In Japanese mythology Uzume is the goddess of the dawn, Spring, happiness, revelry and the arts. When the sun goddess Amaterasu was hiding in a cave after a fight with her brother Susanoo, the other kami tried in vain to lure her out. Uzume decided to dance on an overturned tub near the entrance of the cave. Her provocative dancing, including the removal of items of clothing, caused great laughter amongst the onlookers. Uzume hung a mirror on a tree outside the cave. Amaterasu was curious about the laughter outside and poked her head out to look. Seeing her radiant reflection in the mirror she stepped out of the cave.

Tozan Masazumi, 1830

At this point one of the other kami quickly sealed the cave shut so Amaterasu could not retreat again. Ultimately it was Uzume's dance that lured Amaterasu from the cave where she was hiding, thus returning light to the world. Later Amaterasu asked Uzume to accompany her grandson Ninigi on a journey to earth. As they crossed the floating bridge of heaven they were stopped by Sarutahiko, the leader of the earthly kami. Uzume used her charm to convince the god to let Ninigi pass and eventually Sarutahiko and Uzume married.

Ama no Uzume, from the series The Cave Door of Spring - Totoyo Hokkei,1820

'Amaterasu Emerges from the Heavenly Rock Cave' - Shunsai Toshimasa, 1887.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Katsushika Hokusai

'Uzume and Saratahiko' - Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (detail).
Image via Shinto Cocoro

Uzume and Saratahiko - hanging scroll.

Taki Katei