This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Japanese Mythology

The Legend of Amano-Iwato

Amano-Iwato (Heavenly Rock Cave) is a pivotal episode in Japanese mythology, prominently featured in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. This story recounts the chaos that ensues when the sun goddess Amaterasu retreats into the Heavenly Rock Cave and the subsequent efforts of the gods to coax her out.

Amaterasu’s Retreat

Amaterasu’s brother, Susanoo, angered her with his reckless actions. Susanoo destroyed Amaterasu’s sacred rice fields, ruined her shrines, and killed one of her sacred weaving maidens. Overcome with sorrow and rage, Amaterasu hid herself in the Amano-Iwato, plunging the world into darkness.

Darkness Over Heaven and Earth

With Amaterasu concealed in the cave, the world was enveloped in darkness as the sun no longer rose. This plunged both heaven and earth into disorder, leaving the gods in confusion and despair. The loss of sunlight brought chaos and desolation to the world.

The Gods’ Cooperation

Desperate to restore order, the gods convened to devise a plan to lure Amaterasu out of the cave. Ame-no-Uzume, the goddess of dawn and revelry, performed a humorous and provocative dance in front of the cave, causing the gods to laugh uproariously. Intrigued by the noise, Amaterasu peered out from the cave.

Amaterasu’s Return

Seizing the moment, Ame-no-Tajikarao (the god of strength) pulled open the cave door, and Tajikarao drew Amaterasu out. As a result, sunlight returned to the world, restoring order and peace.

Rituals and Worship

The legend of Amano-Iwato is deeply connected to Shinto rituals and worship. Amano-Iwato Shrine in Takachiho, Miyazaki Prefecture, is dedicated to this myth, serving as a sacred site for venerating Amaterasu and celebrating her return to the world.

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