazamotsuwakenooshio, Ōwatatsumi, Hayaakitsuhiko, Hayaakitsuhime2.

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

Afterwards more kami 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 kami Kukunochi, Kayanohime and Kagutsuchi are mentioned.2 The other kami mentioned in the Kojiki having already been born much earlier within the narrative of the Nihongi.1

Birth of Amaterasu

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 kami were created after the death of Izanami, and so are the creation of Izanagi alone.1 The Kojiki agrees with this version of events. However, in these other versions, Susano-o at least still calls Izanami his mother despite her playing no part in his birth.21

Death

When Izanami gave birth to Kagutsuchi (the God of Fire) she is burnt and ultimately dies from her injuries. During this time, in her death throws, she gives birth to three final kami, Kanayamabiko, Mizuhanome and Haniyamahime. This is related in the Nihongi.1 The Kojiki, does agree with this, however, gives each of the three mentioned kami a sibling, these being Kanayamahime, Wakumusubi and Haniyasubiko.2

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

Her body is lain to rest in Hibayama according to the Kojiki.2 In the Nihongi she is said to have been buried in the village of Arima, Kii Province.1

In the Land of Yomi

After her death and departure into the land of Yomi she is visited by Izanagi, who 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 kami of Yomi (thus implying she could convince them to leave to allow her to leave?). This is told in the Kojiki.2

In the main text of 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.1 In the Kojiki it also states her body was covered with The Eight Thunder kami.2

Izanami is enraged and so sends the Shikome after her husband, who, ultimately flee from him in terror and so she is forced to pursue him herself. However, her way out of Yomi is now blocked by the boulder Chigaeshinoōkami which Izanagi has placed across the entrance.12

The Kojiki also adds that Izanami also sent the Eight Thunder kami and a force of 1500 warriors in pursuit of him and that they fled back to Yomi after Izanagi struck a threatening pose.2

It is here 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 kami. He then flees and the Thunder kami 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 kami Hayatamanoo and then purifies himself creating the kami 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 kami called Kukurihime appears and says something enjoyable to Izanagi and disappears.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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