How did Amaterasu come into being? What role, according to legend, did she play in Japanese history? Per the earliest Japanese “mythohistories” (Kitagawa), Kojiki (records of ancient matters, compiled in 712) and Nihongi (chronicles of Japan, complied in 720), the origins of the empire date back to 660 BCE, a date calculated from a cyclical formula introduced from China during the fifth or sixth century CE (Kirkland 111); none of the persons or events mentioned can be firmly established in historical terms until the sixth century, when Keitai (r. 507-534 CE) came to power in Yamato. After a prolonged succession struggle, Kimmei (r. 540-572) began to consolidate the power of the Yamato throne, by the seventh century a centralized state was well established (110). There is evidence that the concept of the “sun-lineage” as the foundation of royal authority originated in the Yamato period; the Yamato rulers were believed to have descended from the sun goddess, Amaterasu. (109) Amaterasu Omikami “the great deity who illuminates heaven” also known as Hi no kami “diety of the sun” was born from the mother of all, Izanami and the father of all, Izanagi and it was like the sun rising in the east. According to the Kojiki, the oldest version of her birth tells that while Izanagi was washing his left eye from the Miasma of Yomi no Kuni in a ritual purification following his attempt to revive the goddess Izanami from Yomi (the land of death / underworld), he gave birth to Amaterasu, Tsukiyomi, the goddess of the Moon and Susanoo, the god of sea and storm. Izanagi divided the world between the three siblings with Amaterasu inheriting the heavens and provided her with a special necklace of five hundred curved jewels; the Mikuratana no kami. An alternate version of her birth in the later record, the Nihongi’s main text states that Izanagi and Izanami delibertly decided to give to birth to a “lord of all” after giving birth to all the kami of the land. Together they produced the...
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The term "mythohistories" is from Joseph M. Kitagawa, On Understanding Japanese Religion
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), pp
Sakamoto Tare, The Six National Histories of Japan, trans. John S. Brownlee
(Vancouver/Tokyo: UBC Press/University of Tokyo Press, 1991), pp
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