Creation myths of Shintoism

Izanagi and Izanami are central figures in Japanese mythology, particularly in the creation myths of Shintoism. Here’s a detailed overview of their story and significance:


Izanagi (male) and Izanami (female) are deities (kami) in Shinto belief who are considered the divine creators of the Japanese archipelago and many of its deities.

Creation Myth

  1. Heavenly Command: The story begins with the kami of the heavens commanding Izanagi and Izanami to create the land.
  2. The Heavenly Spear: Given a jewel-encrusted spear called Ame-no-Nuboko, they stood on the Floating Bridge of Heaven and stirred the chaotic mass below with it. As they lifted the spear, drops of salty water fell and formed the first island, Onogoro.
  3. Descent and Creation of Islands: Izanagi and Izanami descended to Onogoro and built a pillar called the Heavenly August Pillar. They circled the pillar in opposite directions and met on the other side. Their first attempt at creation was flawed because Izanami, the female deity, spoke first. After redoing the ritual correctly, they successfully birthed the islands of Japan.


  • Deities of Nature and Elements: The couple gave birth to various deities associated with natural elements and phenomena.
  • Birth of Kagutsuchi and Death of Izanami: Tragedy struck when Izanami gave birth to Kagutsuchi, the fire god, and was fatally burned. Her death led to the creation of other deities from her body.

Izanagi’s Journey to Yomi

  • Descent into Yomi: Grief-stricken, Izanagi followed Izanami to Yomi, the land of the dead, to retrieve her.
  • The Escape: Izanagi found Izanami, but she had already consumed food in Yomi and could not return. Despite his pleas, she was ashamed of her decayed appearance. Izanagi fled in horror, sealing the entrance to Yomi with a large boulder, trapping Izanami inside.

Purification and Birth of Major Deities

  • Purification Ritual: After escaping Yomi, Izanagi performed a purification ritual (misogi) in a river. As he cleansed himself, more deities were born:
  • Amaterasu: The sun goddess, born from his left eye.
  • Tsukuyomi: The moon god, born from his right eye.
  • Susanoo: The storm god, born from his nose.


  • Cultural Influence: The story of Izanagi and Izanami is foundational in Shinto belief, influencing rituals, customs, and the understanding of life, death, and rebirth.
  • Symbolism: Their narrative symbolizes creation, the cycle of life and death, and the duality of existence.

Artistic Depictions

Izanagi and Izanami are often depicted in traditional Japanese art, standing on the Floating Bridge of Heaven, performing the ritual with the spear, or during the purification ritual.


The myth of Izanagi and Izanami is rich with themes of creation, love, loss, and renewal. It provides a profound insight into the ancient Japanese worldview and the origins of their spiritual beliefs.

Home > Creation myths of Shintoism