Best 5 Japanese mythology and legends

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The East has always had, at least in the last two centuries, a great fascination on Western populations: the difference between their world and ours, a lifestyle sometimes even antithetical to the Western and attention to different aspects of life have meant that both the artists and writers first and then even a mole higher numbers of curious boys ventured to the discovery of the rites, usages and customs of the East. The invasion of books , films, but also, more prosaically, cartoons and comics Japanese testifies well this growing interest towards Japan and throughout the East, is the modern one - with his company competitive and sometimes even impersonal - that the former, with its traditions, its religions and its martial arts . We, as you can see from the links that dot these few lines, we have already started with various articles to address the topic, but today we want to get closer to the heart of the matter by presenting five major Japanese myths and legends, which have their roots in Shinto - the native religion of Japan - and in local folklore.

Top Best 5 Japanese mythology and legends

The myth of creation
Izanagi and Izanami, the creation of the earth and their children

Right from the first draw Shinto myths of this our fives, founding myths of reality as we know it. According to the traditional Japanese religion, in fact, the first gods created two beings, male and female, respectively called Izanagi and Izanami, names that mean "one who invites" and "she who invites". In their gods gave the job of creating the earth and to do them endowed with a jeweled spear called Amanonuhoko : with it gave rise to the land from the ocean and mixed; the mud that remained on the spear and ended up casting then gave rise to the first island, Onogaro, which was followed later the other eight major islands that formed the Japan of antiquity. Izanagi and Izanami chose to put their home on the first island created and there they decided to have children: they built so before a pillar and then around it an entire building. The two deities then turned around the pillar in opposite direction to each other and when they met the other side of the first to speak was Izanami, the female deity, who greeted Izanagi; while realizing that it would be his turn to speak first, Izanagi went to bed with the woman and had by her two sons, but they were malformed. After being put on a boat and left the sea, Izanagi and Izanami turned to other gods, asking explanation of the birth so unfortunate, and the gods explained that it was all due to non-compliance of the ceremony after touring around the column, which obviously ceremonial , in the Japanese tradition, as in many ancient myths of other civilizations also served to highlight the role of guide and male subjugation of women. The god and goddess then repeated the process, this time with Izanagi greeted first once came across, and from their union were born this time various islands and deities.

The Birth of Death
The descent into the underworld of Yomi

The story of Izanagi and Izanami, however, did not stop the birth of their offspring. Izanami, in fact, died giving birth to her last child, but Izanagi did not accept this fate and decided to go down in Yomi, the land of the dead, to go pick up his girlfriend. This world came to him at the beginning is not particularly terrifying, but nestled in a great darkness; finally found Izanami, while not seeing well in the dark, and asked her to follow him out of the underworld, but his old friend had to refuse: in fact he had already eaten the food of Yomi and could not go back among the living. Izanagi however, was not willing to accept this verdict and waited for his partner to fall asleep in order to light a fire and watching it; but when this was done, he found Izanami changed dramatically, with the full body of larvae and become abominable. The sight frightened him to the point that God began to run in terror, trying to escape what he had seen; At this point, however, Izanami, awakened, took offense and began to chase him, aided by other creatures of hell, to keep him there. After various adventures the boy was finally able to reach the entrance of Yomi, to go out and plug it with a large stone, hearing the other side of the boulder in the meantime the old companion, furious she threatened him, ordered him to remove the boulder and vowing that if she did not she would have killed a thousand people living every day, but he replied that in that case would have died a thousand and five hundred people every day. So it was that, according to Japanese mythology, death originated from the end of the love between the two of you had created the earth.

As the dawn did finish the eclipse
Amaterasu, Susanoo and Ama-no-Uzume

At that point, Izanagi tried to purify immediately after the descent to the underworld, and to do this he prepared a bath; as they took away the ornaments off and that once in the water, washing a part of his body born of the new divinity. In particular washing his left eye gave birth to Amaterasu, the incarnation of the Sun; washing the right created Tsukuyomi, an incarnation of the moon; washing the nose, it was the turn of Susanoo, the embodiment of the wind. The first would have the power to rule the heavens, the second night, the third seas. Susanoo - as indeed the hurricanes of which he was the god - but he had an unruly and unpredictable, and soon came to irritate even his father, who decided to exile him in Yomi. Before leaving, Susanoo was granted permission to attend to some unfinished business and ascended into heaven by his sister Amaterasu, claiming to want to just say goodbye. She, well knowing him, did not believe him, and to check the veracity of his words, he challenged him to a competition to see who generated more children. Even this challenge, however, was resolute and Susanoo became even more aggressive toward her sister, startling her so much that she ran away and decided to go and take refuge in a cave, causing the darkening of the sun itself over the whole earth. Various deities tried at that point to intervene in the matter, trying to get Amaterasu to leave the cave, but without success, until the spirit dell'ilarità and dawn, Ama-no-Uzume, not placed a large bronze mirror on a tree that stood in front of the cave, it was covered with leaves and danced on top of a tub to attract attention; Finally, she took off all the leaves and continued to dance, naked, making them laugh all the male gods who were there and saw intriguing Amaterasu, who peered out of the cave and then exit by a ray of sunlight reflected on the mirror, ended up blinded; At this point the other gods took advantage of his time of trouble and the dragged out of the cave, which was then promptly plugged. On the other hand, in the midst of all the laughter and joy that the goddess of the sun ceased to be afraid and agreed to return to carry out its task.

