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Chapter 15: The Worship of the Sun in Japan

Shinto, the ancient religion of Japan, a worship of nature.

THE ancient religion of Japan is known as Shinto, or “the Way of the Gods”. It is essentially a worship of nature, that is, of the material aspects of the physical world personified as gods or goddesses. The view that it was primarily a worship of ancestors, upon which the worship of nature was afterwards grafted,1 appears to be erroneous. It is rejected by two of our best modern authorities on Japanese religion, W. G. Aston and M. Revon. According to Aston, “Shinto, which has been described as exclusively a cult of ancestors and deceased sovereigns, has in reality little of this element. It is in the main a worship of nature. The man-deities are of more recent origin and of minor importance”.2 Indeed, he holds that “the worship of ancestors is an importation from China and has no place in the older Shinto”.3 Similarly the French scholar, M. Michael Revon, while he admits that the worship of ancestors became the dominant feature of Shinto at a certain period, is of opinion that this cult of the dead was developed later than the worship of nature, and in proof of it he refers to the prominence given to spirits of nature in ancient Japanese ritual and annals.4 This ancient worship of nature, which was no doubt in former times the national religion of Japan, has long been thrust into the background by Buddhism, the lofty morality of which furnishes a striking contrast to the general absence of ethical teaching in Shinto,5 and therefore strengthens its appeal to a people so intelligent and civilized as the Japanese. Yet the old faith still retains a certain hold on the mind of the people, manifesting itself particularly in that adoration of the Sun which appears to have been from the earliest times a salient feature of the national religion. The absence of a moral code in Shinto is acknowledged by modern native commentators, who account for it by the innate perfection of the Japanese nature, which renders such outward props of morality superfluous. It is only, they insinuate, the inferior races, such as the Chinese and Europeans, whose natural depravity requires from time to time to be corrected by the preaching of sages and reformers.6

The Sun-goddess, the most eminent of Japanese deities.

Of all the Shinto deities (kamis) the most eminent is the Sun-goddess, the personification of the physical sun. She is described as the Ruler of Heaven and as unrivalled in dignity. She wears royal insignia, is surrounded by ministers, and is spoken of in terms appropriate to personages of sovereign rank. From her the Mikados claim to derive their descent and authority. Yet she is hardly what we understand by a Supreme Being. Her power does not extend to the sea and to the Land of Darkness (yomi), the Japanese Hades. The commission to rule the Heaven was conferred on her by her parents, and did not by any means convey despotic power. Important celestial matters are determined, not by her, but by a Council of the Gods. The heavenly constitution, like its earthly counterpart, on which no doubt it was modelled, is Tar from being an absolute monarchy.7

Japanese names of the Sun-goddess.

The ordinary Japanese name of the Sun-goddess is Ama-terasu no Oho-kami, “the Heaven-shining Great Deity”. European writers usually abridge it to Ama-terasu, which, however, is a mere epithet, and as such is applied to other deities. She is also called Ama-terasu hiru-me, “Heaven-shining Sun-female”, or, more briefly, Hirume. Another of her titles is Ama-terasu mi oya, “Heaven-shining august-parent”. In modern times the old title Ama-terasu no Oho-kami is little used, and is commonly replaced by its Chinese equivalent Tenshodaijin. Partly under cover of a name which is less intelligible to the multitude, the tendency has increased to throw the solar nature of the goddess into the shade and to conceive of her simply as a general Providence at the expense of other divinities. In this way she has made a distinct advance to the dignity of a supreme monotheistic deity. Even in ancient times there was some recognition of the Sun-Goddess as a Providence who watched over human affairs, especially over the welfare of the Mikado and his government. She is said to have provided Jimmu, the first of the Mikados, with a Sun-crow to guide his army.8 The solar character of the goddess having become obscured, the people have personified the sun afresh under the names of Nichi-rin sama, “Sun-wheel-personage”, and O tento sama, “August-heaven-path-personage”. To the lower class of Japanese at the present day, and especially to women and children, O tento sama is the actual sun, conceived without sex and without myth, unencumbered by any formal cult, but looked up to as a moral being who rewards the good, punishes the wicked, and enforces oaths made in his name.9

The sacred mirror the symbol of the Sun-goddess.

