The Creation of Japan, Kojiki (2023)

The Kojiki, which translates to “Records of Ancient Matters”,contains Japan’s native creation myths and other mythology. Like all mythology, it was considered both factually true and Truth through most of history. This translation comes from Basil Hall Chamberlain and dates to 1932. This excerpt includes the introduction of the first volumeand Japan’s creation story. The story about the creation of Japan’s deities comes from a 1929 translation by Yaichiro Isobe. I include these two different translations to give you an idea of how these ancient texts can feel different depending on who is translating.

Hereupon all the ‘heavenly Deities commanded the two Deities His Augustness the Male-Who-Invites and her Augustness the Female-Who-Invites, ordering them to “make, consolidate, and give birth to this drifting land.” Granting to them a heavenly jewelled spear, they deigned to charge them. So the two Deities, standing upon the Floating Bridge of Heaven, pushed down the jewelled spear and stirred it, whereupon, when they had stirred the brine till it went curdle-curdle, and drew the spear up, the brine that dripped down from the end of the spear was piled up and became an island. This is the island of Onogoro.

Birth of the Eight Great Islands

Hereupon the two Deities took counsel, saying: “The children to whom we have now given birth are not good. It will be best to announce this in the august place of the Heavenly Deities.” They ascended forthwith to Heaven and inquired of Their Augustnesses the Heavenly Deities. Then the Heavenly Deities commanded and found out by grand divination, and ordered them, saying: “They were not good because the woman spoke first. Descend back again and amend you words.” So thereupon descending back, they again when round the heavenly august pillar as before. Thereupon his Augustness the Male-Who-Invites spoke first: ” Ah! What a fair and lovely maiden!” Afterward; his younger sister Her Augustness the Female-Who-Invites spoke: “Ah! what a fair ad lovely youth!” In such way did they give birth to a child the Island of Ahaji, Honosawake. Next they gave birth to the Island of Futa-na in Iyo. This island has one body and four faces, and each face as a name. So the Land of Iyo is called Lovely Princess, the Land of Sanuki is called Prince Good Boiled Rice; the Land of Aha is called Princess of Great Food; the Land of Tosa is called Brave Good Youth. Next they gave birth to the Islands of Mitsugo near Oki, another nae for which is Heavenly Great Heart Youth. Next they gave birth to the island of Tsukushi. This island likewise has one body and four faces, and each face has a name. So the Land of Tsukushi is called White Sun Youth; the Land of Toyo is called Luxuriant Sun Youth; the Land of Hi is called Brave Sun Confronting Luxuriant Wonderous Lord Youth; the Land of Kumaso is called Brave Sun Youth.

Next they gave birth to the island of Iki, another name for which is Heaven’s One Pillar. Next they gave birth to the Island of Tsu, another name for which is Heavenly Hand net Good Princess. Next they gave birth to the Island of Sado. Next they gave birth to Great Yamato the Luxuriant Island of the Dragon Fly, another name for which is Heavenly August Sky Luxuriant Dragon fly Lord Youth. The name of Land of the Eight Great Islands therefore originated in these eight islands having been born first. After that, when they had returned, they gave birth to the Island of Ko in Kibi, another name for which is Brave Sun Direction Youth. Next they gave birth to the Island of Adzuki another name for which is Ohonudehime. Next they gave birth to he Island of Oho, another name for which is Tamaru-wake. Next they gave birth to he Island of Hime, another name for which is Heaven’s One Root. Next they gave birth to he Island of Chika, another name for which is Heavenly Great Male. Next they gave birth to he Island of Futago, another name for which is Heaven’s Two Houses.

The Birth of the Deities

Having, thus, made a country from what had formerly been no more than a mere floating mass, the two Deities, Izanagi and Izanami, about begetting those deities destined to preside over the land, sea, mountains, rivers, trees, and herbs. Their first-born proved to be the sea-god, Owatatsumi-no-Kami. Next they gave birth to the patron gods of harbors, the male deity Kamihaya-akitsu-hiko having control of the land and the goddess Haya-akitsu-hime having control of the sea. These two latter deities subsequently gave birth to eight other gods.

