A very long time ago, when the ground was just chaos and the earth was nothing but sea, a group of gods looked down at the earth from the High Upper Hills and thought it looked empty.
The heavenly gods decided to send a young god named Izanagi and a young goddess named Izanami down to earth to create a new world.
The gods gave Izanagi and Izanami a sacred spear to mix the ground. The two stood on a bridge between the ground and the sky and, together, they dipped the spear into the brine and mixed the ground round and round until it gurgled.
When they pulled the spear up, the brine dripped from its end and an island was formed. They named the island Onogoro.
Izanagi and Izanami went down to Onogoro Island and built a large holy pillar and a castle for themselves.
At the holy pillar, they thought up a wedding ritual and held a ceremony of marriage. The god Izanagi said to the goddess Izanami, "Let’s walk around this holy pillar and when we meet on the other side we will be married.”
They stood back-to-back under the pillar and each walked around the pillar. When they met on the other side, the goddess Izanami was the first to speak. She said to Izanagi, "What a good-looking man! Please marry me."
Izanagi replied, "Ah, what a beautiful maiden!"
Afterward, Izanagi felt upset and said, "It was not right that a woman should speak first," but they continued with the ceremony and became husband and wife.
When their first child was born, he was like a mollusk. They called him Hiruko, and they sent him to the sea.
When their second child, Awashima, was born, he was formless like mist.
Feeling disappointed and confused, Izanagi said, "Let’s go to the High Upper Hills and ask the eldest god why this is happening.”
They ascended and asked the eldest god to explain the cause of their misfortune.
The eldest god replied, “It has happened because the woman spoke first. Return to the pillar and repeat the ceremony. However, this time, the man must talk to the woman first.”
Again they walked around the pillar and this time the god Izanagi spoke first.
And, it went well.
From that day on, the children born to them were perfect.
First, the island of Awaji was born.
Next, Shikoku Island and Iyo were born.
Then, Oki Island, Kyushu Island and Iki Island followed.
After that, Tsushima Island and Sado Island were born.
Finally, Honshu, the main island of Japan was born.
In all, eight islands were born and were called the Eight Great Islands.
After they completed the creation of the islands, Izanagi and Izanami started creating gods and goddesses which would rule over the land, sea, mountains and rivers.
Izanami gave birth happily to gods and goddesses of the sea, land, wind and trees, but at the birth of the god of fire, Izanami was wounded by its flames.
The severe burns were too much for her to bear, and she died and left for the Land of Death, the lowest region of the world.
Izanagi grieved for Izanami. He was so filled with sadness that he became angry at the fire god and cut his head off with his sword.
Izanagi missed his wife and called out her name again and again.
He finally decided that he could not live without her,
so he set out on a journey to the Land of Death to find
her and bring her back to the world.
He traveled for miles on his long and dangerous quest to the netherworld until he reached the underground and came to a large castle.
He knocked on the door at the gate. Izanagi gathered up all his courage and called for his wife again and again.
"My darling," he called, "I have come to take you back to the world with me. Please, I beg you, come back with me."
Finally, Izanami came to the door and answered, “I’m very sorry for you my dear. It is too late for me to go with you since I have already eaten the food in the Land of Death. If you had come a little bit earlier, I could have gone with you."
Again he begged her, "Please you must. Isn't there any way for you to return with me?"
Izanami was touched by her husband's devotion. "You have come such a very long way for me," she said. "Please wait here for a moment. Perhaps if I ask the permission of the god of death, he will grant my request to go with you. However, you must promise me that you won’t watch me while you wait.”
"I promise I will do as you ask," Izanagi replied.
Izanagi waited as he promised, but he became impatient.
His wife had been gone for a very long time, and he couldn't wait any longer. He went in the door of the castle and was surrounded by total darkness. He pulled out a wooden comb from the left side of his tied-up hair, broke off a tooth from the comb, and lit a fire.
With the light from the fire, he entered the castle and looked for Izanami. When he finally found her, he trembled at what he saw.
Beautiful Izanami had changed. Her rotten and decaying body
lay before him.
On her head, chest, abdomen, hands and feet, evil ogres clung to her and spit forth flames.
Shaken by the terrible sight, Izanagi stepped backward and started to run away. At that moment, Izanami was woken from her death-like slumber and realized her husband had changed his mind.
She rose up and said in anger, "You have embarrassed me and caused me shame. I warned you not to look at me, but you have broken your promise. Now, I can not let you return to your country."
She ordered the ogres to run after him. He ran and ran in fear.
The ogres were so fast and almost caught him. Izanagi pulled out a vine wreath from his head and threw it towards the ogres.
As soon as the vine touched the ground, it grew up, extended its stem and bore many grapes right in front of the ogres.
The ogres suddenly forgot about Izanagi and started togobbling grapes.
While they ate their fill of the grapes, Izanagi kept running.
In a few minutes, he felt the ogres following him again. Izanagi pulled out the comb from the right side of his hair and broke off a tooth. He threw it backwards towards the ogres, and this time, bamboo shoots grew up instantly from the ground. The ogres stopped and ate them.
Izanagi kept running and running, but soon he felt the ogres chasing him again. Izanagi reached the border hill between the country of death and the country of lives. There he found a peach tree
Under the hill. He pulled off some peaches and threw them towards the ogres. Surprisingly, the ogres were afraid of the peaches, and they ran back to the Land of Death.
But Izanami had been following behind and Izanagi was frightened at the sight of her. He blocked the path to the underworld with a huge rock that was impossible to move.
Over the rock, Izanami yelled, “You, my dear! If you do this, I will kill a thousand people in your country in one day.”
Izanagi replied to her from the other side of the rock, "If you do such an awful thing, I will let a thousand and half new people be born.”
That is a last word they spoke to one other.
After returning from the Land of Death, Izanagi went to the river to purify himself. As he washed his left eye, the great god Amaterasu was suddenly born. He washed his right eye and Tsukuyomi was born. From his nose, Susano-o was born.
Izanagi was pleased with these three beautiful gods, and he said to them, “Amaterasu, you rule the High Upper Hills. Tsukuyomi, you rule the dark night. And, Susano-o, you rule the sea.”
And, that was the beginning of Japan.