According to Japanese mythology, the eight main islands that make up Japan were created by two gods dripping water from a sacred stick. Consequently, all things are believed to have come directly from the gods and goddesses. This belief lends insight into the Shinto shrines that are dedicated to the worship of just about anything (even cigarettes!). One of the major deities is
When the Sun Goddess was young, she was deceived by her younger brother and retreated into a cave in despair, thus thrusting both heaven and earth into darkness. The other gods and goddesses gathered outside her hiding place, armed with prayer beads and chants, determined to lure her out.
Another young goddess decided to dress up in a crazy costume to give the situation some humor. Her antics caused the deities gathered there to laugh with such merriment that the Sun Goddess poked her head out to see what was going on. When she did, a young god grabbed her and slung her back up into the sky. A rope was hung across the cave's entrance to prevent her from going into hiding ever again.
These ropes can still be seen in many places in Japan. They are usually found at the entrances to Shinto shrines, but sometimes you'll see them hanging between two big boulders in the mountains or at sea. If you see one, you can be sure some deity is being honored there.
Early Chinese documents describe encounters with scattered tribes on the islands of Japan. Eventually, these tribes adopted agriculture and settled down, but they could never get along with each other. For centuries, these fierce clans waged battles against each other.
To bring order to the Japanese, it is said that the Sun Goddess sent her grandson to make an attempt at governing the people, but it didn't work. Then, in about
Later, the Emperor became known as Emperor Jinmu; the name