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Izanami & Izanagi — The Birth of Japan

Text translated from 古事記 現代語訳 武田祐吉

Kojiki Modern Translation by Yukichi Takeda (circa 1940, public domain).

Creation of the Islands

The kami of the heavens charged Izanagi and Izanami with the task of hardening the floating masses and settling them into place by using a splendid hoko (a kind of spear — the image to the left is from the Tokyo National Museum.

The two kami stood on the steps of the heavens and stirred the world below with the spear. After stirring it until the sea burbled, they removed the spear and the drop that fell from its tip hardened into an island as it landed in the sea below. This became Onogoro Island. The two kami descended to the island and built a large pillar and palace.

At which point Izanagi asked Izanami, “How is your body made?”

To which Izanami responded, “There is one part that does not seem to be quite complete.”

So Izanagi said, “There is one part of my body that seems to be a little extra. How about I stick my finished-too-much part into your not-quite-finished part  and we give birth to a country?”

To which Izanami replied, “Yeah, swell.”

So Izanagi said, “Let’s walk around this thick pillar and marry each other. You walk around from the right and I’ll walk around from the left.”

They made vows and as they completed walking around. Izanami spoke first and said, “You are a handsome man.” And Izanagi said, “And you are a beautiful woman.”
After consummating their marriage, Izanagi told Izanami that “It is not good for a woman to speak first.” But they were married and their child Hiruko (1) was born. They sent this child floating away on a boat of reeds.*

*Note: The Japanese word I translated as “float away” is 流す(nagasu). But it’s meaning is closer to “wash away” and is also a euphemism for abortion in Japanese. This passage almost certainly implies infanticide.

Next Awashima (2) was born. This child was also not counted as their child.
The two kami discussed the matter. “The children we are making now are not good. Let’s consult the celestial kami.”

Together they climbed back up to heaven and asked the celestial kami’s advice.

There the celestial kami used cracked, blackened deer shoulder bones (rokuboku) to determine the problem. They said “The problem is that the woman spoke first. Go back and say the words again.”

The two kami returned to the pillar and went around it again. This time Izanagi said first, “You are a beautiful woman,” and Izamani spoke second saying, “And you are a handsome man.”

And so they were married and they gave birth to Awaji no Honosawake Island (3).

Next they gave birth to Iyo Island (4) (modern day Shikoku ― 四国). This island had one body and four faces. Each face had a name. The country of Iyo is called Ehime, the country of Sanuki is called Ihiyorihiko, the country of Awa is called Ohoketsu Hime, and the country of Tosa is called Takeyoriwake.

Next the triplet islands of Oki were born, also known as Ame no Oshikorouke (5).

Next the island of Tsukushi (6) was born (modern day Kyushu ― 九州). This island also had one body and four faces and each face had a name. The country of Tsukushi was called Shirahiwake, the country of Toyo was called Toyohiwake, the country of Hi was called Takehimukahitoyokujihinewake, and the country of Kumaso was called Takehiwake.

Next Iki Island was born, also known as Ame Hitotsu Hashira (7).
Next Tsushima was born, also known as Ame no Sadeyori Hime (8).
Next Sado Island was born (9).

Next Oyamatotoyoakitsushima (modern day Honshu) was born, also known as Amatsumisoratoyoakitsunewake (10).

These 8 islands were born first, and so they were known as the country of eight great islands.

As the two kami were leaving, Kibi no Kojima was born, also known as Takehigatawake (11).
Next Azuki Island was born, also known as Ohonode Hime (12).
Next Ooshima (Great Island) was born, also known as Ohotamaruwake (13).
Next Himejima (Woman Island) was born, also known as Ame Hitotsu Ne (14).
Next Chika-no-shima was born, also known as Ame no Oshio (15).
Next Futago-no-shima (twin islands) was born, also known as Amefutaya (16).
From Kibi no Kojima to Futago no shima there were six islands in total born.

 

 

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