Japanese Mythology: The Top 20 Gods of Japan (2022)

The Japanese mythology Is one of the most complex systems of beliefs, because it is composed of more than 800,000 deities that are constantly increasing, laying the foundations of Shinto or Shintô (voice of the gods).

We speak of the second most influential religion in the Eastern country, which has about 108 million faithful, being only surpassed by Japanese Buddhism.

Enclosure of the Sanjusangen-do Buddhist temple in Kyoto.

The Shintô would arrive in Japan from the hands of emigrants from Korea and Mongolia, who would mix with the indigenous peoples of Japan despite being closely linked to Chinese civilization. Much of their beliefs are autochthonous, Buddhist traditions and popular beliefs typical of the agricultural.

Due to its numerous deities, Shintoism is a polytheistic religion that considers none of these as unique or predominant, however, does possess mythical narratives that explain the origin of the world and of humanity.

Unlike other mythologies such as Greek or Egyptian, it is difficult to define what is considered by the Japanese a myth and what is not.

The 20 most representative gods of Japan

1- Izanagi

Japanese Mythology: The Top 20 Gods of Japan (1) Izanagi and Izanami

Also known as 'the first man', along with his wife Izanami, was given the mission to create the first land. In consensus, the other Kamis awarded them a spear decorated with jewels known as Amenonuhoko (spear of the skies), which was agitated in the ocean and, upon contact with the salt water, formed the island Onogoro where they decided to inhabit.

Upon meeting, Izanami spoke first before her husband, which caused their first two children: Hiruko and Awashima, were born deformed, reason why their parents left them at sea in a ship adrift. When they are abandoned, these first children are not considered kamis.

Izanagi and his wife ask for advice from the upper kami, who explain that in their first meeting, Izanagi had to speak first before his wife.

Subsequently, by doing things right, from their union they created more known islands like Ohoyashima, which corresponds to each of the great islands that form Japan today.

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2- Izanami

Known as 'the first woman', along with her husband begin to procreate many deities. However, she dies during the birth of Kagatsuchi, the fire kami.

In pain, Izanagi goes on a trip to Yomi, the land of the dead, and in the middle of darkness, he finds his deceased wife and asks him to return with him. Izanami tells him that it is too late, because he is now part of the world of the dead and can not return to life.

Resigned, the man accepts, but before returning to the earth and while Izanami sleeps, he lights a torch in the middle of the darkness of the Yomi. Having light, he realizes that his wife is no longer the beautiful woman he used to be, now he is a decomposing body. Frightened, Izanagi flees while his enraged wife pursues him.

The man manages to escape and covers the entrance of the Yomi with a large stone from inside, Izanami shouts that if he does not let her out, she would destroy 1,000 people every day. He replied that then he would give life to 1,500, thus giving rise to death.

3- Kagutsuchi

Deity of the fire and son of Izanagi and Izanami, during its birth causes burns in the genitals of Izanami causing the death to him. Angry, his father kills him with a sword, and from the blood and mutilated body of his son are born more kamis.

His body cut into eight parts, from life to eight volcanoes. The death of Kagatsuchi marks the end of the creation of the world and the beginning of death.

Within the Japanese beliefs, he is worshiped as the god of fire and pattern of the blacksmiths. At present, they pay tribute to different shrines in Shizuoka, Kyoto and Shimane.

4- Amaterasu

Japanese Mythology: The Top 20 Gods of Japan (2)

After his return from the Yomi, Izanagi is purified and immersed in water for washing three of the most important Japanese deities are created, among them Amaterasu, the sun kami, considered ancestor of the royal family of emperors.

It is said that he was born from the right eye of Izanagi, and that after his birth, his father decided to divide the earth, giving Amaterasu the sky and his brother Susanoo the seas and lightning. However, this cast resulted in a sibling rivalry.