The material symbol or embodiment (shintai) of the Sun-goddess, is a mirror, sometimes called the eight-hand-mirror (yata-kagami) or the Sun-form-mirror. It is kept in a box to this day in the great shrine at Ise, which has been called the very heart of the ancient Japanese religion. The mirror is about eight inches in diameter. It is treated with the greatest care and reverence, and is even spoken of as if it were the Sun-goddess herself.10 Religious honours are still paid to it or to its representative.11 Formerly the female attendants of the imperial palace used to offer rice, fish, cakes, cloth, and so forth at every new moon to the sacred mirror which represented the goddess. In the modern form of the worship the emperor himself does homage to the shrine which contains the symbols of divinity.12

The bird of the Sun-goddess.

The Sun-goddess was also provided with a bird as her messenger and attendant. In Japanese the bird is called yata-garasu, “eight-hand crow”. It is said to be borrowed from China, where it is called the Sun-crow or Golden Crow, and is described as a bird of a red colour and three claws, which roosts in the sun. Mention of this remarkable fowl occurs in a Chinese poem written in 314 B.C. As a symbol of the Sun it was wrought on the banners set up in front of the Imperial Palace on State occasions. This custom is known to go back to 700 A.D. and is probably much older.13

Royal princess dedicated to the service of the Sun-goddess.

At the beginning of every reign an unmarried princess of the imperial blood used to be chosen by divination and consecrated to the service of the Sun-goddess at Ise. For three years before she took up her duties she went on the first day of every month to a sacred hall and worshipped towards the Great Shrine of Ise; this period of preparation was called the “three years’ purity”.14

The Food-goddess, Uka Mochi.

Pilgrim ages to the shrine of the Sun-goddess at Ise.

Next to the Sun-goddess the most important, or at all events the most universally popular, deity of the Shinto pantheon is the Food-goddess, Uke-mochi; the outer shrine at Ise is dedicated to her. At the present time daily offerings are made to the two goddesses at Ise. They consist of four cups of rice-beer (sake), sixteen saucers of rice and four of salt, besides fish, birds, fruits, seaweed, and vegetables.15 According to Hirata, the Japanese theologian who worked for a revival of the Shinto religion in the first half of the nineteenth century, no flesh was offered in sacrifice to the Sun-goddess. 16 Clothing was formerly presented to the Sun-goddess at Ise twice a year, in the fourth and ninth months. Her shrine at Ise used to be rebuilt every twentieth year. A special form of liturgy (norito) was prescribed for the occasion.17 Many people go on pilgrimage to the shrines of the Sun-goddess and the Food-goddess at Ise. More than eleven thousand pilgrims have been known to pay their devotions at Ise on New Year's Day. Boys and even girls often run away from home and beg their way to Ise. This is regarded as a pardonable escapade. When an actual visit to a shrine is difficult or impossible, the worshipper may offer his homage from a distance. In some places special shrines are provided at which the deity graciously consents to accept this worship at a distance.18 On the coast of Ise there is a famous spot to which pilgrims resort in order to worship the Sun as he rises over the distant Mount Fujiyama, the Olympus of Japan. There is a mark to indicate the proper direction in which the devotees should do obeisance to the orb of day. In the eastern wall of a private courtyard a round hole may occasionally be seen for the convenience of worshipping the morning sun. There is a modern custom called Sun-waiting (himachi), which consists in keeping awake the whole night of the fifth day of the tenth month in order to worship the Sun at his rising. The rules of religious purity must be observed from the previous day. Many persons assemble at various open places in Tokio for the sake of worshipping the Sun on the first day of the year. This is called “the First Sunrise” (hat su no hi no de).19 The ordinary Japanese salutation to the rising Sun is to bow the head.20

Pilgrimages to worship the Sun on the tops of mountains.

Among the places of pilgrimage are the tops of lofty mountains, where the worshipper naturally feels himself nearer to the heavenly gods. The great sacred mountain of Japan is Mount Fuji or Fujiyama, a volcano of very regular shape, like an inverted fan, more than 12,000 feet high.21 Thousands of pilgrims ascend it annually, but only during two months of the year, from the fifteenth of July to the tenth of September. During the rest of the year, woe to the rash intruder who should dare to transgress the prescribed lines!22 Another peak to which pilgrims resort is the lofty Mount Ontake, “the August Peak”. The mountain is an ancient volcano; sulphurous fumes still burst from crevices in the rocks. On the top Mr. Weston witnessed a band of white-robed pilgrims making their offerings at the shrine and then worshipping the Goddess of the Sun. It was dawn and streaks of golden light were stealing up into the azure sky. First of all the pilgrims clapped their hands to call the attention of the divinity to their prayers, and then broke into a series of chants of invocation. Mingled with the chants were repetitions of the prayer which is constantly heard on the lips of pilgrims as they toil up the slopes of a holy mountain: “May our six senses be pure, and may the weather on the honourable peak be fine!” Next followed a series of extraordinary pantomimic gestures called “seal-knots” (in musabi). With intense energy and earnestness the devotees twisted and tied the fingers of both hands into the oddest combinations of knots, like the “cat's cradles” made by children at play. Each twist, each knot had its own special significance, being addressed to those invisible powers of evil from whose insidious machinations the pilgrim prayed to be delivered, grunting loudly as he made each cabalistic sign.23

Blessings expected of the Sun-goddess.

