Kojiki & Nihonshoki
Land of the Rising Sun Goddess


The word kami refers, in the most general sense, to all divine beings of heaven and earth that appear in the classics. More particularly, the kami are the spirits that abide in and are worshipped at the shrines. In principle human beings, birds, animals, trees, plants, mountains, oceans — all may be kami. According to ancient usage, whatever seemed strikingly impressive, possessed the quality of excellence, or inspired a feeling of awe was called kami. (The Sacred Paths of the East, 247)
When the first unified Japanese state was firmly established, the new “imperial” clan (Yamato) commissioned two “official” histories that wove together the myths of the various clans that they had conquered. These two texts, the Kojiki  and the Nihonshoki (a.k.a. Nihongi)both written in the early 8th centuryprovide the first written records of Shinto mythology. As noted by Kasulis:
Kojiki is rich in detail about the mythic preliterate period from the origins of Japan to the imperial rulers of the sixth century. In comparison, Nihonshoki has much more detail about the emperors from the sixth century up to the date of its writing. In this respect, the two narratives complement each other. Furthermore, on most points of overlap the two chronicles either agree or at least do not blatantly contradict one another. And, finally, both texts offer a mytho-historical justification for the Japanese imperial system: both trace the lineage of the emperors back to the celestial kami at the time of creation. Whatever their commonalities, however, the differences between the two texts are equally important for understanding Shinto spirituality and its institutional history. The most obvious difference is that the chroniclers wrote Kojiki mostly in Japanese, Nihonshoki totally in Chinese. This suggests different intended audiences. (SWH, 80-1)
Mythical Foundations
The Birth of Japan
Izanagi and Izanami stood on the floating bridge of Heaven and held counsel together, saying, “Is there not a country beneath?” Thereupon they thrust down the jewel-spear of Heaven and, groping about therewith, found the ocean. The brine which dripped from the point of the spear coagulated and became an island which received the name of Ono-goro-jima. The two deities thereupon descended and dwelt in this island. (SJT,14 [Nihonshoki 1])

Version 1 (Nihonshoki): Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto consulted together saying, “We have now produced the great-eight-island country, with the mountains, rivers, herbs, and trees. Why should we not produce someone who shall be lord of the universe? They then together produced the Sun Goddess, who was called O-hiru-me no muchi [a.k.a. Amaterasu]. ... The resplendent luster of this child shone throughout all the six quarters. Therefore the two deities rejoiced saying, “We have had many children, but none of them have been equal to this wondrous infant. She ought not to be kept long in this land, but we ought of our own accord to send her at once to Heaven and entrust to her the affairs of Heaven.” (SJT, 20-21 [Nihonshoki 1])
Version 2 (Kojiki): Through giving birth to this child her august private parts were burned, and she sickened and lay down. …So he buried the divinely retired deity the Female-Who-Invites on Mount Hiba, at the boundary of the Land of Idzumo and the Land of Hahaki. ... Thereupon His Augustuess the Male-Who-Invites, wishing to meet and see his younger sister Her Augustness the FemaleWho-Invites, followed after her to the Land of Hades. So when from the palace she raised the door and came out to meet him, His Augustness the Male-Who-Invites spoke, saying: “Thine Augustness, my lovelv younger sister! the lands that I and thou made are not yet finished making; so come back!” Then Her Augustness the Female-Who-Invites answered, saying: “Lamentable indeed that thou camest not sooner! I have eaten of the furnace of Hades.” …
Maggots were swarming, and she was rotting, and in her head dwelt the Great-Thunder, in her breast dwelt the Fire-Thunder, in her left hand dwelt the Young-Thunder, in her right hand dwelt the Earth-Thunder, in her left foot dwelt the Rumbling-Thunder, in her right foot dwelt the Couchant-Thunder — altogether eight Thunder-deities had been born and dwelt there. Hereupon His Augustness the Male-Who-Invites, overawed at the sight, fled back, whereupon his younger sister, “Her Augustness the Female-Who-Invites, said: “Thou hast put me to shame,” and at once sent the Ugly-Female-of-Hades to pursue him. … So he drew a thousand-draught rock, and with it blocked up the Even-Pass-of-Hades, and placed the rock in the middle; and they stood opposite to one another and exchanged leave-takings. …
Therefore the great deity the Male-Who-Invites said: “Nay! hideous! I have come to a hideous and polluted land - I have! So I will perform the purification of my august person.” So he went out to a plain covered with altagi, at a small river-mouth near Tachibana in Himuka in the island of Tsukushi, and purified and cleansed himself. … The name of the deity that was born as he thereupon washed his left august eye was the Heaven-Shining-Great-August deity [i.e. Amaterasu]. … At this time His Augustness the Male-Who-Invites greatly rejoiced, saying: “I, begetting child after child, have at my final begetting gotten three illustrious children.” With which words, at once jinglingly taking off and shaking the jewel-string forming his august necklace, be bestowed it on Amaterasu, the Heaven-Shining-Great-August deity. saying: “Do Thine Augustness rule the Plain-of-High-Heaven.” With this charge he bestowed it on her. (sacred-texts.com [Kojiki 1-3])

