List of Japanese deities

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This is a list of divinities native to Japanese beliefs and religious traditions. Many of these are from Shinto, while others were imported via Buddhism or Taoism and "integrated" into Japanese mythology and folklore.

Shinto[edit]

The following is a list of some of the major and minor deities in Shinto. It is often said that there are Yaoyorozu-no-Kami (八百万の神, lit. 8 million kami), implying that there are an indefinitely large number.

Major kami[edit]

  • Amaterasu-Ō-Mi-Kami (天照大神 or 天照大御神) Commonly called Amaterasu, she is the goddess of the sun as well as the purported ancestress of the Imperial Household of Japan. Her full name means "Great Goddess" or "Great Spirit Who Shines in the Heavens"; she may also be referred to as Ōhiru-menomuchi-no-kami (大日孁貴神). Due to her ties to the Imperial family, she is often considered (though not official) to be the "primary god" of Shinto.
  • Ame-no-Uzume (天宇受売命 or 天鈿女命) Commonly called Uzume, she is the goddess of dawn and revelry, instrumental to the "missing sun motif" in Shinto. She is also known as The Great Persuader and The Heavenly Alarming Female.
  • Fūjin (風神) Also known as Kami-no-Kaze, he is the Japanese god of the wind and one of the eldest Shinto gods, said to be present at the creation of the world. He is often depicted as an oni with a bag slung over his back.
  • Hachiman (八幡神) Also known as Hachiman-shin or Yawata no Kami, he is the god of war and the divine protector of Japan and its people. Originally an agricultural deity, he later became the guardian of the Minamoto clan. His symbolic animal and messenger is the dove.
  • Inari Ōkami (稲荷大神) The god or goddess of rice and fertility. Their messengers and symbolic animal are foxes. They are often identified with the Ukanomitama and Buddhist deity Dakiniten.
  • Izanagi (伊弊諾 or 伊邪那岐) The forefather of the gods, he is the first male as well as the god of creation and life. He and his wife, Izanami, were responsible for the birth of the islands of Japan and many kami, though she died in childbirth. Later, after his failed attempt to retrieve her from the underworld, he sired Amaterasu, Susanoo and Tsukuyomi.
  • Izanami (伊弉冉 or 伊邪那美) Izanagi's wife and sister, she is the first female as well as the goddess of creation and death. She died shortly after the birth of Kagu-tsuchi, and Izanagi followed her to the underworld, but failed to bring her back to the living world. A marital spat between the pair caused the cycle of life and death for all living beings.
  • Ninigi-no-Mikoto (瓊瓊杵尊) Commonly called Ninigi, he was the grandson of Amaterasu. His great-grandson was Kan'yamato Iwarebiko, later to be known as Emperor Jimmu, first emperor of Japan.
  • Omoikane (思兼) The deity of wisdom and intelligence, who is always called upon to "ponder" and give good counsel in the deliberations of the heavenly deities.
  • Raijin (雷神) Commonly called Raiden (雷電), he is the god of thunder and lightning, and is often paired with Fūjin. As with the latter, Raijin is usually depicted as an oni.
  • Ryūjin (龍神) Also known as Ōwatatsumi, he is a dragon, as well as god of the sea. He resides in Ryūgū-jō, his palace under the sea built out of red and white coral, from where he controlled the tides with magical tide jewels. His great-grandson would become Emperor Jimmu.
  • Suijin (水神) The God of Water.
  • Susanoo-no-Mikoto (須佐之男尊) Alternately romanized as Susano-o, Susa-no-o, and Susanowo. Reportedly called "Futsushi". He is the god of storms as well as in some cases the god of the sea. He is also somewhat of a trickster god, as Japanese mythology extensively documents the "sibling rivalry" between him and Amaterasu. Susanoo also was responsible for the slaying of the monster Yamata no Orochi and the subsequent discovery of the sacred sword Kusanagi.
  • Tenjin (天神) The god of scholarship, he is the deified Sugawara no Michizane (845–c903), who was elevated to his position after dying in exile and subsequent disasters in Heiankyo were attributed to his angered spirit.
  • Toyotama-hime (豊玉姫) Also known as Otohime (乙姫), she was the daughter of Ryūjin and the grandmother of Jimmu. It is said that after she gave birth to her son, she turned into a dragon and disappeared.
  • Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto (月読の命 or 月夜見の尊) Also known as Tsukiyomi, Tsuki no Kami, Tsukiyomino Mikoto, and Tsukiyumi no Mikoto, he is the god of the moon. He killed the goddess of food, Uke Mochi, out of disgust and anger in the way she had prepared a meal. This caused Amaterasu to never face him again, causing the sun and moon to be in different parts of the sky.

Minor kami[edit]

Buddhism[edit]

Further information: Japanese Buddhist pantheon

Seven Lucky Gods[edit]

Main article: Seven Lucky Gods
  • Benzaiten (弁才天 or 弁財天) Also known as Benten, she is the goddess of everything that flows: words (and knowledge, by extension), speech, eloquence, and music. Said to be the third daughter of the dragon-king of Munetsuchi, over the course of years she has gone from being a protective deity of Japan to one who bestows good fortune upon the state and its people. Derived from Saraswati, the equivalent Hindu goddess.[citation needed]
  • Bishamonten (毘沙門天) Also called Bishamon or Tamonten, he is the god of fortunate warriors and guards, as well as the punisher of criminals. Said to live halfway down the side of Mount Sumeru, the small pagoda he carries symbolizes the divine treasure house that he both guards and gives away its contents.
  • Daikokuten (大黒天) Often shortened to simply Daikoku, he is variously considered to be the god of wealth (more specifically, the harvest), or of the household (particularly the kitchen). He is recognised by his wide face, smile, and flat black hat. He is often portrayed holding a golden mallet, seated on bales of rice, with mice nearby (which signify plentiful food).
  • Ebisu (恵比須, 恵比寿, 夷 or 戎) The sole member of the gods believed to have originated in Japan, he was originally known as Hiruko (蛭子), the first child of Izanagi and Izanami. Said to be born without bones, he eventually overcame his handicaps to become the mirthful and auspicious Ebisu (hence one of his titles, "The Laughing God"). He is often depicted holding a rod and a large red sea bream or sea bass. Jellyfish are also associated with this god and the fugu restaurants of Japan will often incorporate Yebisu in their motif.
  • Fukurokuju (福禄寿) Often confused with Jurōjin, he is the god of wisdom and longevity and said to be an incarnation of the Southern Polestar. He is a star god accompanied by a crane and a turtle, which are considered to be symbols of longevity, and also sometimes accompanied by a black deer. The sacred book tied to his staff is said to contain the lifespan of every person on Earth.
  • Hotei (布袋) Best known in the Western world as the Laughing Buddha, Hotei is likely the most popular of the gods. His image graces many temples, restaurants, and amulets. Originally based on a Chinese Chan monk, Hotei has become a deity of contentment and abundance.
  • Jurōjin (寿老人) Also known as Gama, he represents longevity. He is often seen with a fan and a stave, and accompanied by a black deer.
  • Kichijōten (吉祥天) Also known as Kisshōten or Kudokuten, she is the eighth member of the Seven Gods of Fortune, a Taoist deity often combined with the traditional members. She is considered to be the goddess of happiness, fertility, and beauty.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 平林, 章仁 (Akihito Hirabayashi) (1974). "『日本書紀』<大人>の用字について". 古代文化 (古代學協會). 26 (3): 161–.  catalog "神を斎主する神を斎の大人とよんだと伝えるのであるが、斎主される神とは具体的神名は伝えられていないが、おそらく天神(天照大神)であったろう"