Japanese Mythology: The Disappearance of the Sun – History Brought Alive
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Japanese Mythology: The Disappearance of the Sun

Susanoo, the kami of the seas, was neglecting his duties and cried about how he longed to see his mother, Izanami, in the underworld. So, his father, Izanagi, sent him to go live in the underworld. Prior to leaving, Susanoo decided to visit his sister, Amaterasu, to say goodbye. She knew of Susanoo’s reputation as a troublemaker, so when she heard Susanoo was coming, she armed herself for battle. Susanoo was insulted that his sister did not trust him and they got into a big disagreement. To settle the argument, he challenged her to a contest. Amaterasu agreed.

Amaterasu asked for Susanoo’s sword. She then broke it into three pieces. Then she chewed them up and spat them out, creating three new kami. Susanoo then asked Amaterasu for her jewels. He chewed them up and spit out five new kami. Susanoo won the contest.

Susanoo then began to gloat over his victory. In his raucous celebration, he destroyed farmland and property. He flayed a horse and threw it at Amaterasu’s loom, inadvertently killing one of her maidens.

At this insult, Amaterasu went into a cave and shut herself in with a boulder. With the kami of the sun gone, the earth was plunged into darkness. Chaos ensued. The rest of the kami convened to see what they could do to convince Amaterasu to come out of the cave. They brought forth a large mirror. The kami Ame no Uzume, The Great Persuader, danced naked before a cheering crowd.

Amaterasu peeked out from the cave to see why everyone was cheering and celebrating. Ame no Uzume told her an even better and more beautiful kami than Amaterasu had come. They held up the mirror, showing Amaterasu her reflection. Amaterasu pushed the boulder back further to get a better look when one of the kami pulled Amaterasu out of the cave. Another kami pushed the boulder back over the opening to the cave and sealed it shut with a sacred rope called “shimenawa,” so she could not go back in.

Now that Amaterasu and her light returned to the world once again, the other kami approached Susanoo. As punishment for his behavior, they required him to provide 1,000 tables full of offerings to them. They shaved his beard, removed his nails, and cast him out of heaven.