In a moment of anger, Susanoo destroys the rice fields of his sister, which causes that Amaterasu is enclosed in a cave. Without sun, the World falls into the era of cold and darkness and, while the fields die, the other kamis decide to organize a party at the entrance of the cave to get the attention of Amaterasu.

The noise outside attracted the curiosity of Amaterasu, who came out and asked what the fuss was about. The gods responded that it was a new kami, showing her reflection in a mirror. Amaterasu, who had never seen his reflection before, saw a woman full of light and warmth. At that moment he is convinced to return to heaven and give light to the world.

5- Susanoo

Kami of the sea and of storms, is the third son born of the face of Izanagi, specific of its nose. Facing his sister and causing her confinement, she is judged by the other kamis and expelled from the sky.

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Banished and sent to another region faces a fearsome serpent of eight heads and eight tails that frightened the place. To overcome it, she created eight enormous doors that hid behind them enormous quantities of sake for the serpents to drink. It was a trap.

Susanoo cut off the heads and tails and within the fourth tail, found a beautiful sword that gave as a gift to his sister, recovering their place in the sky.

6- Tsukuyomi

It is the kami of the moon and the second of the children born from the face of Izanagi, specifically his right eye. When his father decides to divide the world between them, Tsukuyomi rises to the skies and takes control of the night, whereas his sister Amaterasu is made with the day.

The legend tells that once his sister sent him as a representative to the goddess Uke Mochi, to honor his presence. The goddess offered him a delicious meal, created from his mouth and nose, however, Tsukuyomi was so angry that he killed Uke Mochi.

Amaterasu, angry, did not want to see his brother again. From that moment, the brothers lived apart, alternating in the sky, a symbology of how day and night alternate in the sky.

7- Uke Mochi

It is the creative deity of flora and fauna and food. His death, at the hands of Tsukuyomi, gave man food, because of his body were born the five cereals.

From his eyes was born the seed of rice, his ears Son , Of his wheat genitals, of his Jewish black nose and of his straight soy, granting food to the mortals.

8- Inari

Kami of fertility, rice, agriculture, industry and success in general, is sometimes represented as a male figure and in others as female. It often uses white foxes as its messengers, which is why it is also sometimes represented in the form of this animal.

Inari is one of the most popular deities in Japan reaching 32,000 shrines across the country dedicated to her.

9- O-Wata-Tsu-Mi

Its name means 'The old man of the tides' and stands out from the majority of marine deities. He is considered a kind kami, who controls the waters and tides at will, but allows mortals to predict their movements.

Among his characteristics, he is born of Izanagi at the time of purification, dominates all the living beings of the ocean and, despite having the appearance of an old man, his true form is the dragon of green color that lives in a great palace in the Depths of the sea.

10- Hachiman

Japanese Mythology: The Top 20 Gods of Japan (3)

According to Shinto, he is the god of the samurai warriors, being also considered the god of agriculture, happiness and peace. It is given the title of protector of human life, and is symbolized with a white dove.

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Although its origin is unknown, since it does not appear in the manuscripts of the Kojiki or Nihonshoki, in time it became one of the most important kamis.

11- Takemikazuch

It is said that he was born of the blood that Kagatsuchi shed when he was assassinated, which gave him the gift of being the kami of thunder and sword. From its combat with another deity known as Takeminakata would be born the first duel of sumos, famous sport of the Eastern country.

Takemikazuchi is in charge of subjecting catfish or Namazu, creator of earthquakes.

12- Namazu

Kami of earthquakes, is responsible for the movement of the earth and the creation of tsunamis. It is represented in the form of a giant catfish, which is said to dwell under the earth.

Takemikazuchi is the guardian of this creature, and keeps him still to prevent the earth from moving. However, when neglected earthquakes travel the islands of Japan.

13- Shinatobe

Known as the wind kami, the Kojiki book claims to be the direct son of Izanagi and Izanami, while the Nihonshoki relates that it was born from the morning fog blow by Izanami.

