So I find the Japanese Imperial Family’s Belief System intriguing. It is similar to native North American thoughts and beliefs. Everything has a spirit and it does not negate that there may be a great spirit but Japanese Shinto is interesting to me on a couple of levels and I want to kind of go over it here.
They were originally six gods that appeared in the Universe, each with their own responsibility for a different part of that Universe. This particular areas god, who was a-sexual, created a male and female god, Izanagi, the male and Izanami, the female.
They were given a sword in which Izanagi took that sword and dipped it into the ocean and as he pulled it out, a drop of water fell back down into the ocean, creating the first island; Onogoro. This is present day Awaji Island, between the mainland of Honshu and Shikoku.
They both descended upon this island, and after a couple of mistakes, and some more counseling by the first god, Izanami began bearing island, gods and deities. She died giving birth to the fire god.
Izanami fell into what is called Nenokuni. The Underworld. Not necessarily a place of purgatory, but a place where spirits and deities go, after they have passed on. Izanagi, being distraught over the loss of the one he loved, attempted to enter this underworld and found Izanami in what appeared to him was despair and suffering, though it is really not known what transformation she was going through when he found her.
He tried to reach her but the other spirits chased him out of the cave and he blocked the entrance to it with a large stone This place is in the area of Izumo, in Japan. He felt dirty, coming out of the cave, so he went to a nearby waterfall to rinse off. As he was washing his face, an extraordinary thing happened; three gods appeared from his face!
From his left eye, Amaterasu. The ultimate Goddess of Japan and the Goddess of the Sun and Day. Tsukiyomi, the God of Night and the Moon. And finally, Susanoo, the God of the Ocean and Storms.
It was Susanoo and Amaterasu that did not get along and one day in an argument, Susanoo ripped off a portion of the roof of one of Amaterasu’s Shrines, throwing it and killing one of her food attendants. She was so scared, that she hid in a cave and everything went dark. After the third day, the other gods came up with an idea to entice her out of the cave. They brought her mirror and their mothers jewel and hung them on a nearby tree right outside of the cave, positioning them so they would reflect the moonlight, allowing her to see around the other side of the cave where they had built a fire and were dancing and laughing.
Amaterasu became interested in what was going on and peeking out of the cave, she saw her mirror and the jewel(s). Not happy that they had toucher her mirror, she then saw them dancing and heard them laughing, (because another Goddess was stripping and everyone was laughing), which enticed her to step out of the cave. As soon as she did this, two other gods blocked the entrance of the cave with a large rock, preventing her from returning to the cave.
Susanoo came running up to her, getting down on one knee and offering a sword and asking forgiveness. It is believed that this sword was originally his fathers, swiped by an eight-headed dragon and retrieved coincidentally by Susanoo, saving the last daughter of a poor family that was cursed to be eaten by the dragon. He even gets to marry the girl!
Amaterasu accepted the sword and forgave him but not after banishing him from her presence. She would end up taking the sword, her mirror and her mother’s jewel and giving them to her great grandson, who descended to earth and became the first Emperor of Japan in 660BCE; Emperor Jimmu.
These three items are now known as the three Regalia of Japan, or the Three Great Treasures of Japan. Up until about the 10th Emperor, Suijin, these items remained together, moving from place to place in the Kansai area, from Izumo in the west to Kashiwabara in the east. It was then that Emperor Suijin, had his daughter, Toyosuke Iri Hime, to find a sacred home for these items. She and her Imperial entourage scoured the center of Japan trying to find a home for this items. She passed away after six locations as she was already advanced in age. The 11th Emperor, Suinin, had his daughter, Yamato hime no Mikoto, continue the search and after twenty more locations, finally settled on the eastern Kii Peninsula area of Ise. This is where the sacred Shrine of Ise has been for over 2000 years.
According to wikipedia, ‘Shinto is made up of kami (god or gods) and also refers to the singular divinity, or sacred essence, that manifests in multiple forms: rocks, trees, rivers, animals, places, and even people can be said to possess the nature of kami. Kami and people are not separate; they exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity’.
We can view everything as having a kami. I believe that if we cannot hear a dog whistle, then we are saying there are things on this earth that we cannot hear. Then there must be things in this world that we cannot see.
So, I try my best to respect everything, though difficult at times with certain gods, such as the Christian god who strictly does not want you worshipping any other gods but turns around and kills millions of children. Of the 400,000 gods on the face of the earth, we have about 8% of them here. None of them force you to worship them.
They are there for you to talk to, to see with in nature, to enjoy. It could be the breeze, or the calm during a heavy snowfall, the running of the rapids or the clucking of the bamboo’s in the forest during a heavy wind, it can even be the sound that hummingbirds make.
These kami gave birth to the longest Imperial Lineage on the face of the earth. 2,677 years of it. Japan has also held its name NIPPON, longer than any other country has ever held their name. There is something about it and I cannot put my finger on one thing to nail it down. It is not that simple. But it isn’t complex either.