7 Japanese legends that will surprise you

7 légendes japonaises qui vous surprendront

Legends are common to all peoples and they allow one to become familiar with a whole system of beliefs and customs. Japanese legends are very rich and draw as much from ancient life as from modern situations. Here are 7 japanese legends that will surprise you.

japanese legends

1.      Izanagi and Izanami

The legend ofIzanagi and Izanami is one of the founding stories of Japanese cosmogony. It is taken from the Kojiki, the first book written in Japanese. This book is also called Notes on the facts of the past. The Kojiki appeared in the eighth century and chronicles certain aspects of theology, including the birth of the gods and the creation of the archipelago. It is still a reference today for the cult of the spirits as practiced in the shinto religion.

According to legend, Japan was created at a time when the universe was still in chaos. At this time, the first children of the gods were born. Izanagi and his sister Izanami, who was also his wife, were given the task of organizing the world. They then practiced a fertility ritual which led to the creation of several kamis, Japanese deities. From this ritual were also born the islands that form Japan.

It was during this time that Kagutsuchi, the god of fire, was born from the union of Izanagi and Izanami. As Kagutsuchi was surrounded by flames, his birth caused burns to his mother, who died. She then left for the kingdom of the dead. Izanagi, saddened, went himself to the realm of the dead to bring her back. As in the Orpheus myth, Izanami agreed to follow him on the condition that he never turned to look at her before reaching the exit.

Once out of the realm of the dead, Izanagi found that his companion was slow to arrive. He took a tooth from Izanami's comb and made it into a torch with which he entered the Dark Palace, where his wife was still. Once inside, by the torchlight, he saw the decomposing body of Izanami, who felt humiliated to be seen in this state. She then launched the spirits of the dark world in pursuit of Izanagi.

Izanagi fled and barely escaped the spirits of the dead. He closed and sealed the way that led to the realm of the dead so that the two worlds would be isolated forever. When he returned home, Izanagi treated his wounds by performing ablution. In this way he initiated the ritual of purification, still practiced today.

From the defilements he removed from himself, other gods were born, including Amaterasu, the sun goddess, and Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon.

2.      The legend of Bodhidharma

The indian prince bodhidharma belongs to both Japanese and Indian legend. He is the founder of the Châ’an sect, which eventually developed in Japan under the name of Zen. One day Bodhidharma left for China to preach there buddhism. He vowed never to sleep during his mission so as not to waste a single moment in vain.

The prince had overestimated his strength. Exhausted, he fell asleep on the way. He even dreamed of women. When he woke up, he was ashamed and angry when he saw his weakness. He was so furious he tore his eyelids open and threw them away. A few years later, he returned to the place where he had failed in his wish. He saw that two shrubs had grown in the exact spot where he had thrown his eyelids. He would later discover that the leaves of these shrubs could keep the mind alert.

After this adventure, Bodhidharma dedicated his life to meditation and settled down close to the shrubs. One day he accidentally tore leaves from the shrubs and chewed them. This is how he realized the properties of these leaves which dispelled his boredom and helped him to remain in a state of concentration. He had discovered tea.

He continued his meditation without moving for nine years, even losing the use of his legs. The legend says that his image remained engraved on the rock on which he was meditating.

3.      Amaterasu cave

As it was mentioned earlier, Amaterasu is the sun goddess. She is still in conflict with her brother Susanoo, the god of storms who reigns over the seas. The ambitious Susanoo one day claimed from his sister a part of the domain of heaven, which he coveted. Amaterasu challenged her but she lost and had to give up part of the heavens. Very proud of his victory and arrogant, Susanoo never stopped harassing his sister.

Vexed, Amaterasu took refuge in a cave, which made the day disappear and plunged the earth into an infinite night. Even the interventions of the other deities were insufficient to persuade Amaterasu to leave his cave. Finally, the gods organized a banquet near the cave and the curious Sun Goddess pushed the stone guarding the entrance a little bit to see what was going on.

The god of strength then took the opportunity to extricate him from the cave whose access was blocked. Back in the realm of heaven, Amaterasu banishes Susanoo from it. Legend has it that the cave, located in Kyushu, still exists.

4.      Benten and the Enoshima dragon

 legends of japan

Long ago, near the coast of Japan, a dragon lived in a cave at the bottom of the sea. It used to catch the bathing children and devour them. One day, goddess Benten decided to intervene to end the evil deeds of the monster. Benten wanted everyone to be happy, including the dragon. She told herself that if the beast was mean, it was because it was not happy.

She went to the dragon cave and used her powers to lift the earth beneath her lair. The land mass became covered with vegetation and Enoshima Island was born. Belen then proposed to the dragon to marry her so that he would cease to be unhappy. They would have their own children and there would be no need to catch other people's children.

5.      Motomaro

The legend takes place in the seventeenth century. Motomaro is a little boy who fell from heaven taken in by an old lady who raised him like her own son in the company of her husband. One day his parents asked him to go get some wood and he came back with a whole tree. His great strength was noticed and his fame spread to the lord of the region who eventually entrusted him with the mission of fighting the demons of Onigashima Island.

Along the way, Motomaro joined forces with a monkey, dog and pheasant who helped him defeat the demons. He returned to his parents, who were covered in gold. Motomaro is still part of the popular culture of Okayama City.

6.      The otoroshi

Otoroshiis a wolf-sized creature with abundant fur that hides its body. It has sharp fangs and long claws. Thanks to its fur, it is able to hide, especially at night when it merges with the shadows. Legend has it that he is the guardian of the temples of Japan and that he attacks profaners. He never sleeps, always vigilant and watching the comings and goings around places of worship.

He hides most of the time on the roof of a temple when he feels it is under threat. He can also stand above the torii, the gate indicating the entrance. When a malicious person slips inside the temple, they are immediately devoured by the otoroshi. Sometimes the guardian of the temples is injured during one of his battles. His injuries healed on their own over the next day.

7.      Kusichake-Onna

The legend by Kusichake-Onna, the woman with the slit-mouthed mouth, dates back to the Heian era (794-1185). It is said that at that time lived the very beautiful wife of a very jealous samurai. To make matters worse, the woman was not faithful and liked to cheat on him. The samurai eventually found that his suspicions were confirmed and that his wife was not loyal to him. Furious and humiliated, he killed her and slit the corners of her lips from ear to ear.

Since then, Kusichake-Onna can appear to any man. The modern version of the legend says that she appears with a surgical mask that hides her face. She also has a long pair of scissors. When she meets a man, she asks him the question: "Am I beautiful? If the man answers no, he is immediately killed.

Cautious men say yes. She will then take off her mask and show her horrible smile and say, "Even like that?" ". Usually the man answers no. Again, he is killed on the spot. He won't have much luck if he answers yes. He will only get a stay. The woman will then follow him to the threshold of her house where she will kill him.

The only way to escape death is to answer that it is neither beautiful nor ugly.


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