Japanese deification of the physical Sun.

The Goddess of the Sun is not only looked up to with gratitude for the warmth and light which she sheds on the world; she is also supposed to grant bodily health and success in business to her devotees. Further, she protects the country from invasion, and bestows many other blessings which have no obvious relation to her functions as a solar power.24 Hence some modern writers, both Japanese and European, have inclined to hold that the Sun-goddess Ama-terasu is not so much the physical sun as a deity who rules and guides the sun. Thus the native theologian Hirata maintained that the Sun-goddess was not the Ruler of Heaven but the Ruler of the Sun;25 and Mr. Basil Chamber-lain thinks that in the ancient Japanese mythology “the sun is ruled over by a goddess, the glorious Ama-terasu”.26 But such nice distinctions do not trouble the heads of simple-minded Sun-worshippers. To them the sun, the physical sun, is a god, and that is an end of it Of this truth we are assured again and again by good observers, who have lived among the Japanese and seen them at their devotions. Thus Dr. W. E. Griffis, formerly of the Imperial University of Tokio, tells us that “to the common people the sun is actually a god, as none can doubt who sees them worshipping it morning and evening. The writer can never forget one of many similar scenes in Tokio, when late one afternoon O Tento Sama (the Sun-Lord of Heaven), which had been hidden behind clouds for a fortnight, shone out on the muddy streets. In a moment, as with the promptness of a military drill, scores of people rushed out of their houses and with faces westward, kneeling, squatting, began prayer and worship before the great luminary.”27

M. Revon on Japanese deification of the physical Sun.

To the same effect M. Revon tells us that he questioned several devout Shintoists in Japan as to their real thought in this matter, and they assured him that in Ama-terasu, the Sun-goddess, they by no means worshipped a spirit controlling the sun and more or less independent of it, but actually the real, material sun, the animate celestial body which gives light and warmth to men.28 In the junks and steamers which ply on the Inner Sea there are always some pious passengers who do reverence to the rising or setting sun, and the boat-men are bound by custom thus to adore the great orb of day when he appears above the horizon in the east So, too, where the railway runs in sight of the sacred Mount Fujiyama, whether on the side of the sea or where the golden dolphins of the castle of Nagoya glitter in the morning or the evening light, many passengers, looking out of the windows, pay their respects to the rising or the setting sun; the third-class passengers are particularly assiduous in their devotions.29 In short, to adopt the words of M. Revon, “the Japanese people adore the Sun as a living god; the worship which they pay him is not vague and spiritual, it is direct and absolutely real, when, every morning, the glorious luminary rises in face of his worshipper, lighting up and warming all things, or at evening when he is about to plunge into the night. And such is the inward, instinctive faith of the whole religious public, from the artisan who, from the back of his dark shop, turns towards the bright dawn, claps his hands and recites piously his prayer to the goddess, up to the pilgrim who, on the summit of Mount Fujiyama, prostrates himself, with dazzled eyes, before the first golden shafts of light and worships the orb with forehead bowed down to the rocks.”30 “For my part,” adds M. Revon, “I must confess that one morning on the summit of Fuji, perceiving myself alone in a scene which might have befitted the Last Judgment, faced by the radiant orb which seemed to me like the last living thing of creation, I had a lively illusion that it was a personal being; and when, a moment afterwards, I saw pilgrims hasting from all sides to adore him, I thought their faith perfectly natural. If Herbert Spencer had been there, perhaps he would have abandoned his theory that the worship of the Sun sprang from the worship of the dead through a mistake about their posthumous names.”31

Mythical origin of the Sun-goddess.

Izanagiand Izanami, brother and sister, husband and wife.

The dead Izanami sought by her husband Izanagi in the Land of the Dead.