14- Inugami

Japanese Mythology: The Top 20 Gods of Japan (4)

They are creatures represented as dogs that perform the work of being guardians. The myths say that to create one, it was necessary to bury a dog up to the neck and put food in front without being able to reach it.

In the process, the master affirms that the suffering of the dog is not bigger than his and after the death of the dog, it becomes Inugami. It is said that these are surrounded by success and good luck.

15- Ama in Uzume

It is the kami of happiness, fertility and dance. It was one of the goddesses that managed to remove Amaterasu from the cave in which it was hidden.

Ama no Uzume danced until her clothes were untied, remaining naked before the other deities who laughed so much that they caught the attention of Amaterasu.

16- Ebisu

Japanese Mythology: The Top 20 Gods of Japan (5)

One of the first sons of Izanami and Izanagi, considered the kami of prosperity and wealth in business.

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He is also worshiped by fishermen, which is why he is depicted as a fisherman with a typical hat, a fishing rod in his right hand and a large fish representing abundance

The Four Sacred Beasts of Japanese Mythology

17- Suzaku

It has the appearance of a red fenix representing the south, the summer and the element of fire. This creature, like the other sacred beasts, are some of those that the Chinese share with the Japanese in their mythology.

18- Genbu

He is the guardian of the north and is often represented as a serpent coiled around a turtle. It is the symbol of winter and earth element.

19- Byakko

Translated means"white light"and is usually represented as a white tiger that protects the west.

It represents the autumn season and the element of the air. When roars attract storms and storms

Seiryu

It is the last of the protectors of the city of Kyoto, is an icon of the water element and is represented as a huge blue dragon.

It also has a symbology for spring and, like the previous beasts, this one has representation in the constellations of the Chinese tradition.

Shinto and other Japanese myths

Shinto is based on the worship of kamis, as they are known in the region, or spirits of nature or higher levels of existence. This concept includes any supernatural force, ancestors and men who acquired over time the qualification of deities even some ideals or values ​​that symbolize an abstract power.

The Japanese, as direct descendants of the kami, have a responsibility to live in harmony with the gods in order to be protected and blessed by them. Similarly, the Japanese make offerings to solve their problems and ailments.

The Japanese myths are based on the Kojiki and the Nihonshoki, the two oldest books that is conserved on the history of Japan respectively.

The Kojiki narrates the creation of the universe and the world at the hands of the kami. It also contains several myths, legends and tells the appearance of the first emperors, figures that the Japanese have great importance considering them descendants of the kami.

In fact, the Japanese word for"emperor"is tennō, which translated means"heavenly sovereign."

It is at this point that there is no line that differentiates what is a myth and what is history, so that both are often extremely linked. The book also includes some songs written in a kind of Chinese mixed with Japanese, which shows the importance of one civilization on the other.

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References

  1. Addiss, Stephen. Japanese Ghosts & Demons: Art of the Supernatural. New York: G. Braziller, 1985. (pp. 132-137).
  2. Ashkenazy, Michael. Handbook of Japanese Mythology. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-Clio, 2003.
  3. "History of Religions". Authors: Carlos Cid and Manuel Riu. Library Hispania Illustrated. Editorial Ramón Sopena. Year 1965. Printed in Spain. Page 175.
  4. Aston, William George, tr. 1896. Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697. 2 vols. Kegan Paul. 1972 Tuttle reprint.
  5. Naumann, Nelly (1998). Ancient Japanese myths. Barcelona: Editorial Herder.
  6. Seco Serra, Irene (2006). Legends and tales of Japan. Madrid: Ediciones Akal.

FAQs

Who is the greatest god in Japanese mythology? ›

Amaterasu is the highest deity in Japanese mythology. In the most famous legend about her, she shuts herself away in a cave, bringing disasters to both the world and heaven.

How many gods of Japan are there? ›

There are eight million kami—a number that, in traditional Japanese culture, can be considered synonymous with infinity. Throughout the islands of Japan, you'll encounter these deities at shrines, monuments and in popular culture time and again.

