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This is a list of divinities native to Japanese beliefs and religious traditions. Many of these are from Shinto, while others were imported via Buddhism or Taoism and "integrated" into Japanese mythology and folklore.
Shinto[change | change source]
The following is a list of some of the major and minor deities in Shinto. As it is often said that there are yaoyorozu-no-kami(八百万の神) or 8 million kami (a representation of an infinite number), it would be impossible to list them all.
Major kami[change | change source]
- Commonly called Uzume, she is the goddess of dawn and revelry, instrumental to the "missing sun legend" in Shinto. She is also known as The Great Persuader and The Heavenly Alarming Female.
Amaterasu-ō-mi-kami (天照大神 or 天照大御神)
- Commonly called Amaterasu, she is the goddess of the sun as well as the purported ancestress of the Imperial Household of Japan. Her full name means "Great Goddess" or "Great Spirit Who Shines in the Heavens"; she may also be referred to as Ōhiru-menomuchi-no-kami (大日孁貴神). Due to her ties to the Imperial family, she is often considered (though not official) to be the "primary god" of Shinto.
Ame-no-Koyane (天児屋命 or 天児屋根命)
- A male deity, he is considered the "First in Charge of Divine Affairs", as well as the aide to the first Emperor of Japan. He is also considered to be the ancestor of the Fujiwara family.
- Also known as Kaminokaze, he is the Japanese god of the wind and one of the eldest Shinto gods, said to be present at the creation of the world. He is often depicted as an oni with a bag slung over his back.
- Also known as Hachiman-shin or Yawata no kami, he is seen as the god of war. Originally an agricultural deity, he later became the guardian of the Minamoto clan.
- The god of rice and fertility. His messengers and symbolic animal are foxes. He is often identified with the Buddhist deity Dakiniten. Though traditionally represented as a male, there are records of Inari appearing as a female as well.
Izanagi (伊弊諾 or 伊邪那岐)
- The forefather of the gods, he is the first male as well as the god of creation and life. He and his wife, Izanami, were responsible for the birth of the islands of Japan and many kami, though she died in childbirth. Later, after his failed attempt to retrieve her from the underworld, he sired Amaterasu, Susano and Tsukuyomi.
Izanami (伊弉冉 or 伊邪那美)
- Izanagi's wife and sister, she is the first female as well as the goddess of creation and death. She died shortly after the birth of Kagu-tsuchi, and Izanami followed her to the underworld, but failed to bring her back to the living world. A marital spat between the pair caused the cycle of life and death for all living beings.
- Commonly called Ninigi, he was the grandson of Amaterasu. His great-grandson was Kamuyamato Iwarebiko, later to be known as Emperor Jimmu, first emperor of Japan.
- Commonly called Raiden (雷電), he is the god of thunder and lightning, and is often paired with Fujin. As with the latter, Raijin is usually depicted as an oni.
- Also known as Rinjin, he is a dragon, as well as god of the sea. He resides in Ryūgū-jō, his palace under the sea built out of red and white coral, from where he controlled the tides with magical tide jewels. His great-grandson would become Emperor Jimmu.
- Alternately romanized as Susano-o, Susa-no-o, and Susanowo. He is the god of storms as well as in some cases the god of the sea. He is also somewhat of a trickster god, as Japanese mythology extensively documents the "sibling rivalry" between him and Amaterasu. Susanoo also was responsible for the slaying of the monster Yamata-no-Orochi and the subsequent discovery of the sacred sword Kusanagi.
- The god of scholarship, he is the deified Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), who was elevated to his position after dying in exile and subsequent disasters in Heian-kyō were attributed to his angered spirit. See Dazaifu, Fukuoka
- Also known as Otohime (乙姫), she was the daughter of Ryūjin and the grandmother of Jimmu. It is said that after she gave birth to her son, she turned into a dragon and disappeared.
Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto (月読の命 or 月夜見の尊)
- Also known as Tsukiyomi, Tsuki no kami, Tsukiyomino mikoto, and Tsukiyumi no mikoto, he is the god of the moon. He killed the goddess of food, Uke Mochi, out of disgust and anger in the way she had prepared a meal. This caused Amaterasu to never face him again, causing the sun and moon to be in different parts of the sky.