The ancient mythology of Japan relates the origin of the Sun-goddess as follows. Both of the two old native histories of Japan, the Kojiki or “Records” and the Nihongi or “Chronicles”,32 begin with describing a state of primeval chaos, in which Heaven and Earth were not yet separated from each other, but adhered together in a mass like an egg. In time the two elements parted from each other, the purer and lighter rising to form the Heaven, while the grosser and heavier sank to form the Earth. Thereafter Divine Beings were produced between them.33 Then followed seven generations of gods, of whom the last were a brother and sister called Izanagi and Izanami. The name of the brother, Izanagi, has been interpreted “Male who invites”, and the name of the sister Izanami, has been interpreted “Female who invites”, but this interpretation is doubtful. Be that as it may, the brother and sister appear to be personifications of the dual creative powers of the universe; and as ideas so abstract are probably late, we may assume, with some likelihood, that the conception of this pair of creators originated long after that of the simpler and more concrete deities of nature, such as the gods of the Sun and Moon. At all events the brother and sister are said to have united in marriage, and by their union to have produced, first, the various islands of the Japanese Archipalego, and afterwards a brood of gods and goddesses, many of whom we should call personifications of the powers of nature, such as the Wind-Gods, the Sea-gods, the Gods of Mountains and Valleys, the God of Trees, and the Goddess of Food. The youngest born was the God of Fire, and in bringing him into the world his mother expired, being burnt by the flames which emanated from the body of the infant. So she passed away to the Land of Yomi, the Japanese Hades, the Land of the Dead. Her disconsolate husband pursued her thither, and implored her to return, like Orpheus seeking to recall his lost Eurydice, But sadly she said, “My lord and husband, why is thy coming so late? I have already eaten of the cooking-furnace of Yomi. But I am about to lie down to rest Look not on me.”But look at her he did by the light of a torch made from the tooth of a comb which he wore in his hair. What he saw was dreadful. For her body was already falling into putrefaction: maggots swarmed over it; and the eight Thunder-gods had been generated in her members. Horrified at the spectacle he turned and fled, pursued by the Infernal Hags whom his dead wife, enraged at the shame of her exposure, sent after him to slay him. As he fled he threw down first his comb and then his head-dress to delay his pursuers. The comb was changed into bamboo-shoots, which the Hags stopped to devour. The head-dress was changed into grapes, and again the dreadful beings tarried to pick them up. When he reached the Even Pass of Yomi, he found three peaches growing there, and plucking them he hurled them at his pursuers, who turned and fled back. But at the same Even Pass of Yomi the fugitive was overtaken by his dead wife herself, Izanami. He took a great rock and blocked up the pass: he pronounced the words of divorce: he said, “Come no farther”; and he threw down his staff, his garments, and his shoes. So husband and wife parted for ever.34

Purification of Izanagi on bis return from the Land of the Dead.

The Sun-goddess born from the left eye of Izanagi.

On returning from this vain attempt to recover his lost spouse, Izanagi's first care was to bathe in a river or the sea in order to purify himself from the pollution which he had contracted in the Land of the Dead. As he did so, fresh deities were born from each article of clothing that he threw down beside the water, and also from each part of his person. For example, one deity was produced from his august girdle, another from his august trousers, and a third from his august hat. The Sun-goddess was born when he washed his august left eye; the Moon-god was born when he washed his august right eye, and a god called Susa-no-Wo, or the Impetuous Male, was born when he washed his august nose. To the Sun-goddess her father assigned the heaven to rule over, to the Moon-god he gave dominion over the night, and to the Impetuous Male God he committed the kingdom of the sea. But the Impetuous Male, whom modern scholars variously interpret as a personification of the rain-storm and so forth, was not content with his lot; he did not accept the kingdom of the sea, but blubbered and wept till his beard reached the pit of his stomach. He wept till the green mountains were withered and all the rivers and seas, curiously enough, dried up. When his father, exasperated at this exuberance of sorrow, asked him testily what he meant by it, his hopeful offspring replied, “I wail because I wish to depart to the land of my deceased mother, to the Nether Distant Land”. Then the great God his father was very wroth, and forthwith expelled him with a divine expulsion.35

Ascent of the Impetuous Male Deity to heaven and his interview with his sister the Sun-goddess.

