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 Amaterasu, Amaterasu O-mikami, Amaterasu-o-mi-kami

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PostSubject: Amaterasu, Amaterasu O-mikami, Amaterasu-o-mi-kami   Mon Sep 10, 2007 2:12 pm

Sun Goddess, Queen of Kami, She Who Illuminates the Heavens, the Supreme Shinto Deity. Amaterasu is the child of Izanagi and Izanami (creator gods of Japanese mythology). Japan's imperial family claims direct decent from her line; the nation's flag symbolizes the sun; the name of the country means "Land of the Rising Sun." Shrines associated with the imperial family are called "Jingu" -- the most prestigious is called Ise Jingu (Mie Prefecture) and it is dedicated to Amaterasu. Ise Jingu is reportedly pulled down every 20 years and rebuilt in its original form.

She was so bright and radiant that her parents sent her up the Celestial Ladder to heaven, where she has ruled ever since. When her brother, the storm-god Susanoo, ravaged the earth, she retreated to a cave because he was so noisy. She later closed the cave with a large boulder. Her disappearance deprived the world of light and life, which resulted in demons ruling the earth. The other gods used everything in their power to lure her out, but to no avail. Finally Uzume succeeded in bringing her out. The laughter of the gods as they watched Uzume's comical and obscene dances aroused Amaterasu's curiosity. When she emerged from her cave a streak of light escaped (dawn). The goddess then saw her own brilliant reflection in a mirror which Uzume had hung in a nearby tree with beautiful jewels. When she drew closer for a better look, the gods grabbed her and pulled her out of the cave. She returned to the sky, and brought light back into the world. Later, she created and cultivated Japan's rice fields. She also invented the art of weaving with the loom and taught the people how to cultivate wheat and silkworms. Many Shinto shrines contain a sacred mirror, said to be the mirror in which Amaterasu saw her reflection. Celebrations in her honor take place on July 17 each year. She is also honored on December 21, the winter solstice, to indicate her role in bringing light back to the world.

Amaterasu and the Imperial Family

Emperor Akihito (the current emperor) is said to be the 125th direct descendant of Emperor Jinmu, Japan's legendary first emperor and a mythical descendent of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess. Though not often referred to today, the Japanese calendar year starts from 660 BC, the year of his accession. The reigning emperors were considered to be the direct descendant of the Sun Goddess and revered as living gods at one time or another. When the Pacific War was imminent in 1940, the fascist government was boasting it was the year of 2600 to exalt the national prestige, and it even made a song cerebrating the 2600th year. <Above text courtesy of Kondo Takahiro>

Sun imagery is still very prominent in modern Japan. Japan's national flag, the hinomaru (literally "sun circle"), symbolizes the sun, and was officially adopted by the Japanese Diet in August 1999, when the National Flag and Anthem Law was enacted. The exact origin of the hinomaru is unclear, but many point to the 12th century, when it appeared during a military campaign. Historically the hinomaru is a symbol of the reign of the "divine" emperor. The country's name, Nippon or Nihon, is typically translated as "Land of the Rising Sun" or "Source of the Sun." The country's national anthem, the kimigayo, also officially adopted in 1999, is a song of praise to the emperor. Its lyrics basically mean "May the emperor reign forever." The imperial family's crest, the chrysanthemum, is used on the cover of Japanese passports.

http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/shinto-concepts.shtml

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