Who are the main gods in Shinto

Japanese mythology: the 20 main gods of Japan

Japanese mythology is one of the most complex belief systems as it consists of more than 800,000 deities that are constantly growing and laying the foundation for Shinto (the voice of the gods).

We are talking about the second most influential religion in the east of the country, which has around 108 million believers and is only surpassed by Japanese Buddhism.

The Shintô would come to Japan from emigrants from Korea and Mongolia who would mingle with the indigenous peoples of Japan despite being closely associated with Chinese civilization. A large part of their beliefs are indigenous Buddhist traditions and popular beliefs about agriculture.

Because of its numerous deities, Shintoism is a polytheistic religion that does not view any of these religions as unique or predominant. However, there are mythical tales that explain the origin of the world and mankind.

Unlike other mythologies such as the Greek or Egyptian, it is difficult to define what is and is not considered a myth by the Japanese.

The 20 most representative gods of Japan

1- Izanagi

Together with his wife Izanami, he was commissioned to create the first country. By consensus, the other kamis granted them a lance adorned with precious stones known as the amenonuhoko (spear of heaven). They were stirred in the ocean and, in contact with salt water, formed the island of Onogoro, on which they settled.

When they met, Izanami spoke in front of her husband first, which resulted in their first two children, Hiruko and Awashima, being born deformed, which is why their parents left them in a boat at sea. If abandoned, these first children are not considered kamis.

Izanagi and his wife seek advice from their superior Kami, who explains that when Izanagi first met, he had to speak to his wife first.

Subsequently, in doing things right, they created out of their union other islands known as Ohoyashima, corresponding to each of the large islands that make up Japan today.

2- Izanami

Known as "the first woman," they and their husband begin to produce numerous deities. However, she dies during the birth of Kagatsuchi, the Kami of Fire.

In pain, Izanagi embarks on a journey to Yomi, the land of the dead, and finds his deceased wife in the dark and asks him to return with him. Izanami tells him that it is too late because now he is part of the world of the dead and it is not possible for him to return to life.

The resigned man accepts, but before returning to earth and while Izanami sleeps, he lights a torch in the middle of the darkness of the Yomi. When he has light, he realizes that his wife is no longer the beautiful woman he used to be, now he is a decomposing body. Startled, Izanagi flees while his angry wife chases him.

The man manages to escape and covers the entrance of the Yomi with a large stone from the inside. Izanami yells that if he doesn't let them out, she would destroy 1,000 people every day. He replied that he would then give life to 1,500 people and thus bring about death.

3- Kagatsuchi

The deity of fire and the son of Izanagi and Izanami caused burns in Izanami's genitals when he was born, causing his death. Furiously, his father murders him with a sword, and more kamis are born to his son's blood and mutilated body.

His body split into eight parts and lived eight volcanoes. The death of Kagatsuchi marks the end of the creation of the world and the beginning of death.

In the Japanese faith he is worshiped as the god of fire and patron of the blacksmiths. He is currently being honored in various shrines in Shizuoka, Kyoto and Shimane.

4- Amaterasu

Upon his return from the Yomi, Izanagi is purified and by immersion in the water to wash himself, three of the most important Japanese deities are created, including Amaterasu, the kami of the sun, who is believed to be the ancestor of the royal imperial family.

It is said that he was born from the right eye of Izanagi and that after his birth his father decided to divide the land and give Amaterasu the sky and his brother Susanoo the seas and lightning. However, this occupation led to a sibling rivalry.

In a moment of anger, Susanoo destroys his sister's rice fields, locking Amaterasu in a cave. Without the sun, the world falls into the time of cold and darkness and while the fields are dying, the other Kamis decide to organize a party at the entrance of the cave to get Amaterasu's attention.

The noise from outside attracted Amaterasu's curiosity, who came out and asked what it was about. The gods replied that it was a new kami and showed him his reflection in the mirror. Amaterasu, who had never seen her reflection before, saw a woman full of light and warmth. At that moment he is convinced that he will return to heaven and give light to the world.

5- Susanoo

Kami from the Sea and from the Storms is the third child born from the face of Izanagi, specifically from his nose. If he confronts and arrests his sister, he will be judged by the other Kamis and expelled from heaven.

Exiled and sent to another region, a fearsome snake with eight heads and eight tails is faced, which terrified the place. To overcome it, they created eight huge doors that hid behind them so the snake could drink plenty of sake. It was a trap.

When neutralized, Susanoo cut the heads and tails and found a beautiful sword inside the fourth tail, which he gave to his sister to regain his place in heaven.

6- Tsukuyomi

He is the kami of the moon and the second of the children born from Izanagi's face, specifically his right eye. When his father decides to share the world between them, Tsukuyomi soars to the skies and takes control of the night while his sister Amaterasu takes control of the day.

According to legend, his sister once sent him to represent the goddess Uke Mochi to honor his presence. The goddess offered him a delicious meal that was created from the mouth and nose. However, Tsukuyomi got so angry that he murdered Uke Mochi.