Who is the powerful god in Japan? ›

Izanagi
Izanagi-no-Mikoto
Major cult centerTaga Taisha, Izanagi Shrine, Eda Shrine, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, Onokorojima Shrine, Mitsumine Shrine and others
TextsKojiki, Nihon Shoki, Sendai Kuji Hongi
RegionJapan
Personal information
8 more rows

What are the 7 Shinto gods? ›

Shichifukujin are Japan's Seven Lucky Gods: Hotei, Fukurokuji, Jurojin, Ebisu, Daikoku, Benzaiten and Bishamonten.

Who is the Japanese god of blood? ›

Kagutsuchi's blood or body, according to differing versions of the legend, created several other deities, including Kuraokami.

Who is the Japanese god of earth? ›

Dojin (土神), is a Japanese god of earth, land, and/or soil.

Who is the Japanese god of everything? ›

Inari. Inari is the goddess of everything important in Japan including rice, tea, fertility, sake and worldly success.

Who is the Japanese god of death? ›

Shinigami (死神, literally "death god") are gods or supernatural spirits that invite humans toward death in certain aspects of Japanese religion and culture. Shinigami have been described as monsters, helpers, and creatures of darkness.

Who is the first Japanese god? ›

Izanami (イザナミ), formally known as Izanami-no-Mikoto (伊弉冉尊/伊邪那美命, meaning "She-who-invites" or the "Female-who-invites"), is the creator deity of both creation and death in Japanese mythology, as well as the Shinto mother goddess.

Who is the 12 goddesses? ›

In ancient Greek religion and mythology, the twelve Olympians are the major deities of the Greek pantheon, commonly considered to be Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Hermes, and either Hestia or Dionysus.

Is there a Japanese god of war? ›

Hachiman, (Japanese: Eight Banners) one of the most popular Shintō deities of Japan; the patron deity of the Minamoto clan and of warriors in general; often referred to as the god of war. Hachiman is commonly regarded as the deification of Ōjin, the 15th emperor of Japan.

Who is the Japanese god of chaos? ›

Amatsu-Mikaboshi (天津甕星) is the God of Evil, Chaos and the Stars to the followers of the Shinto religion in Japan.

Who is the Japanese god of love? ›

Benzaiten is the Japanese Goddess of love, beauty, eloquence and music, as well as a sea Goddess. Her husband was a wicked dragon whom She reformed, and She is often shown riding one.

Who is the Japanese god of fire? ›

Ho-musubi, also called Kagu-tsuchi, or Hi-no-kami, in the Shintō religion of Japan, a god of fire. His mother, the female creator Izanami, was fatally burned giving birth to him; and his father, Izanagi, cut him into pieces, creating several new gods.

Who is the god of Luck? ›

Tyche (/ˈtaɪki/; Ancient Greek: Τύχη Túkhē, 'Luck', Ancient Greek: [tý. kʰɛː], Modern Greek: [ˈti. çi]; Roman equivalent: Fortuna) was the presiding tutelary deity who governed the fortune and prosperity of a city, its destiny.

Is there a Japanese god of Luck? ›

Daikoku, in Japanese mythology, one of the Shichi-fuku-jin (Seven Gods of Luck); the god of wealth and guardian of farmers.

Who is the god of wealth? ›

Plutus, in Greek religion, god of abundance or wealth, a personification of ploutos (Greek: “riches”). According to Hesiod, Plutus was born in Crete, the son of the goddess of fruitfulness, Demeter, and the Cretan Iasion.

Who is the Japanese god of light? ›

Amaterasu, in full Amaterasu Ōmikami, (Japanese: “Great Divinity Illuminating Heaven”), the celestial sun goddess from whom the Japanese imperial family claims descent, and an important Shintō deity.