But before the Impetuous Male Deity went down to the Nether Land, he begged to be allowed to ascend for a brief space to heaven, there to meet his elder sister the Sun-goddess once more, after which he promised to depart for ever. Leave was granted him, and up he went accordingly. But such was the fierceness and impetuosity of his nature that at his going there was a commotion in the sea, the rivers trembled, and the hills and mountains groaned aloud. His sister, who knew his violence and wickedness, was startled, and her countenance was changed at the sound of his coming. She said to herself, “Is my younger brother coming with good intentions? I think it must be his purpose to rob me of my kingdom. By the charge which our parents gave to their children, each of us has his own allotted limits. Why, therefore, does he reject the kingdom to which he should proceed, and make bold to come spying here?” So she bound up her hair into knots, and tied up her shirts into the form of trousers. She slung her quivers on her back: she drew a dread loud-sounding elbow-pad on her lower arm: she gripped her sword hilt: she stamped on the hard earth of the courtyard: she sank her thighs into it as if had been snow: she kicked it in all directions. Thus prepared for the worst, she uttered a mighty cry of defiance, and questioned her younger brother, the Impetuous Male Deity, in a straight-forward manner. He soothed her agitation, he allayed her suspicions. He said, “From the beginning my heart has not been black. But as in obedience to the stern behest of our parents, I am about to proceed for ever to the Nether Land, how could I bear to depart without having seen face to face thee, my elder sister? It is for this reason that I have traversed on foot the clouds and mists and have come hither from afar. I am surprised that my elder sister should, on the contrary, put on so stern a countenance.”

Covenant of the sun-goddess with the Impetuous Male Deity at the River of Heaven.

Touched at this display of family affection, she answered, “If this be so, how wilt thou make evident the redness of thy heart?” He answered and said, “Let us, I pray thee, make an oath together. Bound by this oath, we shall surely produce children.” So they swore to each other, standing on opposite banks of the calm River of Heaven, which mortals call the Milky Way. She asked him for his sword, whereof the jewels made a jingling sound: she broke it into three pieces, she brandished them, she dipped them in the Pool of Heaven: she crunched them with her teeth crunchingly, and blew them away, and from the true mists of her breath gods were born. And he asked his sister for the string of jewels that was twined in her august hair: he brandished it with a jingling sound: he dipped it in the Pool of Heaven, and having crunchingly crunched the jewels between his teeth, he blew them away, and from the true mist of his breath were gods produced. Thus were eight divine children born into the world. Through one of them, who rejoiced in the euphonious name of Masa-ya-a-katsu-kachi-haya-hi-ama-no-oshi-ho-mi-mi, the Mikados trace their descent from the Sun-goddess.36

Outrageous behaviour of the Impetuous Male Deity.

The Sun-goddess retires into the Rock-cave of Heaven, leaving the world in darkness.

How the Sun-goddess was lured from the cave and light was restored to the world.

