Jake Schneider, Mike Perry, Zach Epistein and Kris Moore

Introduction: For our culture we chose Japan, there have been many folktales told in Japan’s history and the three myths we have chosen are the story of Izanagi and Izanami, Yamata-no-Orochi, and a Faithful Servant.

Historical and cultural context: The Japanese culture is a mixture of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese ethnicities. The Japanese are seen as a homogeneous nation and have been isolated by choice and geography. Their mythology is a natural outgrowth of the religions brought to Japan from these countries. Specifically, Japanese mythology is a reflection of Shinto beliefs, Buddhism, Taoism, and Shamanism. From Shinto, it takes a belief in gods with specific duties/traits as seen in the creation myth. From Buddhism, salvation myths and enlightenment of ordinary people. From Taoism, spiritual and mystical connection between human beings and nature are received. From Shamanism, it contributes mystical and ecstatic contact through medians between the supernatural and the human world. Japanese mythology is also an extension of the strong kinship roles found in Japan which emphasize strict membership, inheritance patterns, head of household with authority rules governing assets and marriage. Not surprisingly, Japanese mythology reflects hard fast gender roles in a male-dominated society which encourages and embraces multi-generational family units. The Japanese mythology also mirrors the emphasis on etiquette and artistry. This artistry focuses on the Japanese cultural enjoyment of gardening and nature. Japanese mythology provides and opportunity for contemplation and study as well as to keep link with one's ancestors and family which is a prized asset. By Mike Perry

Major/archetypal characters and plots: Throughout mythology there are similar themes that you can identify while reading other religion’s myths. The Japanese creation myth, Izanagi and Izanami, has many different similarities with many different myths. For example, Izanagi and Izanami’s creation of the world is similar to the story of Adam and Eve due to the fact that a male and female were necessary for creation of humankind or the world. Another myth related to the Japanese creation myth is the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. In both myths, Izanagi and Orpheus don’t listen to their loved ones when they tell them not to look for them in the underworld, but do anyways and they both lose them. Both tales show how men are not the most patient in the world. The myth of Yamata-no-Orochi, our second myth we chose, is closely related to multiple myths as well. The first example is that it can be seen as a different version of the dragon-slaying legends in medieval Europe. It also closely relates with the Greek legend of Perseus and the sea serpent.By: Mike Perry


(Izanagi and Izanami) Created by the gods and sent down to earth. The gods realized they left no land for two mortals to settle so the deities cast down a spear with which Izanagi thrusted into the ocean and created the island of Onogoro. They married and had a deformed child. The reason for the deformities was because Izanami spoke before her husband during the wedding vows so they got remarried. They then gave birth to 8 children which became the islands of Japan. One of the children was Kagutsuchi, the fire god, and Izanami was badly burned after during the birth and died. Full of grief Izanagi tried to bring his wife back from the dead. The land of the dead was called Yomi and full of darkness and Izanami told Izanagi not to look upon her. Izanami ate food from Yomi and was not sure if she could leave. She told Izanagi to not look for her while she talked to the gods of the underworld. He complied for a while but went looking for her after shedid not return. When he came upon her, he saw her decomposed body and fled. Outraged that he did not listen to her, Izanagi was chased out of the land of the dead. They eventually called off their marriage. After escaping Yomi, Izanagi took a bath because of the contact with the dead, and from this bath, three more gods were created, Amaterasu (sun god), Tsukuyomi, and Susano-o.

By Jake Schneider
external image 2px08U89BoKKoJISu2tG_HAAlt3zKQAeVjW8rMxkOpDhr5-NqnQoqDQbARw7OsHwu3kgy9_3Neq5IvnvSEzM3hplkluI69t-5U0nTe0ANfre0k3icay0Izanami and Izanagi with the magic spear

(Yamata-no-Orochi) A vicious monster, who had eight heads, eight tails, and his body covered over eight peaks and valleys. A man named Susano-o came across an elderly couple and their daughter. The Yamata-no-Orochi was covered with moss and trees, and its belly was inflamed and smeared with blood. This couple had eight daughters. However, each year the Yamata-no-Orochi came and devoured one of the daugthers. Kushinada-hime was the last daughter left. Susano-o said he would slay the serpent, only if Kushinada-hime would marry him. The father agreed. Susano-o turned her into a comb and put her in his hair. He told the elderly couple to brew very strong sake, or saki, an acholholic beverage of the Japanese people. He, also, said to build a fence with eight gates around their house. Susano-o wanted them to build a platform and place vats just inside the gates for holding the sake. All serpents love sake. Each of the Yamata no Orochi’s heads dove in the vats and drank the sake. After gulping it down, it became very drunk. It was so drunk that it passed out. As soon as it passed out, Susano-o drew his sword and sliced the serpent into pieces. While cutting the serpent, he struck something hard that broke his sword. Susano-o found another sword lodged within Yamata’s tail. It was the sword Susano-o had offered up to his elder sister Amaterasu, the sun deity and ruler Takamagahara. The sword was called Kusanagi-no-tsurugi (The Great Sword Kusanagi). It became one of the 3 great Imperial Treasures of Japan. Susano-o built a palace in Suga. Ashinazuchi, his father-in-law, was appointed caretaker of the land, and Susano-o and Kushinada-hime lived together peacefully. Susano-o recited a Japanese poem, such as a waka or haiku.
By Zach Epstein