Who is the god of sword? ›

Takemikazuchi (建御雷/武甕槌) is a deity in Japanese mythology, considered a god of thunder and a sword god.

Who is god of ice? ›

Boreas (Βορέας, Boréas; also Βορρᾶς, Borrhás) was the Greek god of the cold north wind and the bringer of winter.

Who is the Japanese god of speed? ›

Fujin (風神) is the Japanese god of the wind, a popular but terrifying demon. His bag of air moves all the world's winds, and he is a powerful force of nature alongside his brother, the thunder god Raijin.
...
Parents.
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IzanagiIzanami
19 Nov 2021

Who is the Japanese god of darkness? ›

A character that represents the power of kami is Amatsu-Mikaboshi, the Japanese god of darkness and one of the greatest threats to the Marvel Universe. Mikaboshi's existence offers a window into the idea of chaos.

Who is the Japanese god of water? ›

Suijin is the Shinto god of water in Japanese mythology. The term Suijin refers to the heavenly and earthly manifestations of the benevolent Shinto divinity of water.

Who is the god of samurai? ›

Also known as Yahata no kami, the name Hachiman can be traced back to a prehistoric place in Kyushu. It means “God of Eight Banners”. These heavenly banners signaled the birth of the 15th emperor of Japan, Emperor Ōjin.

What are Japanese gods called? ›

"Shinto gods" are called kami. They are sacred spirits which take the form of things and concepts important to life, such as wind, rain, mountains, trees, rivers and fertility.

Who is the Japanese god of calamity? ›

Yato, the god of calamity, is a minor deity apart from the Seven Lucky Gods.

Did ancient Japan have gods? ›

Since ancient times, Japanese people have revered kami, the gods of Shintō. And for over a millennium they have also practiced Buddhism, sometimes conflating Buddhas with their native divinities.

Who is the god of destruction? ›

Shiva - The God Of Destruction.

Who is the Korean god of death? ›

Yeomna: Great King Yeomna is the king of the underworld and often known for passing judgment on the dead. He leads dead spirits to their abode in the underworld, which reflects their life on earth.

Who created Japanese gods? ›

Izanagi and Izanami left heaven and went to live on the island. They married and produced eight children, who became the islands of Japan. Izanagi and Izanami then created gods and goddesses of the trees, mountains, valleys, streams, winds, and other natural features of Japan.

What is the most famous Japanese legend? ›

Momotarō – Arguably the most famous Japanese folktale, this is the quirky story of a boy born from a peach who was discovered by an old childless couple when they split the soft fruit open. Momotaro jumped out and was raised by the couple.

What is Susanoo the god of? ›

Susanoo-no-Mikoto. God of the sea, storms, fields, the harvest, marriage, and love. Susanoo slaying Yamata no Orochi, woodblock print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Other names.

Are there 13 Greek gods? ›

The twelve Greek gods are Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Demeter, Hephaistos, Hermes, Ares, Athene, and Dionysos. Other divinities in Greek mythology often associated with them include Hades, Hekate, and Hestia.

Who killed Medusa? ›

Perseus set out with the aid of the gods, who provided him with divine tools. While the Gorgons slept, the hero attacked, using Athena's polished shield to view the reflection of Medusa's awful face and avoid her petrifying gaze while he beheaded her with a harpe, an adamantine sword.

Who is the strongest goddess? ›

Isis is one of the most powerful deities in the Egyptian pantheon. Her name means "throne" and she is often depicted with the hieroglyphic sign of the throne or a solar disk and cow's horns on her head.

Is Amaterasu a girl? ›

712 CE) and the Nihon Shoki (720 CE) agree in their description of Amaterasu as the daughter of the god Izanagi and the elder sister of Tsukuyomi, the deity of the moon, and Susanoo, the god of storms and seas.

What is Raijin and Fujin? ›

Raijin and Fujin are among the most feared and respected Japanese deities. These two gods are the masters of lightning and storms, two devastating meteorological phenomena in a country regularly hit by typhoons.

