Painting of Amaterasu
Amaterasu Omikami is the Japanese sun goddess, and is one of the most important deities in Japanese mythology, said to be a direct ancestor of the Japanese Imperial dynasty.
Amaterasu was born when another god, Izanagi, cleansed his left eye after returning from a failed attempt at retrieving his wife from the Land of Yomi (her brothers Tsuyokomi and Susanoo were born from washing other eye and nose, respectively). Amaterasu married Tsuyokomi, and for a time, she shared the sky with him, controlling the sun and day while he ruled the moon and night, until he killed the food goddess Uke Miochi. This killing prompted Amaterasu to label him an evil spirit and separate from him, creating the division between day and night.
The texts also tell of a long-standing rivalry between Amaterasu and her other brother, Susano. When he was banished from Heaven by Izanagi, he went to bid his sister goodbye. Amaterasu was suspicious, demanding a contest to prove his good faith. Each of them took an object of the other's and from it birthed gods and goddesses. Amaterasu birthed three women from Susano's sword, while he birthed five men from her necklace. Claiming the gods were hers because they were born of her necklace, and the goddesses were his, she decided that she had won the challenge, as his item produced women. Frustrated at her insistence, Susanoo went on a rampage, destroying Amaterasu's rice fields, hurling a flayed pony at her loom, and killing one of her attendants in a fit of rage. Amaterasu, grieved and furious, hid inside the Ama-no-Iwato ("heavenly rock cave"), thus hiding the sun for a long period of time.
Finally, Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto, kami of merriment, found a way to lure her out. Dressing herself in flowers, she started dancing on top of an overturned tub in front of the cave. The other gods began to laugh, even more so when she shed her "clothing" and danced naked. Curious to know what the fuss was about, Amaterasu looked out of the cave, and saw her own reflection in a mirror Uzume had placed in her view. She left the cave, and the other gods quickly blocked the entrance, persuading her to stay.
The siblings later amended their conflict when Susanoo gave her the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi sword as a reconciliation gift.
According to legend, Amaterasu bequeathed to her descendant Yata no Kagami; the jewel, Yasakani no Magatama, and the sword, Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi. These sacred objects collectively became the three Imperial Regalia of Japan.
Amaterasu is the sister of Susanoo and Tsuyokomi (who was also her husband), the daughter of Izanagi. The Emperors of Japan claim direct descent from her, by way of ornament.
In Popular Culture
- As the primary goddess of Shintoism, Amaterasu is still worshiped in Japan.
- In Naruto, Amaterasu is the name of the highest level Fire Release technique.
- She is the protagonist of the game Okami, in the form of a wolf.