In Japanese Shinto-mythology, the primordial sky, the god of all that is light and heavenly. Izanagi ("the male who invites") and his wife and sister Izanami ("the female who invites") were given the task of creating the world. Standing on Ama-no-ukihashi (the floating bridge of the heavens), they plunged a jewel crested spear into the ocean. When they pulled it free, the water that dripped from the spear coagulated and formed the first island of the Japanese archipelago. Here the first gods and humans were born. When his wife died giving birth, Izanagi went to the underworld to retrieve her, but she refused to come back with him and they parted forever. When Iganami returned from the underworld, he started the first cleaning rites. He washed his left eye and thus created the sun goddess Amaterasu. When he washed his right eye, the moon goddess Tsuki-yomi came forth. From his nose he created Susanowa, the god of the seas and the storms.
The name of Izanagi in Japanese.
by Micha F. Lindemans from Encyclopedia Mythica
The Japanese Shinto sun goddess, ruler of the Plain of Heaven, whose name means 'shining heaven' or 'she who shines in the heavens'. She is the central figure in the Shinto pantheon and the Japanese Imperial family claims descent from her 1. She is the eldest daughter of Izanagi. She was so bright and radiant that her parents sent her up the Celestial Ladder to heaven, where she has ruled ever since. When her brother, the storm-god Susanowa, ravaged the earth she retreated to a cave because he was so noisy. She closed the cave with a large boulder. Her disappearance deprived the world of light and life. Demons ruled the earth. The other gods used everything in their power to lure her out, but to no avail. Finally it was Uzume who succeeded. The laughter of the gods when they watched her comical and obscene dances aroused Amaterasu's curiosity. When she emerged from her cave a streak of light escaped (a streak nowadays people call dawn). The goddess then saw her own brilliant reflection in a mirror which Uzume had hung in a nearby tree. When she drew closer for a better look, the gods grabbed her and pulled her out of the cave. She returned to the sky, and brought light back into the world. Later, she created rice fields, called inada, where she cultivated rice. She also invented the art of weaving with the loom and taught the people how to cultivate wheat and silkworms. Amaterasu's main sanctuary is Ise-Jingue situated on Ise, on the island of Honshu. This temple is pulled down every twenty years and then rebuild in its original form. In the inner sanctum she is represented by a mirror (her body). She is also called Omikami ("illustrious goddess") and Tensho Daijan (in Sino-Japanese pronunciation).
1. She was called the 'illustrious ancestress of the Emperor' prior to 1945. At that time, the Japanese Emperor disclaimed any form of divine ancestry and polytheistic ancestor worship was no longer permitted.
The earliest Japanese state we know of was ruled over by Yamato "great kings"; the Yamato state, which the Japanese chronicles date to 500 A.D., that is, the time when a new wave of Korean cultural influence passed through southern Japan, was really a loose hegemony. Yamato is the plain around Osaka; it is the richest agricultural region in Japan. The Yamato kings located their capital at Naniwa (modern day Osaka) and enjoyed a hegemony over the surrounding aristocracies that made them powerful and wealthy. They built for themselves magnificent tomb-mounds; like all monumental architecture, these tombs represented the wealth and power of the Yamato king. The keyhole-shaped tomb-mound of Nintoku is longer than five football fields and has twice the volume of the Great Pyramid of Cheops.
According to the Japanese chronicles, the court of the Yamato kings was based on Korean models for the titles given to the court and regional aristocrats were drawn from Korean titles. As in Yayoi Japan, the basic social unit was the uji ; what had been added was an aristocracy based on military readiness. This military aristocracy would remain the single most powerful group in Japanese history until the Meiji restoration in 1868. The various aristocratic families did not live peacefully together; the Yamato court witnessed constant struggles among the aristocratic families for power.
During this period, Japan had a presence on the Korean peninsula itself. Korea was in its most dynamic cultural and political period; the peninsula itself was divided into three great kingdoms: Koguryo in the north, Paekche in the east, and Silla in the west. Paekche understood the strategic importance of Japan and so entered into alliance with the Yamato state. This connection between the Yamato court and Paekche is culturally one of the most important events of early Japanese history. For the Paekche court sent to Japan Korean craftspeople: potters, metal workers, artists, and so on. But they also imported Chinese culture. In the fifth or sixth century, the Koreans imported Chinese writing in order to record Japanese names. In 513, the Paekche court sent a Confucian scholar to the Yamato court. In 552, the Paekche sent an image of Buddha, some Buddhist scriptures, and a Buddhist representative. These three imports—writing, Confucianism, and Buddhism—would transform Japanese culture as profoundly as the Yayoi immigrations had done. The most important period in early Japan occurs during the reign of Empress Suiko, who ruled from 592 to 628 A.D.. In the latter years of the 500's, the alliance between Paekche and the Yamato state broke down; this eventually led to the loss of Japanese holdings on the Korean peninsula. Waves of Koreans migrated to Japan, and, to make matters worse, the powerful military aristocracies of the Yamato state began to resist the Yamato hegemony.
“Japan has a 'shame' culture, whose emphasis is on how one's moral conduct appear to outsider in contradistinction to America's (Christian) 'guilt' culture, in which the emphasis is on individual's internal conscience. “