Izanagi and Izanami

In Japanese mythology, Izanagi and Izanami are primordial deities said to have created the islands of Japan. They undertook a sacred wedding but soon after, Izanami died giving birth to the god of fire, Kagutsuchi. She retreated to yomi, the land of the dead.

'Izanami and Izanagi on the Floating Bridge of Heaven' - Utagawa Hiroshige, 1850

Izanagi wanted to retrieve her and so went to yomi. Izanami was unable to leave, having eaten food of the dead, but they made a deal. Unfortunately, in his impatience, Izanagi saw Izanami in the form of a decomposing corpse. She was furious and Izanagi was chased out of yomi.  

Izanagi via Shinto Cocoro
Izanagi left yomi and blocked the entrance with a giant stone, thereafter separating the living from the dead. As he did so he threw his stick and created the kami known as Sae-no-kami which prevents spirits of the dead entering the land of the living and offers protection.

Izanami via Shinto Cocoro
Many Shinto practices, especially purity and cleanliness, are connected to this myth. Meoto-iwa or the Wedded Rocks (pictured below), symbolise the marriage of Izanagi and Izanami.

Kobayashi Eitaku