History of Princess Kaguya
Taketori Monogatari the Emperor of Japan and the inhabitants of the Moon

Let us now leave the mythology proper, and we move in the field of legends and traditional tales. One of the most famous examples of this genre is the story known as The Story of a tagliabamb├╣ or History of Princess Kaguya , which dates back to the tenth century and is also important from a literary point of view, given that it is considered the most ancient example of Japanese fiction . The story tells of Okina, a bamboo-cutter, one night, working, he saw a shining bamboo cane; after having cut it, he found within a very little girl, big "like a thumb." He took her home, to his wife, and not having children they decided to adopt it. When he returned to work, Okina noticed, however, that every time you cut the bamboo was inside a small gold nugget, realizing that that sort of magic was somehow caused by the little girl called Kaguya (night shining). Years passed and Kaguya grew cared for by loving parents - and, thanks to the nuggets, rather than wealthy - and became a beautiful woman, increasingly sought after by men of the country in spite of the parents had also tried to keep it as hidden as possible. He presented these five principles from different parts of the world, asking the girl's hand; She, however, had no intention of accepting this and asked each of the claimants, as a token of love, a difficult thing to achieve (at the first of the sacred bowl of the Buddha, according to a branch of a tree from the trunk ' gold and silver leaves, the third skin of a rat of fire, the fourth a gem that stood on the head of a dragon, the fifth a shell hidden in the belly of a swallow). No he succeeded, and even the Emperor of Japan, who introduced himself to marry her, he was rejected: Kaguya turned out in fact to have come from the Moon and would soon be returning to her home planet. The Emperor sent many soldiers to prevent his beloved departed, but the celestial beings who came to take Kaguya, their princess, all blinded and so the girl disappeared. He left a long letter and a drop of the elixir of life, but the emperor brought both the gifts on Mount Fuji to burn them: so is explaining the smoke coming out of the volcanic mountain, produced by the elixir that burned, and his name (which is believed to be derived fushi , immortality).

The origin of the Tanabata
The unhappy love between Altair and Vega

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Some time ago, for a very special reason, we have already had occasion to speak of Qixi Festival, the Chinese Valentine's Day , which is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the local calendar. Not many know, however, that even in Japan there is a holiday very similar called Tanabata is celebrated on July 7 (or August 7, depending on the way in which the various regions have adopted the Gregorian calendar) provides that a party to illuminate the streets with paper lanterns, to parade with special kimono always of paper, to create a whole series of great decorations, to hold beauty contests. But this custom comes from a very ancient legend of Chinese origin. It is Orihime protagonist, the young daughter of the sky god Tentei, who lived with him on the banks of the River Celeste, or the Milky Way. The girl, who was none other than the incarnation of the star Vega, spent all her time sewing and mending the clothes of the gods, never finding time for yourself; why his father was moved with compassion and decided to marry her to another great worker, Hikoboshi (incarnation of the star Altair), which made ​​the oxen graze on the banks of the river. The two fell in love in a way so disruptive that, in order to always stay together, they began to neglect their duties, with the gods who were soon naked, and the oxen that roamed freely across the sky. Tentei, furious, had to intervene and decided to separate the two lovers, placing each on a different side of the River Celeste, thus forcing them to return to their duties. The daughter, however, was obviously desperate and crying non-stop; so the father was again moved with compassion and decided to allow the meeting between the two, but only once a year: therefore the seventh day of the seventh month a flock of magpies and comes with its wings, forms a bridge to allow Orihime to cross the river and meet again Hikoboshi. On the other hand, the link between Altair and Vega is evident, especially in the summer, to any observer of the heavens, given that the two stars form, with Deneb, the leaders of the so-called Summer Triangle, which is just across from the Milky Way.

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