第三章History of Izumo, Chapter 3

Izanagi no Mikoto

Izanaki no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto - ancient japan izumo travel guide

The story of Izanagi no Mikoto, the god who went to the land of the dead Chasing after his beloved wife through the realm of the dead

When heaven and earth first came into being, the land overflowed with water and it jiggled unsteadily like oil or a jellyfish. The gods of the Heavens commanded a male and a female god, called Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto:
“Solidify and reinforce this land to completion.”
Izanagi and Izanami stood on Ama no Ukihashi (the floating bridge of heaven) and stabbed down the Ame no Nuboko (heavenly jeweled spear) into the earth, spreading it out with a “kooro, kooro” (the sound of the spear breaking up the ground). Before long, the salt that fell from the tip of the spear piled up and turned into Onogoro Island.

Izanagi and Izanami descended to this island and produced lots of children, but because Izanami gave birth to the scorching god of fire, she was badly burned and passed away. Izanagi wanted to catch one more glance of his wife and followed her to the realm of the dead. When Izanami met him in the palace of the realm of the dead, he said with all his heart:
“My dear beloved wife, the land we are trying to build is not yet done. So please, come back to the lands of this earth for me."

Izanaki went to the realm of the dead - ancient japan izumo travel guide

However, Izanami replied, “That’s a pity. I have tasted the food from the realm of the dead, so there's no way for me to return. But my dear husband, since you came for me, let me try to consult with the god of this realm. Please, no matter what you do, do not look at me during this time." Then she entered the palace in the realm of the dead.
But the wait was unbearable, and Izanagi could not hold himself back any longer, so he broke off a tooth of the comb in his hair and lit it as a torch, entering the palace and seeing Izanami. What he saw was Izanami's body full of swarming and wriggling maggots, with her head, chest, and stomach scorched as if by Raijin, the god of lightning. In utter horror of what he saw, Izanagi tried to run away from the realm of the dead, but Izanami said, “How dare you bring shame on me” and sent Yomotsu Shikome to chase after him.

Izanaki was escaping - ancient japan izumo travel guide

While Izanagi was escaping, he threw a black vine hair ornament, which fell on the ground and sprouted crimson glory grape vines. Izanagi fled while Shikome picked up the grapes and ate them. However, she began to chase him again, so Izanagi broke off and threw a tooth from his bamboo comb again, from which bamboo shoots grew. Izanagi could again escape while Shikome pulled them out and ate them.

Then, Izanami had the gods of lightning that were in her body follow him, joined by 1500 military troops. Izanagi drew his sword and fled while swinging it behind his back. However, the gods of lightning and their troops still followed him. When Izanagi reached the foot of Yomotsu Hirasaka (the boundary between this world and the other), he took three fruits from the peach tree growing there, and waited to ambush the gods of lightning. When he threw the fruit at them, they returned to the realm of the dead.

Izanaki has blocked the way of Yomotsu Hirasaka - ancient japan izumo travel guide

Finally, Izanami herself came chasing after him.
Izanagi had blocked Yomotsu Hirasaka with a boulder so heavy that the strength of 1000 people was need to move it, so they faced each other with the bolder between them.
Izanami said:
“My dearest husband, if you do something like this to me, then I'll kill 1000 people from your land each day.”
Then Izanagi replied:
“My dear beloved wife, if you kill 1000 people each day, then I'll build 1500 delivery rooms each day.”

This is said to be the reason why it has come to pass that each day 1000 people die and 1500 people are born without fail.
The place called Yomotsu Hirasaka in this story is said to be Izumo’s “Ifuyazaka.”