Next Izanagi and Izanami gave birth to the wind-deity, Kami-Shinatsuhiko-no-Mikoto. At the moment of his birth, his breath was so potent that the clouds and mists, which had hung over the earth from the beginning of time, were immediately dispersed. In consequence, every corner of the world was filled with brightness. Kukunochi-no-Kami, the deity of trees, was the next to be born, followed by Oyamatsumi-no-Kami, the deity of mountains, and Kayanuhime-no-Kami, the goddess of the plains. . . .

The process of procreation had, so far, gone on happily, but at the birth of Kagutsuchi-no-Kami, the deity of fire, an unseen misfortune befell the divine mother, Izanami. During the course of her confinement, the goddess was so severely burned by the flaming child that she swooned away. Her divine consort, deeply alarmed, did all in his power to resuscitate her, but although he succeeded in restoring her to consciousness, her appetite had completely gone. Izanagi, thereupon and with the utmost loving care, prepared for her delectation various tasty dishes, but all to no avail, because whatever she swallowed was almost immediately rejected. It was in this wise that occurred the greatest miracle of all. From her mouth sprang Kanayama-biko and Kanayama-hime, respectively the god and goddess of metals, whilst from other parts of her body issued forth Haniyasu-hiko and Haniyasu-hime, respectively the god and goddess of earth. Before making her “divine retirement,” which marks the end of her earthly career, in a manner almost unspeakably miraculous she gave birth to her last-born, the goddess Mizuhame-no-Mikoto. Her demise marks the intrusion of death into the world. Similarly the corruption of her body and the grief occasioned by her death were each the first of their kind.

By the death of his faithful spouse Izanagi was now quite alone in the world. In conjunction with her, and in accordance with the instructions of the Heavenly Gods, he had created and consolidated the Island Empire of Japan. In the fulfillment of their divine mission, he and his heavenly spouse had lived an ideal life of mutual love and cooperation. It is only natural, therefore, that her death should have dealt him a truly mortal blow.

He threw himself upon her prostrate form, crying: “Oh, my dearest wife, why art thou gone, to leave me thus alone? How could I ever exchange thee for even one child? Come back for the sake of the world, in which there still remains so much for both us twain to do.” In a fit of uncontrollable grief, he stood sobbing at the head of the bier. His hot tears fell like hailstones, and lo! out of the tear-drops was born a beauteous babe, the goddess Nakisawame-no-Mikoto. In deep astonishment he stayed his tears, a gazed in wonder at the new-born child, but soon his tears returned only to fall faster than before. It was thus that a sudden change came over his state of mind. With bitter wrath, his eyes fell upon the infant god of fire, whose birth had proved so fatal to his mother. He drew his sword, Totsuka-no-tsurugi, and crying in his wrath, “Thou hateful matricide,” decapitated his fiery offspring. Up shot a crimson spout of blood. Out of the sword and blood together arose eight strong and gallant deities. “What! more children?” cried Izanagi, much astounded at their sudden appearance, but the very next moment, what should he see but eight more deities born from the lifeless body of the infant firegod! They came out from the various parts of the body,–head, breast, stomach, hands, feet, and navel, and, to add to his astonishment, all of them were glaring fiercely at him. Altogether stupefied he surveyed the new arrivals one after another.

Meanwhile Izanami, for whom her divine husband pined so bitterly, had quitted this world for good and all and gone to the Land of Hades.

These creation stories, though strange to modern readers, speak of several truths. First, the story speaks with affection about the Japanese homeland. Much of Japanese history is characterized by a special affinity toward the land. Several times throughout Japanese history there were movements to restore the forests and other habitats. When everything has a spirit or god behind it, people tend to hold a respectful, reverent view of the environment and how it supports their lives. This can also be seen in Native American cultures. This myth and those like it suggest how we should retain our respect for the world around us and its resources. To do otherwise disrespects the divine and jeopardizes our ability to live.

