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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The visit of Izanagi to hades in search of Izanami


whereas many pages are devoted to the story of his adventures before ascending the throne, a few paragraphs suffice for all that is subsequently related of him. While residing in Kyushu he married and had two sons, the elder of whom, Tagishi-mimi, accompanied him on his eastward expedition. In Yamato he married again and had three sons, the youngest of whom succeeded to the throne. The bestowing of titles and rewards naturally occupied much attention, and to religious observances scarcely less importance seems to have been attached. All references to these latter show that the offices of priest and king were united in the sovereign of these days. Thus it was by the Emperor that formulae of incantation to dissipate evil influences were dictated; that sacrifices were performed to the heavenly Kami so as to develop filial piety; and that shrines were consecrated for worshiping the Imperial ancestors. Jimmu was buried in a tumulus (misasagi) on the northeast of Mount Unebi. The site is officially recognized to this day, and on the 3rd of April every year it is visited by an Imperial envoy, who offers products of mountain, river, and sea.


What traces of Chinese or foreign influence are to be found in the legends and myths set down above? It is tolerably certain that communication existed between China and Japan from a date shortly prior to the Christian era, and we naturally expect to

find that since China was at that time the author of Asiatic civilization, she contributed materially to the intellectual development of her island neighbour. Examining the cosmogonies of the two countries, we find at the outset a striking difference. The Chinese did not conceive any creator, ineffable, formless, living in space; whereas the Japanese imagined a great central Kami and two producing powers, invisible and working by occult processes.

On the other hand, there is a marked similarity of thought. For, as on the death of Panku, the giant toiler of Chinese myth on whom devolved the task of chiselling out the universe, his left eye was transmitted into the orb of day and his right into the moon, so when the Japanese Kami returned from his visit to the underworld, the sun emerged from the washing of his left eye and the moon from the washing of his right. Japanese writers have sought to differentiate the two myths by pointing out that the sun is masculine in China and feminine in Japan, but such an objection is inadequate to impair the close resemblance.

In truth "creation from fragments of a fabulous anthropomorphic being is common to Chaldeans, Iroquois, Egyptians, Greeks, Tinnehs, Mangaians, and Aryan Indians," and from that fact a connexion between ancient Japan and West Asia might be deduced by reference to the beings formed out of the parts: of the fire Kami's body when Izanagi put him to the sword. On the other hand, the tale of which the birth of the sun and the moon forms a part, namely, the visit of Izanagi to hades in search of Izanami, is an obvious reproduction of the Babylonian myth of Ishtar's journey to the underworld in search of Du'uzu, which formed the basis of the Grecian legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. Moreover, Izanami's objection to return, on the ground of having already eaten of the food of the underworld, is a feature of many ancient myths, among which may be mentioned the Indian story of Nachiketas, where the name Yama, the Indian god of the lower world, bears an obvious resemblance to the Japanese yomi (hades), as does, indeed, the whole Indian myth of Yami and Yama to that of Izanagi and Izanami.

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