Izanagi and Izanami were the two young gods chosen to bring order to the world of chaos in Japanese mythology. Izanagi was a tall and as strong as a willow sapling, while Izanami, his consort, was delicate in manner and speech, and as beautiful as the air that filled the High Plain of Heaven. The Lord of Heaven then gave Izanagi his legendary spear, Amanonuboko.
Izanagi and Izanami descended to the Earth and using the spear, created order out of the chaos. They then decided to make the Earth their home, and took residence on the island named Onokoro.
After some time, Izanagi and Izanami decided to create other islands. Izanagi told Izanami that in order to do so, they would have to become man and wife by circling the earthly column – Izanami to the right and Izanagi to the left – and when they met at the other side of the column, they would then know each other. So the two gods did this, and when they met at the far side of the column, Izanami spoke first saying that she was delighted to meet such a sweet youth. Izanagi answered that he was overjoyed to meet so fair a maiden, however, there was displeasure in his voice when he said this. Nevertheless, the two embraced and became man and wife, but there was no longer joy between them.
With time, Izanami bore a weak and boneless child. Izanagi said that this must be an omen from the Lord of Heaven. He told Izanami that they should not keep the child, and thus placed the baby in a boat and sent it out to sea. After this, Izanagi consulted the gods, who told him they were displeased with the two because when they met after circling the column, Izanami spoke first, and that it should be man who takes precedence over woman. They were to repeat the ceremony.
So, again they repeated the ceremony, only when they met this time, Izanagi spoke first. They both gazed at each other for awhile, and a sense of unity with the earth around them came over them. They also were filled with a new love for each other. They then began to create other islands around them, and after the islands were created, Izanami bore children to populate them.
Death of Izanami
One day, Izanagi decided that not one of their children represented Fire. They prayed for a child, and Izanami soon gve birth to Kagutsuchi, the god of Fire. However, part of Izanami’s body was consumed by the burning heat of Kagutsuchi, and she soon died.
Izanagi’s Descent into the Underworld
Izanagi was filled with sorrow and loneliness over the death of his sister-wife and made a decision to travel into Hades to bring her back to the realm of the living. He found her and told her to come back with him, but she replied that it was not possible, for she had eaten the food of the underworld. Izanagi would not give up so quickly and told her he would not leave without her. She said that she would go and beg the Lord of the underworld to let her go back. However, she made Izanagi promise to wait for her and not to enter her room while she was gone. Izanagi gave her his word, and she left him.
Time went by and Izanami still hadn’t returned. Izanagi became aware of a terrible stench around him, and forgetting his promise and went to look for the source of it. He traced the smell to a small doorway, and wrapping his scarf around his face, he entered the room. Lying on a small pallet in the room, was the source of the stench, the body of Izanami, who was sleeping. Though she was breathing, her body was that of a person who had been dead a long time. Around her head and breast were the 8 demons of thunder.
Izanagi panicked and ran out of the room terror-stricken. The noise woke Izanami and after realizing what had happened, she grew angry. She rushed after Izanagi to ask if this was how he kept his promise. She then told him that by this action, he had put her to shame. She then summoned a group of females and sent them in pursuit of Izanagi, but he managed to escape all his pursuers and placed a large boulder before the gateway to the lower world.
Eventually, Izanami, herself, came after him, but could not get around the rock. She asked him why he had entered her room, but Izanagi answered that he then severed their marriage ties, thus laying down the formula for the divorces of future generations. He also begged her to return to the underworld as he was going to return to the world of light. Izanami replied that if he was to do that, then she would retaliate with all her power and destroy 1000 of his people each day. He replied that if she did that, he would cause 1500 women to bear a child each day. He then told her that the ties that bound them were broken. With that, Izanami returned to Hades, and from that time all bonds between the 2 worlds were severed.