external image uMQAoOMoiG6j5qd_Z0NWP-fymXGoFlJS2n2FhCCvMfRiJLGPBMsYvh4lClAkpfvK8NF4El2ngvrqCuRqTXcJTapGgCrKeOu_APeMqiSo1sCNOE57GcOlYamata no Orochi vs Susano

The Faithful Servant

Once, a long time ago in shogunate Japan lived a fair and just ruler named emperor Engi. Helping the emperor was an even greater man who was the subject of many literature and an idol of his time named Michizane. Michizane being such a great man with so much influence and power soon came under judgement from others who didn't like him as much. A man working underneath Michizane named Tokihira became envious of him and waited until an opportunity rose for him to destroy his image. Tokihira told the emperor that Michizane was secretly seeing a princess and was actually plotting to overthrow his rule. Taken aback by this emperor called Michizane to a meeting, despite his claims of innocence Tokihira convinced that it was a lie and Michizane was banished to Tsukushi. All of his followers were as well banished from office and left the city. A faithful servant to Michizane, Matsuo, overheard a plot to assassinate his son went back to inform his master of the news. Matsuo decided that he would have to offer the life of his own son in order to save the son of Michizane so when they discovered the secret name that Michizane's son was using and order his head, Matsuo switched it with Michizane's son with his own. Later Matsuo was ordered to confirm that it was the head of Michizane's son because formerly he had promised to help find his son inorder to obtain the trust of Tokihira who now had supreme power.
The story of The Faithful Servant was written as a testate to the loyalty of man at this point in time. It embodies the relationship that the two men had and supreme devotion to another.
By Kris Moore
external image 13.jpg

Themes, Motifs, and Archetypes:
An archetype is defined as the original pattern or model which all things of the same type are representations or copies. The myth of the Yamata-no-orochi is representative of many things. One could say that this story is about good versus evil. Yamata would exemplify the evil in the world, whereas Susano-o embodies the good. Susano-o fights this vicious beast to save someone that he does not know. One source said that this story represents rice fields. This source had the girl’s name as Inadahime, which means “Rice Field Princess.” Yamata-no-orochi is seen as the Hii River. Defeating the snake was seen as taming the river for irrigation.
By Zach Epstein

(Izanami and Izanagi): One archetype in this myth would be how the world is made, it took a man and women to start populating, this idea relates to the creation story of Adam and Eve. They too were the first humans who then populated the world. Another archetype would be going against the rules or what another person has requested. This appears many times in this myth. A first would be the wedding vows, Izanami spoke before her husband which was wrong and because of this they had a deformed child. A second place where this happens is when Izanami is in Yomi, (the underworld) she eats food from there and cannot leave because of it. A third would be when Izanagi does not listen to his wife when she told him not to look upon her. He did not listen and was appalled by the look of his decomposing wife and ran in fear. They ultimately got divorced because of this. Another archetype consequence. Each time one of these characters does something wrong there is a consequence.
By Jake Schneider

Themes, Motifs, and Archetypes:
The story of The Faithful Servant was written as a testate to the loyalty of man at this point in time. It embodies the relationship that the two men had and supreme devotion to another. Throughout Japanese history it has always been crucial to the people they that remain faithful the the feudal lords and the Shogun at all times. In instances where a man has lost honor or has showed disloyalty they have committed seppuku which is a suicidal ritual performed by the Japanese. The first appearance of loyalty in this myth came from Michizane who, during his entire life, dedicated his time to the emperor and to the people. This loyalty is then again exemplified once Michizane's servant shows his dedication by offering his son as a sacrifice in place of Michizane's son. Lastly the reoccurring image that disloyalty leads to death or seppuku is shown at the end of the myth when Tokihira who betrayed Michizane is killed by a thunderbolt from a storm.

By Kris With K

Important Sites