Amaterasu, Amaterasu-ōmikami, or Ōhirume-no-muchi-no-kami is a deity of the Japanese myth cycle and also a major deity of the Shinto religion.

She is seen as the goddess of the sun and the universe. The name Amaterasu is derived from Amateru and means “shining in heaven“. The meaning of her whole name, Amaterasu-ōmikami, is “the great august kami (deity) who shines in the heaven“.

According to the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki in Japanese mythology, the Emperors of Japan are considered to be direct descendants of Amaterasu.

Amaterasu appears to be the Japanese expression of a historical pan-Asiatic solar goddess.

Several similarities have been noticed between the Japanese solar goddess and the Korean solar goddess, Hae-nim, particularly in regard to shamanistic worship, using the same symbols and practices.

Another possible expression is the Chinese goddess, Xihe. Although historically, she probably was venerated highly throughout Asia, only in Japan did this deity find continuous worship as a central figure, as elsewhere, several other religious movements, such as Buddhism and Taoism, discouraged the veneration of solar goddesses.

Records of the worship of Amaterasu are found from the c. 712 CE Kojiki and c. 720 CE Nihon Shoki, the oldest records of Japanese history.

In Japanese mythology, she is the sister of Susanoo, the god of storms and the sea, and of Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon. It was written that Amaterasu had painted the landscape with her siblings while she created ancient Japan.

Amaterasu, the supreme Japanese deity, was said to have been created by the divine couple Izanagi and Izanami, who were themselves created by, or grew from, the originator of the Universe, Amenominakanushi.

All three deities were born from Izanagi when he was purifying himself upon entering Yomi, the underworld, after breaking the promise not to see dead Izanami and he was chased by her and Yakusan-no-ikaduchigami, surrounding rotten Izanami.

She was born when Izanagi washed out his left eye, Tsukuyomi was born from the washing of the right eye, and Susanoo from the washing of the nose.

Izanagi set her up as the ruler of the High Plains of Heaven, Tsukuyomi as the ruler of the night and Susanoo as the ruler of the seas.

Originally, she shared the sky with Tsukuyomi, her husband, and brother until, out of disgust, he killed the goddess of food, Uke Mochi, when she pulled “food from her rectum, nose, and mouth“.

This killing upset Amaterasu causing her to label Tsukuyomi an evil god and split away from him; separating night from day.

The texts also tell of a long-standing rivalry between Amaterasu and her other brother, Susanoo.

Susanoo is said to insulted Amaterasu, claiming she had no power over the higher realm. When Izanagi ordered him to leave Heaven, he went to bid his sister goodbye.

Amaterasu was suspicious, but when Susanoo proposed a challenge to prove his sincerity, she accepted. Each of them took an object belonging to the other and from it, birthed deities. Amaterasu birthed three women from Susanoo’s sword while he birthed five men from her necklace.

Claiming the gods were hers because they were born of her necklace, and the goddesses were his, she decided that she had won the challenge, as his item produced women.

After Susanoo’s defeat, he went on a rampage destroying much of the heavenly and earthly realm, Amaterasu’s rice fields, hurled a flayed pony at her loom, and killing one of her attendants in a fit of rage.

Amaterasu, who was in fury and grief, hid inside the Ama-no-Iwato (“heavenly rock cave“), plunging the earth into darkness and chaos. Eventually, she was persuaded to leave the cave.

Initially, eight hundred Kami threw a party outside of the “heavenly rock cave” to lure Amaterasu out (Kumar 2015) but it was not until the Goddess Ame-no-Uzume danced promiscuously outside of the cave that Amaterasu came out.

Susanoo was punished by being banished from heaven. Both later amended their conflict when Susanoo gave her the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi sword as a reconciliation gift. When they both reconciled the sun became visible again.

According to legend, Amaterasu, who was responsible for keeping balance and harmony within the earthly realm.

Βequeathed to her descendant Ninigi: the mirror, Yata no Kagami; the jewel, Yasakani no Magatama; and the sword, Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi. Collectively, the sacred mirror, jewel, and sword became the three Imperial Regalia of Japan.

Ninigi is said to be descended from Amaterasu and Takamimusubi and was sent to watch over the Japanese Islands, with the imperial regalia, which was growing unstable.

Ninigi used the imperial regalia bestowed upon him to prove he was descended from Amaterasu. Ninigi’s descendant Jimmu became the first emperor of Japan. Jimmu settled on the island of Honshu and founded the Land of the Rising sun in 660 BCE.

The stories of Jimmu are told in the Kojiki and the Nihon Shiki.

In one of the stories in the Nihon Shoki, Emperor Jimmu was leading his soldiers over a mountain in Nara when a poisonous vapor surrounded them. Amaterasu cleared the poisonous mist and sent Jimmu a sun crow to lead them out of the mountains.

According to the Nihon Shoki, Jimmu lived to be 127 years old and reigned over Japan for seventy-five years.

According to “The Way of the Gods” (located within the Kojiki), Amaterasu declared that Jimmu’s descendants would reign over Japan forever and would rule by “The Way of the Gods“.

In other words, the Emperor of Japan does not act on his own, but communicates with her and does what she wishes. It is said within the text that if anyone, person or kami, tried to stand against the Emperor of Japan they would be struck down by Amaterasu.

The imperial family’s main place of worship is still the Ise Shrine in the Ise of Japan, which is the main place of worship of Amaterasu and is where the Imperial Regalia of Japan are kept (Kumar 2015).

Amaterasu found synchronization with Japan’s other main religion Buddhism, with the Buddha Dainichi or Great Sun Buddha through the “Shingon Tradition“.

The Shingon Tradition incorporated Kami into Buddhist tradition. During the Shomu regime, the Todaiji (A Buddhist-Shinto Temple) was built honoring the Sun BuddhaDainichi” and the Sun GoddessAmaterasu” together.


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