After that, for reasons which it is no longer possible to ascertain, the conduct of the Impetuous Male Deity became in the highest degree rude and unseemly. It chanced that the Sun-goddess had laid out rice-fields both of the long and of the narrow sort Well, when the seed was sown in spring, what did the Impetuous Male Deity do but break down the fences and fill up the ditches; and when autumn came, the abandoned wretch let loose the heavenly piebald colts and made them to lie down in the midst of the rice-fields. Worse than that, when the Sun-goddess was about to celebrate the festival of first-fruits, he made his way into the palace and defiled it in a disgusting manner. All this the Sun-goddess bore with admirable patience, and even found excuses for her wayward brother's misconduct. Encouraged, perhaps, by her leniency, he proceeded to greater excesses than ever. While the Sun-goddess sat in her weaving-hall, surrounded by her handmaids plying their looms and weaving the august garments of the gods, the miscreant took a heavenly piebald horse, flayed it, beginning at the tail, and, having broken a hole in the roof of the weaving-hall, he dropped the flayed horse, no longer piebald, into the room. Down it crashed into the midst of the handmaids, who, in their terror, injured themselves with their shuttles and died of the injury on the spot. The patience of the goddess was exhausted by this last unmanly outrage. She straightway entered the Rock-cave of Heaven, and bolting the door behind her dwelt there in sullen seclusion. Deserted by the Sun-goddess, the world was now plunged in darkness, which threatened to be eternal: the cheerful alternation of day and night ceased: instead, night reigned perpetually. The gods naturally were much alarmed. They gathered in their myriads by the Calm River of Heaven and considered what was to be done in this emergency, and how they could entice the sulky goddess from the cave. They resorted to the most approved modes of divination, by consulting the shoulder-blade of a stag and by stripping off the bark from a cherry-tree. They assembled the long-singing birds of night, by which we are to understand the barndoor fowls, and caused them to sing in chorus at the door of the cave. But it was all in vain. The Sun-goddess turned a deaf ear to their melodious voices. They caused the Smith of Heaven to make a mirror, an eight-hand mirror. They pulled up by its roots a true Cleyera japonica37 with five hundred branches. They hung a string of five hundred jewels to its upper branches, and the mirror to its middle branches, while on its lower boughs they hung blue soft offerings and white soft offerings. Then the gods, and particularly the white August Heavenly-Beckoning-Ancestor-Lord, prayerfully recited grand liturgies. But the heart of the angry goddess was still not moved: she remained silent in the cave: the bolt did not grate in its socket: the door did not creak on its hinges. As a last resource, one of the goddesses, by name August Heavenly-Alarming-Female, rigged herself out in a sash of club-moss and a head-dress of spindle-tree, with a posy of bamboo grass in her hands. Thus arrayed she turned a tub upside down and danced on the top of it. As she bounced about and stamped on the improvised sounding-board, High Heaven shook, and the myriads of gods roared with laughter. The Sun-goddess in the cave heard the laughter. Her curiosity was excited. She cautiously set the door ajar and peeped out Two of the gods now pushed forward the mirror and respectfully showed it to the goddess. She gazed on it in astonishment and edged her way a little farther out. Thereupon one of the gods, by name the Heavenly Hand-Strength-Male-Deity, who had artfully concealed himself behind the door, pounced on her, took her august hand, and drew her forth. So the plain of High Heaven and the Central Land of Reed-plains (that is, Japan), grew light again. The gods were overjoyed, and gleefully they cried aloud, “O how delightful it is again to see each others’ faces!” They besought her not to return into the cave. But as for the Impetuous Male Deity, who had done all the mischief, the gods imposed on him a fine of a thousand tables of offerings, and they shaved his beard, plucked out the nails of his fingers and toes, and expelled him with a divine expulsion.38 On the other hand, the goddess, who by her dance had lured the Sun-goddess from the darksome cave, became the ancestress of the inspired diviners, who, in after ages, played an important part in the ceremony of Quieting the Imperial Spirit.39

The story a myth of a solar eclipse.

This strange story is the kernel of the mythical lore of Japan. From it were deduced some of the principal ceremonies of the Shinto religion, as they were practised at the Mikado's court.40 Substantially the story would seem to be a mythical explanation of a solar eclipse.41

Myth to explain why the Sun and Moon do not shine together.

Not less barbarous is the tale told in the Nihongi to explain why the sun and moon do not shine together. It is said that when the Sun-goddess Ama-terasu had been raised by her divine father to heaven, she heard that the Goddess of Food, Uke-mochi, was in the Central Land of Reed-plains, that is, in Japan; so she sent her brother the Moon-god, Tsuki-yomi, to wait upon her. The Moon-god descended to earth and paid a visit to the Goddess of Food, who prepared to receive him with lavish hospitality. For this purpose she turned her head towards the land, and from her mouth she spewed out boiled rice: she faced the sea, and from her mouth she vomited things broad of fin and things narrow of fin: she looked towards the mountains, and from her mouth she disgorged things rough of hair and things soft of hair. All these dainties, the fruit of her vomit, she set out on one hundred tables for the entertainment of the Moon-god. But far from accepting the proffered hospitality, the Moon-god flushed with anger and exclaimed, “Filthy! Nasty! That thou shouldst dare to feed me with things disgorged from thy mouth!” With that he drew his sword and slew the Goddess of Food. Then he returned to heaven and reported everything to the Sun-goddess. But she was exceedingly angry and said, “Thou art a wicked deity! I may not see thee face to face.” So the Sun-goddess and the Moon-god were separated by one day and one night and dwelt apart.42 Such is the real reason for the separation of Sun and Moon.