The story about the gods’ births sets the stage for several reoccurring themes in Japanese literature and culture. Harmony is emphasized. Japanese culture places the quest for harmony between people and between people and nature in the center. Their honorific system grew out of this. The story shows how the decay of harmony and the reality of sorrow can lead to unintended consequences. In his grief, Izanagi kills his son, creating more sons and daughters in the process–much to his surprise. The story lays out a thread found throughout Japanese literature. The blissful, harmonious life Izanagi and Izanami shared couldn’t last. Izanami’s tragic death introduces sorrow to what was a happy story. Japanese literature enjoys balancing happiness with sorrow. Tragedy completes the story. Without sorrow, happiness cannot be understood. Few stories end “happily ever after” but this reflects a clear-eyed view of reality. Buddhism carries a similar thread. Buddhism stories focus on how suffering permeates our experiences. This overlap helped Shintoism (which is what these creation stories originate from) and Buddhism mingle. Whenever you read Japanese literature, you will see this interweaving of religions.

When you read some of these old translations, archaic Japanese is either depicted in Old English as you will see here or in Latin. Chamberlain’s excerpt contained a few sections of Latin that I translated for you. During the time these stories were written, the Imperial Court used a different dialect of Japanese than the rest of the country. This dialect fell out of style rather quickly but reappeared in literature. Imperial characters and gods spoke it to emphasize their separateness. The use of the language is similar to the Western use of Latin after the fall of Rome. Latin become the language of the Catholic Church and of educated noble elites. It was used to write court and religious documents. This similarity prompted some early translators to use Latin for Imperial Court Japanese. Unlike Latin, which still appears in academia and the Catholic Church, Imperial Court Japanese disappeared. A few remnants appear in Japanese language, but it lacks the cohesion that endures in Latin. You can still find vestiges of it in the speaking style in joseigo, the speaking style of Japan’s Lolita subculture, and with the Japanese Imperial family.


Chamberlain, B. (1939)Translation of Kojiki.Kobe: J.L. Thompson & Co.

Yaichiro, I. (1929)The Story of Ancient Japan or Tales from the Kojiki. San Kaku Sha.


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  • FAQs

    The Creation of Japan, Kojiki? ›

    The deities are born first, including the male Izanagi and female Izanami. They dip a spear into the formless brine of the universe and the drips become an island. On this island they come together in another act of creation and the resultant offspring are the islands of Japan.

    How was Japan created in Kojiki? ›

    The deities are born first, including the male Izanagi and female Izanami. They dip a spear into the formless brine of the universe and the drips become an island. On this island they come together in another act of creation and the resultant offspring are the islands of Japan.

    What is the Kojiki creation theory? ›

    The 1300 year-old Kojiki myth traces the beginnings of the Japanese people, following the rise of the Japanese islands from their humble origins as a lump of clay to a great nation that would one day take its rightful place among the leading nations of the world.

    Why was the kojiki created? ›

    How about the Kojiki? The Kojiki, on the other hand, was written for domestic readers in a modified Chinese style so as to record archaic Japanese words. As for its contents, it is the same as the Nihon Shoki in writing about the world of the deities and the events during each emperor's reign.

    What is the Kojiki Japanese myth? ›

    The Kojiki is a collation of different traditions woven into a single "official" mythology, made in an attempt to justify the rule of the imperial Yamato polity and at the same time to subsume different interest groups under its wing by giving them a place and an interest in the national genealogy-mythology.

    How was Japan created according to the myth? ›

    Izanagi thrust his staff into the waters and as he pulled it back up some clumps of mud fell back into the sea. They began to harden and grow until they became the islands of Japan.

    How did Japan develop itself? ›

    After gaining support from the United States and achieving domestic economic reform, Japan's economy was able to soar from the 1950s to the 1970s. Furthermore, Japan also completed its process toward industrialization and became the first developed nation in East Asia.

    What were the main points of the Kojiki? ›

    The Kojiki had two main purposes: to reinforce the idea that the emperor was descended from the gods and to determine the ranks of the leading Japanese families in society. During the 600s, increased contact with China had introduced the Japanese to many aspects of Chinese society, including its royal court system.