[Izanagi and Izanami’s] next child was Susa no o no Mikoto. … This god had a fierce temper and was given to cruel acts. Moreover he made a practice of continually weeping and wailing. So he brought many of the people of the land to an untimely end. Again he caused green mountains to become withered. Therefore the two gods, his parents, addressed Susa-no-o no Mikoto, saying, “Thou art exceedingly wicked, and it is not meet that thou shouldst reign over the world. Certainly thou must depart far away to the Nether-land.” So they at length expelled him. (SJT, 20-1)

The Sacred Mirror
After this Susa-no-o no Mikoto’s behavior was exceedingly rude. ... [For example,] when he saw that Amaterasu was in her sacred weaving hall, engaged in weaving garments of the gods, he flayed a piebald colt of Heaven and, breaking a hold in the roof tiles of the hall, flung it in. Then Amaterasu started with alarm and wounded herself with the shuttle. Indignant of this, she straightway entered the Rock-cave of Heaven and, having fastened the Rock-door, dwelt there in seclusion. Therefore constant darkness prevailed on all sides, and the alternation of night and day was unknown.
       Then the eighty myriad gods met on the bank of the Tranquil River of Heaven and considered in what manner they should supplicate her. ... Then Ame no Koyane no Mikoto ... and Futo-dama no Mikoto ... dug up a five-hundred branched True Sakaki tree of the Heavenly Mount Kagu. On its upper branches they hung an august five-hundred string of Yasaka [Magatama] jewels. On the middle branches they hung an eight-hand mirror. ... Moreover Ame no Uzume no Mikoto, ancestress of the Sarume chieftain, took in her hand a spear wreathed with Eulalia grass and, standing before the door of the Rock-cave of Heaven, skillfully performed a mimic dance. She took, moreover, the true Sakaki tree of the Heavenly Mount of Kagu and made of it a head-dress; she took club-moss and made of it braces; she kindled fires; she placed a tub bottom upwards and gave forth a divinely inspired utterance.

Now Amaterasu heard this and said, “Since I have shut myself up in the Rock-cave, there ought surely to be continual night in the Central Land of fertile reed-plains. How then can Ame no Uzume no Mikoto be so jolly? So with her august hand, she opened for a narrow space the Rock-door and peeped out. Then Ta-jikara-o no kami forthwith took Amaterasu by the hand and led her out. Upon this the gods Nakatomi no Kami and Imibe no Kami at once drew a limit by means of a bottom-tied rope ... and begged her not to return again [into the cave]. (SJT, 24-25)
Susanoo & the Great Sword
So, having been expelled, Susa-no-o descended to a place [called] Torikami at the head-waters of the River Hi in the land of Izumo. [Susa-no o met an old male and an old female deity who were weeping because they had lost seven daughters to a serpent, which was now about to take their eighth daughter. Susa-no o then set out eight pots of sake (rice alcohol); when the serpent arrived, each of its eight heads drank a pot of sake so that it became intoxicated.] Then Susa-no o drew the ten-grasp saber that was augustly girded on him and cut the serpent in pieces, so that the River Hi flowed on changed into a river of blood. So when he cut the middle tail, the edge of his august sword broke. Then, thinking it strange, he thrust into and split [the flesh] with the point of his august sword and looked, and there was a sharp great sword [within]. So he took this great sword, and thinking it a strange thing, he respectfully informed Amaterasu. This is the Herb-quelling Great Sword. (SJT, 25-7)

Ninigi & Jimmu
The August Grandchild

After “all the Central Land of Reed-Plains” was completely “tranquilized,” Amaterasu gave her grandson, Ninigi, the Three Treasures (a curved jewel, a mirror, and a sword) and sent him down to rule the earth, saying: “This Reed-plain-1500-autumns-fair-rice-ear Land is the region which my descendants shall be lords of. Do thou, my August Grandchild, proceed thither and govern it. Go! And may prosperity attend thy dynasty, and may it, like Heaven and Earth, endure for ever.” (SJT, 28)

According to tradition, Ninigi’s Great Grandson, Jimmu, went on to become the first “emperor” of Japan in 660 B.C.E. The present emperor of Japan is said to be a direct descendent of this lineage, which is ultimately traced back to the kami Amaterasu.