Sun-worship among the Ainos of Japan

The barbarous Ainos, the aboriginal inhabitants of Japan, reckon the Sun and the Moon among their gods, but assign them only a subordinate place in their pantheon.43 Vet we read that in Aino theology “the deity who is supposed to hold the most important office next the great Creator of all may be said to be the goddess of the sun, for she is conceived of as being the special ruler of the good things God has made and fixed in the universe”.44 However, we are informed by the same authority that the Ainos suppose the sun to be rather the vehicle of the goddess than the goddess herself; she rules it, she resides in it, her brightness shines through it, and it is her glory, not the splendour of the physical sun, that the Aino adores.45 When the Sun is eclipsed, the Ainos think that the deity is fainting or dying, and they throw water into the air to revive him, just as, for the same purpose, they squirt water into the face of a swooning or dying person.46 While most Ainos speak of the Sun in the feminine gender, some of them look on him as a male and the Moon as a female, his wife. They say that the male is appointed to do his work by day and the female by night. The divine Sun has the brightest and best clothes to wear, and that is why he shines so clearly. His garments consist of white embroidery, and he has a larger body than his wife. The Moon is like a round cake made of millet, and is clothed in dark and wide garments worn one over the other, as anybody can see for himself by looking at her. When the Moon is invisible, it is because she has gone to visit her husband. But among the Ainos persons who actually worship the Sun and Moon are few in number.47 Such worship as they pay to the luminaries appears to consist in pouring libations of rice-beer, with waving of bowls and hands, but without any spiritual act of deprecation or supplication.48

  • 1.

    W. E. Griffis, The Religions of Japan (London, 1895), p. 88, “From the emperor to the humblest believer, the god-way is founded on ancestor worship, and has had grafted upon its ritual system nature worship”.

  • 2.

    W. G. Aston, “Shinto”, in J. Hastings’ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, xi. (Edinburgh, 1920) p. 463.

  • 3.

    W. G. Aston, op. cit. p. 464.

  • 4.

    Michael Revon, Le Shintoïsme, i. (Paris, 1907) pp. 57 sq.

  • 5.

    W. G. Aston, “Shinto”, in J. Hastings’ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, xi 469.

  • 6.

    Basil Hall Chamberlain, Things Japanese4 (London, 1902), p. 414.

  • 7.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods (London, 1905), pp. 123 sq.; id., “Shinto”, in J. Hastings’ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, xi. 466. The commonest and most comprehensive word for deity in the Japanese language is kami. Its proper meaning is “top”or “above”. Applied to persons, human or divine, it signifies little more than “superior”. See W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, pp. 7-10; B. H. Chamberlain, Ko-ji-ki, Records of Ancient Matters, pp. xvii sq. (Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, Supplement to vol. x.).

  • 8.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, pp. 124 sq.

  • 9.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, p. 127.

  • 10.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, pp. 134 sq.; id., “Shinto”, in J. Hastings’ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, xi. 466. It is M. Revon who calls the temple at Ise “the very heart of the ancient Japanese religion” (Le Shintoïsme, i. 41).

  • 11.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, p. 72.

  • 12.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, pp. 291 sq.

  • 13.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the, Gods, p. 136.

  • 14.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, pp. 205 sq.

  • 15.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, pp. 161, 162, 219; id., “Shinto”, in J. Hastings’ Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, xi. 467.

  • 16.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, p. 254. As to Hirata, who lived from 1776 to 1843 A.D., see id. pp. 373 sq.

  • 17.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, p. 287.

  • 18.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, pp. 239 sq.; id., “Shinto”, in J. Hastings’ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, xi. 468.

  • 19.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, p. 128.

  • 20.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, p. 208.

  • 21.

    B. H. Chamberlain, Things Japanese4 (London, 1902), pp. 189 sqq.

  • 22.

    Walter Weston, Mountaineering and Exploration in the Japanese Alps (London, 1896), p. 193.

  • 23.

    W. Weston, op. cit. pp. 279 sq. Elsewhere (p. 272) Mr. Weston mentions that pilgrims are clad in ceremonial white. The clapping of hands was in ancient times a general token of respect in Japan. The number of hand-claps was minutely described in the old ritual. In some ceremonies the number was thirty-two. In more modern times hand-clapping as a token of respect has been confined to divine worship. See W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, p. 209.

  • 24.

    W. G. Aston, “Shinto”, in J. Hastings’ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, xi. 464.

  • 25.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, p. 124.

  • 26.

    Basil Hall Chamberlain, Things Japanese4 (London, 1902), p. 435.

  • 27.

    W. E. Griffis, The Religions of Japan, p. 87.

  • 28.

    M. Revon, Le Shintoïsme, i. 77, note3.

  • 29.

    M. Revon, Le Shintoïsme, i. 78, note1.

  • 30.

    M. Revon, Le Shintoïsme, i. 77 sq.

  • 31.

    M. Revon, Le Shintoïsme, i. 78, note1.

  • 32.

