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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

To the consternation of the Kami of evil


On

the "high plain of heaven," however, trouble is not allayed. The Sun goddess judges that since female Kami were produced from the fragments of Susanoo's sword and male Kami from her own string of jewels, the test which he himself proposed has resulted in his conviction; but he, repudiating that verdict, proceeds to break down the divisions of the rice-fields laid out by the goddess, to fill up the ditches, and to defile the palace--details which suggest either that, according to Japanese tradition, heaven has its agriculture and architecture just as earth has, or that the "plain of high heaven" was really the name of a place in the Far East. The Sun goddess makes various excuses for her brother's lawless conduct, but he is not to be placated. His next exploit is to flay a piebald horse and throw it through a hole which he breaks in the roof of the hall where the goddess is weaving garments for the Kami. In the alarm thus created, the goddess* is wounded by her shuttle, whereupon she retires into a cave and places a rock at the entrance, so that darkness falls upon the "plain of high heaven" and upon the islands of Japan,** to the consternation of the Kami of evil, whose voices are heard like the buzzing of swarms of flies.

*According to the Records, it is the attendants of the goddess that suffer injury.

**Referring to this episode, Aston writes in his Nihongi: "Amaterasu-o-mi-Kami is throughout the greater

part of this narrative an anthropomorphic deity, with little that is specially characteristic of her solar functions. Here, however, it is plainly the sun itself which witholds its light and leaves the world to darkness. This inconsistency, which has greatly exercised the native theologians, is not peculiar to Japanese myth."

Then follows a scene perhaps the most celebrated in all the mythological legends; a scene which was the origin of the sacred dance in Japan and which furnished to artists in later ages a frequent motive. The "eight hundred myriads" of Kami--so numerous have the denizens of the "plain of high heaven" unaccountably become--assemble in the bed of the "tranquil river"* to confer about a means of enticing the goddess from her retirement. They entrust the duty of forming a plan to the Kami of "thought combination," now heard of for the first time as a son of one of the two producing Kami, who, with the "great central" Kami, constituted the original trinity of heavenly denizens. This deity gathers together a number of barn-yard fowl to signal sunrise, places the Kami of the "strong arm" at the entrance of the cave into which the goddess has retired, obtains iron from the "mines of heaven" and causes it to be forged into an "eight-foot" mirror, appoints two Kami to procure from Mount Kagu a "five-hundred branched" sakaki tree (cleyera Japonica), from whose branches the mirror together with a "five-hundred beaded" string of curved jewels and blue and white streamers of hempen cloth and paper-mulberry cloth are suspended, and causes divination to be performed with the shoulder blade of a stag.

*The Milky Way.


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