Who is the strongest god in Chinese mythology? ›

Xuanwu (玄武) or Xuandi (Chinese: 玄帝; pinyin: Xuándì), also known as Zhenwu (真武 "True Warrior" or "Truly Valiant") or Zhenwudadi (真武大帝 "True Martial Great Emperor" or "Truly Valiant Great Emperor"), is a powerful deity in Chinese religion, one of the higher-ranking deities in Taoism.

Who is the Japanese god of life? ›

Izanami-no-Mikoto

What is Raijin the god of? ›

Raijin (雷神, lit. "Thunder God"), also known as Kaminari-sama (雷様), Raiden-sama (雷電様), Narukami (鳴る神) Raikou (雷公), and Kamowakeikazuchi-no-kami is a god of lightning, thunder and storms in Japanese mythology and the Shinto religion.

Who is the Japanese god of magic? ›

Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto is still worshiped today as a Shinto kami, spirits indigenous to Japan.

Who is higher than Jade Emperor? ›

Though the Jade Emperor is ruler of Heaven and Earth, he is not so much a supreme God as a supreme administrator. In fact, he is outranked by the three top divine beings of the Chinese pantheon, Buddha, Lao Tzu, and Confucius—who are themselves subject to higher universal forces.

Who is the Korean God? ›

The God of the Korean people, whom we call “Hananim” (the Supreme One), is fundamentally different from the god of the Jewish people, whom they call Jehovah.

Who was the Dragon King? ›

In Chinese mythology, Longwang (龍王) lords over the seas and is known as the “Dragon King.” He is a fearsome guardian deity who controls all dragons, sea creatures, the oceans, and the weather. Although he has a temper, Longwang is seen as a symbol of good fortune and the mythological embodiment of the concept of yang.

Who is the first god of Japan? ›

Izanami ('she who invites') and Izanagi ('he who invites') are the primordial gods of the Shinto religion who are believed to have created the islands of Japan and given birth to many of the other Shinto gods or kami.

Who is the Japanese god of light? ›

Amaterasu, in full Amaterasu Ōmikami, (Japanese: “Great Divinity Illuminating Heaven”), the celestial sun goddess from whom the Japanese imperial family claims descent, and an important Shintō deity.

Who is the Japanese god of fire? ›

Ho-musubi, also called Kagu-tsuchi, or Hi-no-kami, in the Shintō religion of Japan, a god of fire. His mother, the female creator Izanami, was fatally burned giving birth to him; and his father, Izanagi, cut him into pieces, creating several new gods.

Who is the most feared Japanese god? ›

He is usually depicted holding hammers surrounded by drums. He often has 3 fingers on each hand representing the past, present and future. Raijin is amongst the most feared Japanese deities.

Who is the Japanese god of death? ›

Shinigami (死神, literally "death god") are gods or supernatural spirits that invite humans toward death in certain aspects of Japanese religion and culture. Shinigami have been described as monsters, helpers, and creatures of darkness.

Is Raijin male or female? ›

Family. Raijin is the son of Izanami and Izanagi, the progenitors of the Japanese gods. Born after his mother Izanami died, Raijin himself is a being of death. He is brother to many gods, including Amaterasu, Susanoo, and Tsukuyomi.

Who is the Japanese god of love? ›

Benzaiten is the Japanese Goddess of love, beauty, eloquence and music, as well as a sea Goddess. Her husband was a wicked dragon whom She reformed, and She is often shown riding one.

What's the Japanese sun god? ›

Amaterasu, also known as Amaterasu Ōmikami (天照大御神, 天照大神) or Ōhirume no Muchi no Kami (大日孁貴神), is the goddess of the sun in Japanese mythology.

Who is the Japanese god of water? ›

Suijin is the Shinto god of water in Japanese mythology. The term Suijin refers to the heavenly and earthly manifestations of the benevolent Shinto divinity of water.

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