    For our knowledge of ancient Japanese history and mythology we are indebted mainly to two early Japanese works, the Kojiki, or “Records of Ancient Matters”, and the Nihongi, or “Chronicles of Japan”. The Kojiki was compiled by Imperial order and completed in 712 A.D. It has been translated into English, with a valuable introduction, by Mr. Basil Hall Chamberlain, and the translation has been published as a Supplement to the tenth volume of the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, The Nihongi has been translated into English by Mr. W. G. Aston, and the translation has been published as Supplement I. to the Transactions and Proceedings of the Japan Society, London, in two volumes (London, 1896). The scope of the two works is the same, but the later book (the Nihongi, or “Chronicles”), though composed only a few years after the Kojiki, is written in Chinese and under Chinese influence, which has deeply coloured the whole, omitting or rationalizing some of the most childish and barbarous myths. At the same time the Nihongi has an independent value of its own, in so far as the author has added to the original text many variants of the current myths which might otherwise have been lost. Nevertheless, the earlier work, the Kojiki, or “Records”, is the most important monument of early Japanese literature, “because it has preserved for us more faithfully than any other book the mythology, the manners, the language, and the traditional history of Ancient Japan. Indeed it is the earliest authentic connected literary product “of that large division of the human race which has been variously denominated Turanian, Scythian, and Altaic, and it even precedes by at least a century the most ancient extant literary compositions of non-Aryan India. Soon after the dale of its compilation, most of the salient features of distinctive Japanese nationality were buried under a superincumbent mass of Chinese culture”. See B. II. Chamberlain, Ko-ji-ki, or Records of Ancient Matters, Introduction, pp. i. sqq.; W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, pp. 2 sq.

  • 33.

    B. H. Chamberlain, Ko-ji-ki, or Records of Ancient Matters, p. 4; W. G. Aston, Nihongi, i. 1 sq.

  • 34.

    B. H. Chamberlain, Ko-ji-ki, or Records of Ancient Matters, pp. xlv sq., 16 sqq., 29 sq., 34-39; W. G. Aston, Nihongi, i. 5 sqq., 21-25; id., Shinto, the Way of the Gods, pp. 85-94, 169-172.

  • 35.

    B. H. Chamberlain, Ko-ji-ki, or Records of Ancient Matters, pp. xlvi, 39-45; W. G. Aston, Nihongi, i. 26-28; id., Shinto, the Way of the Gods, pp. 95, 137 sqq.; M. Revon, Le Shintoïsme, i. 62 sqq.

  • 36.

    B. H. Chamberlain, Ko-ji-ki, or Records of Ancient Matters, pp. 45 sqq.; W. G. Aston, Nihongi, i. 33 sqq.; id., Shinto, the Way of the Gods, pp. 96 sq.; M. Revon, Le Shintoïsme, i. 65 sq.

  • 37.

    In Japanese saka-ki. It is commonly planted in the precincts of Shinto temples.

  • 38.

    B. H. Chamberlain, Ko-ji-ki, or Records of Ancient Matters, pp. 52-59; W. G. Aston, Nihongi, i. 40-45; id., Shinto, the Way of the Gods, pp. 96-101; M. Revon, Le Shintoïsme, i. 66-71; G. Kato and H. Hoshino, Imbe-no-Hironari's Kogoshui, or Gleanings from Ancient Stories, translated with an Introduction and Notes (Sanseido, 1924), pp. 18-23.

  • 39.

    G. Kato and H. Hoshino, op. cit. p. 82.

  • 40.

    W. G. Aston, Shinto, the Way of the Gods, p. 101.

  • 41.

    This is the interpretation of M. Revon, Le Shintoïsme, i. 67, 69.

  • 42.

    W. G. Aston, Nihongi, i. 32. The passage is also translated by Mr. B. H. Chamberlain, Ko-ji-ki, or Records of Ancient Matters, Introduction, p. xxiii, note21. Compare M. Revon, Le Shintoïsme, i. 32 sq.

  • 43.

    B. Scheube, “Die Ainos”, Mittheilungen der Deutschen Gesellschaft b. S. und S. Ostasiens (Yokohama), Heft xxii. p. 14; R. Hitchcock, “The Ainos of Yezo, Japan”, Smithsonian Institution, Report of the National Museum for 1890 (Washington, 1892), p. 472.

  • 44.

    J. Batchelor, The Ainu and their Folk-lore (London, 1901), p. 63.

  • 45.

    J. Batchelor, op. cit. pp. 63 sq.

  • 46.

    J. Batchelor, op. cit. pp. 64 sq.

  • 47.

    J. Batchelor, op. cit. pp. 63, 67.

  • 48.

    Isabella L. Bird, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (London, 1911), p. 274.

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