Tsukiyomi

Hear about Tsukiyomi on Episode 12 of our Podcast, the Japan Archives.


Tsukiyomi

Tsukiyomi

Tsukiyomi (月読) is the moon Spirit in Shinto mythology, brother to Amaterasu and Susano-o.

Birth

According to both the Kojiki and the Nihongi this Spirit was born from Izanagi after he cleansing himself from the defilement’s of Yomi in the Tachibana river. Tsukiyomi is created as he cleans his right eye. He is born after Amaterasu and before Susano-o.12

However this creation story (in the Nihongi) is included as an offshoot to the ‘main text.’ Within the main text he is born much early in the events surrounding the creation of Japan and is the son of both Izanagi and Izanami, born after his sister Amaterasu and the Leech Child, but before Susano-o.

A third version given in the Nihongi states this Spirit was born when Izanami held within his right hand a copper mirror.2

Dominion of Tsukiyomi

Depending on the source, Tsukiyomi comes to govern over different areas.

After his birth (in the main text of the Nihongi) he is sent up to Heaven to govern alongside his sister by Izanami and Izanagi.

However an alternate version in the Nihongi states Izanami sends him to rule over the oceans.2

In the Kojiki it states he is sent to rule over the realm of night.1

Day and Night

Tsukiyomi is sent down to Japan to wait upon the Spirit known as Ukemochi by his sister. Upon his arrival she prepares from him a feast from various food expelled from her mouth. Tsukiyomi, offended by the fact he would have to eat such food kills her and returns to heaven to tell his sister of what has occurred. Angered by his actions, she calls him wicked and sends him away, and so they become separatedleading to the cycle of day and night to begin.2 This tale occours differently in the Kojiki and instead involves Ōgetsuhime and Susano-o.

Footnotes

1. Yasumaro. O, translated by Gustav Heldt. (2014) “Kojiki. An Account of Ancient Matters”. New York: Columbia University Press.
2. Aston. W.G. (1896) “Nihongi Volume 1: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to AD697”. Tuttle Publishing.

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Tsukiyomi