    What is the importance of the Japanese creation myth? ›

    These tales of creation help Japanese people connect with their past and harmonize it with the present. It also presents a genealogical history that connects them to their ancestors. According to the creation myth, Japan was created by deities who were later sent to govern the world.

    Who are the two main gods in the Kojiki story of creation? ›

    Over the centuries, the Kojiki has become an important part of Japanese/Shinto mythology and helps define the Japanese worldview. The Shinto creation story relates the activities of Izanagi and Izanami, a god and goddess who created the Japanese islands out of chaos, a state of disorder or formlessness.

    What style of writing is Kojiki? ›

    The writing style is a unique combination of dialogue, verse, narrative, and commentary, often directly from the people appearing in the stories. Similar to Greek and Roman mythology, stories from Kojiki are rich with intrigue and compelling drama that many readers from other countries will enjoy.

    When did the Japanese creation myth start? ›

    Japanese Creation Myth (712 CE)

    What is the oldest Japanese myth? ›

    Literary sources. The Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki, completed in A.D. 712 and A.D. 720 respectively, had the two most referenced and oldest sources of Japanese mythology and pre-history.

    What is the most famous myth in Japan? ›

    Momotarō – Arguably the most famous Japanese folktale, this is the quirky story of a boy born from a peach who was discovered by an old childless couple when they split the soft fruit open. Momotaro jumped out and was raised by the couple.

    Is the Kojiki completed? ›

    The oldest extant "histories" are the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) of 712 and the Nihon Shoki (or Nihongi, Chronicles of Japan), which was completed in 720.

    Who is the most powerful Japanese myth? ›

    1. Amaterasu. Amaterasu was an incredibly powerful and influential goddess in Japanese mythology. She is well-known as the great ancestress of the Japanese Imperial family who shines from the heavens.

    How was Japan first discovered? ›

    The first Europeans to arrive in Japan did so by accident rather than design. In 1543 a Portuguese ship was blown off course by a typhoon, shipwrecking the sailors on the island of Tanegashima, off the south-west tip of Japan.

    How did Japan become so advanced? ›

    The First World War paved the way for Japan to become a fully-fledged scientific and technological world power.

    How was Japan originally unified? ›

    The Battle of Okehazama: Oda Nobunaga's Ascent

    In 1560, the daimyo Imagawa Yoshimoto saw his opportunity to strike at the heart of the country and usher in the unification of Japan. He would lead his forces up the Tokaido road. This path went through the Owari province, recently unified under Oda Nobunaga.

    Is Kojiki the oldest book of classical Japan? ›

    Kojiki is the oldest surviving historical record in Japan. It covers Japanese history from its origins to the early 7th century. It includes creation mythology and legends of deities as well as records and anecdotes of historical figures who helped to establish Japan as a unified country.

    Who is the sky god according to Japanese mythology? ›

    Amaterasu, in full Amaterasu Ōmikami, (Japanese: “Great Divinity Illuminating Heaven”), the celestial sun goddess from whom the Japanese imperial family claims descent, and an important Shintō deity.

    What language was the kojiki written in? ›

    The Kojiki was largely written in Chinese as that was the only writing system available at the time. Though some parts, especially the many old songs included in the book, were meant to be read in Old Japanese, with the Chinese characters only providing a way to record the sounds of the language.

    What is the Japanese creation story of humans? ›

    One day when the gods were walking they found two tree trunks. They transformed them into the shape of humans. Odin gave them life, Vili gave them mind and Ve gave them the ability to hear, see, and speak.

    Who is the Japanese god of creation? ›

    Izanagi (イザナギ/伊邪那岐/伊弉諾) or Izanaki (イザナキ), formally known as Izanagi-no-Mikoto (伊邪那岐命/伊弉諾尊, meaning "He-who-invites" or the "Male-who-invites"), is the creator deity (kami) of both creation and life in Japanese mythology.

