Japan Table of Contents
Ancient ornaments, including several magatama,
or "curved jewels"
Courtesy The Mainichi Newspapers
Haniwa ship excavated at Osaka in 1988
Courtesy Asahi Shimbun
The literature of Shinto (Way of the Gods; see Religious and Philosophical Traditions , ch. 2) employs much mythology to describe the supposed historical origins of Japan. According to the creation story found in the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters, dating from A.D. 712) and the Nihongi or Nihon shoki (Chronicle of Japan, from A.D. 720), the Japanese islands were created by the gods, two of whom--the male Izanagi and the female Izanami--descended from heaven to carry out the task. They also brought into being other kami (deities or supernatural forces), such as those influencing the sea, rivers, wind, woods, and mountains. Two of these deities, the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu Omikami, and her brother, the Storm God, Susano-o, warred against each other, with Amaterasu emerging victorious.
Subsequently Amaterasu sent her grandson, Ninigi, to rule over the sacred islands. Ninigi took with him what became the three imperial regalia--a curved jewel (magatama), a mirror, and a "sword of gathered clouds"--and ruled over the island of Kyushu. Ninigi's great-grandson, Jimmu, recognized as the first human emperor of Japan, set out to conquer Yamato. On the main island of Honshu, according to tradition he established the unbroken line of imperial descent from the Sun Goddess and founded the Land of the Rising Sun in 660 B.C.
Data as of January 1994