Minor kami[change | change source]
- Amatsu-Mikaboshi (天津甕星), the kami of all evil and stars who existed before Ama-No-Uzume
- Konohanasakuya-hime (木花之開耶姫), the wife of Ninigi and daughter of Ohoyamatsumi, and great-grandmother of Jimmu. She is also known as the goddess of Mount Fuji.
- Ohoyamatsumi (大山積命), an elder brother of Amaterasu, and an important god who rules mountain, sea, and war, as well as the father of Konohanasakuya-hime.
- Sarutahiko Ohkami (猿田毘古神), a kami of the Earth that guided Ninigi to the Japanese islands
- Uke Mochi (保食神), sometimes called Ogetsu-hime-no-kami, a goddess of food. After she had spat a fish, vomited or defecated game and coughed rice, she had been killed by a disgusted Tsukuyomi, or in some other versions, Susanoo.
Buddhism[change | change source]
Amida Nyorai (無量光佛 or 無量壽佛)
- Commonly referred to as Amida-butsu (阿弥陀如来), he is the primary Buddha of the Pure Land school of Buddhism. He is also believed to be a Buddha who possesses infinite meritorious qualities; who expounds the dharma in his pure paradise and is likely the most well known and popular of the Five Wisdom Buddhas.
- He is traditionally held in Buddhist mythology to be the founder of Zen Buddhism, as well as the founder of Shaolin. One legend reports that after years of meditation, Bodhidharma lost the usage of his eyes and appendages. The Daruma doll was created in honor of this legend.
The Seven Lucky Gods[change | change source]
Benzaiten (弁才天 or 弁財天)
- Also known as Benten, she is the goddess of everything that flows: words (and knowledge, by extension), speech, eloquence, and music. Said to be the third daughter of the dragon-king of Munetsuchi, over the course of years she has gone from being a protective deity of Japan to one who bestows good fortune upon the state and its people.Derived from the equivalent goddess in Hinduism Goddess Saraswati.
- Also called Bishamon or Tamonten, he is the god of fortunate warriors and guards, as well as the punisher of criminals. Said to live halfway down the side of Mount Sumeru, the small pagoda he carries symbolizes the divine treasure house that he both guards and gives away its contents.
- Often shortened to simply Daikoku, he is variously considered to be the god of wealth (more specifically, the harvest), or of the household (particularly the kitchen). He is recognised by his wide face, smile, and flat black hat. He is often portrayed holding a golden mallet, seated on bales of rice, with mice nearby (which signify plentiful food).
Ebisu (恵比須, 恵比寿, 夷 or 戎)
- The sole member of the gods believed to have originated in Japan, he was originally known as Hiruko (蛭子), the first child of Izanagi and Izanami. Said to born without bones, he eventually overcame his handicaps to become the mirthful and auspicious Ebisu (hence one of his titles, "The Laughing God"). He is often depicted holding a rod and a large red bream or sea bass. Jellyfish are also associated with this god and the fugu restaurants of Japan will often incorporate Yebisu in their motif.
- Often confused with Jurōjin, he is the god of wisdom and longevity and said to be an incarnation of the Southern Polestar. He is accompanied by a crane and a turtle, which are considered to be symbols of longevity, and also sometimes accompanied by a black deer. The sacred book tied to his staff is said to contain the lifespan of every person on Earth.
- Best known in the Western world as the Laughing Buddha, Hotei is likely the most popular of the gods. His image graces many temples, restaurants, and amulets. Originally based on a Chinese Chan monk, Hotei has become a deity of contentment and abundance.
- Also known as Kisshōten or Kudokuten, she is the "eighth" member of the Seven Gods of Fortune, a Taoist deity often combined with the traditional members. She is considered to be the goddess of happiness, fertility, and beauty.
- Also known as Gama, he represents longevity. He is often seen with a fan and a stave, and accompanied by a black deer.