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Ancient Gods of the Culturally Rich Japan

Prabhakar Pillai
Japan evokes images of technological prowess. But do you know its people revere ancient gods? Read on to know about it.
Japan is known as the land of the rising sun. It is also one of the most economically and technologically advanced nations in the world. It has a rich cultural heritage. Here we look at some of the ancient Japanese gods.


Bishamon is regarded as the god of war. He shields humans from demons and diseases. Bishamon is depicted astride demons, wearing an armor with a spear in his hand. His father is Izanagi and mother Marish-ten. His sons are Jorojin, Hotei , Fukrokuju and Daikaiku. Bishamon's enemy is the demon Mikaboshi.
Lately, in some comics it is shown that Bishamon, along with other gods of Japan, helped the gods of Olympus to defeat Mikaboshi. He is also called Bishamonten, Tamon and Bishamon-Temo.
Bishamon was part of the Shichi Fukujin , seven gods of luck who epitomized longevity, popularity, amiability, fortune, magnanimity, dignity and candor . Among Bishamon's powers are superhuman strength and knowledge of the mystical arts. Bishamon is regarded as an ancestor of the divine emperors of Japan.


Izanagi is also known as god of the sun. He is also known as "male who invites". His father is Inn and mother Gaea. His sons are Emma-O, Takamimusubi, Susunawo, Tsukiyomi, Shinatsuhiko and Kagutsuchi. His daughters are Uke Mochi and Amaterasu. Izanagi possesses superhuman strength and to control cosmic energies.
Izanagi and his wife and sister Izanami created the world. Both stood on the floating bridge of the heavens and stirred the ocean using a jewelled spear. The drops falling from the spear created the first island of Japan called Onogoro. Izanagi and Izanami married each other and inhabited the island. Unfortunately their first progeny was born deformed.
Subsequently eight children were born who were transformed into the islands of Japan. They had more children who became the mountains, rivers, valleys and many other physical features of Japan. Izanami got burnt while giving birth to the fire god Kagutsuchi. Her tears formed other gods and she died.


Amatsu is the god of stars and evil. He is also known as Ama-no-kagaseo and Myoken-Bodhisattwa. Amatsu is the guardian of hell. He is denoted by the symbol Fuzen, the sin. The Oni (undead spirits) and Ama-no-Jaku-Tengu (demons of Yomi) follow Mikaboshi. He is an evil force that was present before the creation of the universe.
This force can play with human emotions and lead them astray. There exist the seven sins of humanity. Tengu, Gozu-Tenno, Izanagi, Kompera , Yasha, Yuki-Onna and Shinigami stand for each of the seven sins and serve as Amatsu's soldiers. Souls which die and come back to haunt the living are said to be part of Mikaboshi's force.
Amatsu sees human beings as sinful and ungrateful for the gift of life that they have been given. He has supernatural powers and is able to change his form and shape. Mikaboshi is able to capture and confine the souls of recently expired human beings.


He is the god of the earth. Hiko is denoted by the symbol, Jishin the earthquake. Haniyasu's wife is Haniyasu-hime. He is a little irritated by human beings but in his heart cares for them. Another name for him is Tamon. Toyouke, Kanayama and Fudo serve him as soldiers. There are many more Japanese gods like Hiruko, Inari and Benzaiten.