    What is the purpose of creation myth? ›

    They provide the basis of a worldview that reaffirms and guides how people relate to the natural world, to any assumed spiritual world, and to each other. A creation myth acts as a cornerstone for distinguishing primary reality from relative reality, the origin and nature of being from non-being.

    What does the kojiki say about death? ›

    According to Kojiki, Shintoism has a very vague perception of death. The only description about the afterlife is from the myth when Izanagi saw Izanami in Yomi. Judging from this description, Yomi is a sad place that will contaminate those go there.

    Who is the first god in Japanese mythology? ›

    The first gods Amenominakanushi and Kunitokotachi summoned two divine beings into existence, the male Izanagi and the female Izanami, and charged them with creating the first land. To help them do this, Izanagi and Izanami were given a spear decorated with jewels, named Amenonuhoko (heavenly spear).

    Who is the sun goddess according to the kojiki? ›

    Amaterasu is enticed from the cave, and shines on the earth and heaven once more. Her light is essential in both realms. This is why Kojiki says that her descendants came down to the world to rule Japan as emperors.

    Why is it important for Japanese to worship gods? ›

    The Japanese people have long believed that the spirits of the deceased remain eternally on this earth and guard their descendants. Even in today's Japan, people who carry on these traditional beliefs and the Shinto faith consider their ancestors to be their “guardian deities,” and thus objects of worship.

    What are the 3 main beliefs of Shintoism? ›

    What are the main beliefs of Shinto? The main beliefs of Shinto are the importance of purity, harmony, respect for nature, family respect, and subordination of the individual before the group.

    What is the sacred scripture of Shintoism Kojiki? ›

    The holy books of Shinto are the Kojiki or 'Records of Ancient Matters' (712 CE) and the Nihon-gi or 'Chronicles of Japan' (720 CE). These books are compilations of ancient myths and traditional teachings that had previously been passed down orally.

    What is the oldest creation myth in the world? ›

    The earliest record of a Sumerian creation myth, called The Eridu Genesis by historian Thorkild Jacobsen, is found on a single fragmentary tablet excavated in Nippur by the Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania in 1893, and first recognized by Arno Poebel in 1912.

    Who are the gods in Japanese creation story? ›

    Izanagi and Izanami, (Japanese: “He Who Invites” and “She Who Invites”) in full Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto, the central deities (kami) in the Japanese creation myth. They were the eighth pair of brother-and-sister gods to appear after heaven and earth separated out of chaos.

    What was the first yokai? ›

    One of the oldest examples of yokai art was the Hyakki Yagyo Zu, a 16th century scroll that portrayed a pandemonium of Japanese monsters. This formed the basis for Japan's first definitive encyclopedia of yokai characters through the work of 18th century printmaker Toriyama Sekien.

    When was the first yokai? ›

    While the history of yōkai stretches back to the 8th century, visual representations of them only started to appeared in Japan's medieval period (1185-1600 CE).

    How many Japanese gods exist? ›

    An infinity of gods

    The word "Shinto", 神道in Japanese, means the "way of the gods" and defines the existence of a myriad of gods. The quasi-infinite number of Shinto deities in Japan is sometimes estimated to 8 million.

    How old is the Kojiki? ›

    The Kojiki (古事記), “Record of Ancient Matters” or “An Account of Ancient Matters” can be traced back to the early 8th century (711-712). It is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan written by Ō no Yasumaro (a Japanese nobleman, bureaucrat, and chronicler), on the request from the Empress Gemmei.

    What is the most evil demon in Japanese mythology? ›

    The Amanojaku or Amanjaku ( 天 あま の 邪 じゃ 鬼 く , "heavenly evil spirit") is a demon-like creature in Japanese folklore.

    Is the Japanese Empire still alive? ›

    Naruhito is the current emperor of Japan.

    What is the difference of Kojiki and nihongi? ›

    The book is also called the Nihongi (日本紀, "Japanese Chronicles"). It is more elaborate and detailed than the Kojiki, the oldest, and has proven to be an important tool for historians and archaeologists as it includes the most complete extant historical record of ancient Japan.

