Tracing the History of Japan: Part 1

From Gods to Kings: Japanese History

The history of Japan is as interesting as any other. In other creation theories, we see that God created the Universe, however, in Japanese history, the Universe already existed.

In the beginning

The Universe had no shape, sound, or order; it was chaotic. Slowly light and clouds came into existence. Finally, Heaven was formed. Heaven aka Takamagahara (高天原) was the dwelling place of the Gods. Below Takamagahara formed a dense dark mass known as Earth. Ama No Ukihashi (天浮橋) is the bridge that connects Takamagahara to Earth.

There are two main sources for understanding the historical creation of Japan; The Kojiki(古事記) and the Nihon Shoki (日本書紀). The Kojiki is the oldest book of classical Japanese history, followed by the Nihon Shoki. Compared to the Kojiki, the Nihon Shoki is more detailed. It has been an important source for understanding ancient history of Japan.

The Kojiki and Nihon Shoki have some similar account but, the purpose of each is very different. We will discuss these differences later.

The Appearance of Gods

Now comes the interesting part. After the formation of Takamagahara, the first 5 Gods appeared (collectively known as KOTOAMATSUKAMI別天神). These 5 Gods were not ‘born’, they simply came into existence. They were formless and genderless.

According to Kojiki, next came the Kamiyonanayo (神世七代). However, according to Nihon Shoki, this group formed first. Let us follow the chronology set by the Kojiki for now.
The Kamiyonanayo meaning ‘Seven Generations of the Age of Gods’ were 12 Gods in total. Two came first came, followed by 5 pairs of Gods.


Amongst them the most well-known pair are Izanagi and Izanami. They were the last pair of this group.

The Kojiki mentions the names of the Gods a little differently.
古事記:Izanagi no Kami => 伊邪那岐神
Izanami no Kami=> 伊邪那美神

You must have heard these names multiple times if you read manga or watch Anime. They are portrayed widely even in today’s storytelling as they play a very important role in the ancient history of Japan.

As mentioned earlier, Earth was simply a dense, dark mass. The elder Gods gave Izanagi and Izanami the responsibility to give solid form to this Earth. In order to transform Earth, they used a spear called Ame-no-nuboko (天沼矛).

Kuniumi (国産み): The Birth of a Nation

The first island created was Onogoroshima (磤馭慮島).

——-Continuation in Part 2

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