Angry, Amaterasu did not want to see her brother again, and from that moment on the brothers live alternately in the sky, a symbol of how day and night alternate in the sky.

7- Uke Mochi

It is the creative deity of flora and fauna and food. His death at Tsukuyomi provided the man with food, as the five grains were born from his corpse.

The rice seed was born from his eyes, from his millet ears, from his wheat genitals, from his painted Jewish nose and from his soybean, which gave food to mortals.

8-inari

Kami of fertility, rice, agriculture, industry, and success in general is sometimes depicted as a male figure and in others as a female figure. He often uses white foxes as messengers, which is why he is sometimes depicted in the form of this animal.

Inari is one of the most popular deities in Japan and has 32,000 shrines dedicated to her across the country.

9-O-Wata-Tsu-Mi

His name means "the old man of the tides" and stands out among most sea deities. He is considered a type of kami who controls the water and tides at will, but allows mortals to predict their movements.

Between its features, it emphasizes that it was born from Izanagi at the time of purification, ruled all the living creatures of the ocean and, despite the appearance of an old man, has the true form of the green dragon who lives in a large palace in the depths of the sea.

10-Hachiman

According to Shintoism, he is the god of samurai warriors and is also considered the god of agriculture, happiness and peace. He is given the title of Protector of Human Life and he is symbolized by a white dove.

Although its origin is unknown as it does not appear in the Kojiki or Nihonshoki manuscripts, it became one of the most important kamis over time.

11- Takemikazuch

It is said that he was born of the blood that Kagatsuchi shed when he was killed, which gave him the gift of being the kami of thunder and sword. His battle with another deity known as Takeminakata gave birth to the first sumo duel, the famous sport of the eastern country.

Takemikazuchi is responsible for subjugating catfish or namazu, the creator of earthquakes.

12- Namazu

Kami from earthquakes is responsible for the movement of the earth and the formation of tsunamis. It is depicted in the shape of a giant catfish that is believed to inhabit the earth.

Takemikazuchi is the keeper of this creature and keeps it motionless to keep the earth from moving. However, when earthquakes are neglected, they tour the Japanese islands.

13- Shinatobe

The Kojiki book known as the Kami of the Wind states that he is the direct son of Izanagi and Izanami, while the Nihonshoki reports that he was born from the blowing of the morning mist through Izanami.

14-inugami

They are beings that are represented as dogs and fulfill the task of being guardians. Myths have it that it was necessary to bury a dog up to its neck and provide food without being able to reach it in order to create one.

The master affirms that the dog's suffering is no greater than his and that after the dog's death he will transform into Inugami. It is said that these are surrounded by success and good luck.

15- Ama no Uzume

It is the kami of happiness, fertility and dance. She was one of the goddesses who managed to remove Amaterasu from the cave where she was hiding.

Ama no Uzume danced until her clothes were undone and stayed naked in front of the other deities, who laughed so much that they caught Amaterasu's attention.

16-Ebisu

One of the first children of Izanami and Izanagi, who is considered a kami for wealth and prosperity in business.

He is also revered by fishermen, which is why he is depicted as a fisherman with a typical hat, a fishing rod in his right hand and a large fish that represents abundance

The four sacred animals of Japanese mythology

17-suzaku

It has the appearance of a red fenix that represents the south, summer, and the element of fire. This creature, like the other sacred animals, is one of the creatures that the Chinese share with the Japanese in their mythology.

18 genbu

It is the northern guardian and is usually depicted as a snake wrapped around a turtle. It is the symbol of winter and the element earth.

19-Byakko

Translated means "white light" and is usually depicted as a white tiger protecting the west.

It represents the fall season and the element of air. When it roars, it attracts storms and storms

20-Seiryu

He is the last of the protectors of the city of Kyoto, is an icon of the element water and is depicted as a giant blue dragon.

It also has a symbolism for spring and, like the previous animals, is represented in the constellations of the Chinese tradition.

Shintoism and Other Japanese Myths

Shintoism is based on the worship of Kamis, as they are known in the region, or of nature spirits or higher levels of existence. This concept encompasses all supernatural powers, ancestors, and humans who have attained the qualification of deities over time, including some ideals or values ​​that symbolize an abstract power.

As direct descendants of the Kami, the Japanese have a responsibility to live in harmony with the gods in order to be protected and blessed by them. Likewise, the Japanese make offerings to solve their problems and complaints.

Japanese myths are supported by Kojiki and Nihonshoki, the two oldest surviving books on the history of Japan.

The Kojiki tells the creation of the universe and the world by the Kami, also contains several myths, legends and tells the appearance of the first emperors, figures that are of great importance for the Japanese to consider them as divine descendants of the Kami.

In fact, the Japanese word for "emperor" is tennō, which translates as "heavenly ruler".

At this point there is no line that distinguishes what is a myth and what is history, so the two are usually extremely connected. The book also contains some songs written in a sort of Chinese mixed with Japanese, indicating the importance of one civilization over another.