    How long is the Kojiki? ›

    Product information
    Publisher‎Columbia University Press; Illustrated edition (September 9, 2014)
    Paperback279 pages
    6 more rows

    Who is the smartest Japanese god? ›

    Omoikane (思兼 or 思金) is a Shinto god of wisdom and intelligence. His name means "serving one's thoughts." A heavenly deity who is called upon to "ponder" and give good counsel in the deliberations of the heavenly deities. In the myth where Amaterasu hid in a cave, he was tasked to find a way to get her out.

    Who is the Japanese version of Zeus? ›

    Raijin: Thunder God

    Raijin, the god of thunder and lightning, is essentially the Zeus of Japan.

    Who is the demon leader of Japan? ›

    Shuten-dōji (酒呑童子, also sometimes called 酒顛童子, 酒天童子, or 朱点童子) is a mythical oni or demon leader of Japan, who according to legend was killed by the hero Minamoto no Raikō.

    What is Kojiki explained? ›

    The Kojiki is an important source book for ceremonies, customs, divination, and magical practices of ancient Japan. It includes myths, legends, and historical accounts of the imperial court from the earliest days of its creation up to the reign of Empress Suiko (628).

    What is the Japanese myth creation of humans? ›

    One day when the gods were walking they found two tree trunks. They transformed them into the shape of humans. Odin gave them life, Vili gave them mind and Ve gave them the ability to hear, see, and speak.

    What is the creation myth of Izanami and Izanagi? ›

    They were the eighth pair of brother-and-sister gods to appear after heaven and earth separated out of chaos. By standing on the floating bridge of heaven and stirring the primeval ocean with a heavenly jeweled spear, they created the first landmass.

    What is the oldest Japanese story? ›

    The oldest and perhaps the strangest of all of these texts is Taketori Monogatari, the legend of the bamboo cutter and the princess of the moon. Known also as Kagya-hime no Monogatari, the legend is the oldest surviving piece of Japanese fiction.

    Who was the first human in Japan? ›

    The first human inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago have been traced to the Paleolithic, around 38-40,000 years ago. The Jōmon period, named after its cord-marked pottery, was followed by the Yayoi period in the first millennium BC when new inventions were introduced from Asia.

    What is the most famous Japanese myth? ›

    Momotarō – Arguably the most famous Japanese folktale, this is the quirky story of a boy born from a peach who was discovered by an old childless couple when they split the soft fruit open. Momotaro jumped out and was raised by the couple.

    Why is Izanami forbidden? ›

    Because the jutsu can be broken, it was deemed forbidden for combat use. However, the ocular jutsu can affect non-Uchiha, and it's conditions can be decided by the user. Any person trapped under this genjutsu, is completely vulnerable and even susceptible to being placed under another genjutsu.

    What terrible thing happened to Izanami? ›

    In the act of giving birth to the fire god, Kagutsuchi (or Homusubi), Izanami was fatally burned and went to Yomi, the land of darkness. The grief-stricken Izanagi followed her there, but she had eaten the food of that place and could not leave.

    Is Izanami forbidden? ›

    Being a forbidden jutsu, the Izanami leads to the loss of light in the Sharingan that it is used. Evidently, both Izanagi and Izanami are two of the most powerful Forbidden Jutsu to be introduced in the Naruto series.

    Who is the first Japanese god? ›

    The first gods Amenominakanushi and Kunitokotachi summoned two divine beings into existence, the male Izanagi and the female Izanami, and charged them with creating the first land. To help them do this, Izanagi and Izanami were given a spear decorated with jewels, named Amenonuhoko (heavenly spear).

    What is the strongest Japanese god? ›

    Amaterasu is the highest deity in Japanese mythology.

    Who is the evil god in Japanese mythology? ›

    The character is usually depicted as a supervillain and demonic god of evil who is best known as an enemy of Hercules and Thor. He is based on the Mikaboshi of Japanese mythology. Amatsu-Mikaboshi first appeared in Thor: Blood Oath #6 (February 2006), and was adapted from mythology by Michael Oeming and Scott Kolins.


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