To the Underworld (Yomi-no-kuni) and Back
- Part 1
- Part 2
When the world began, it was divided between Takamagahara, the heavens, and Ashihara-no-nakatsukuni, the earth. Many gods came to be in the heavens, but the earth remained a formless, chaotic mass, much like drops of oil floating on water, or jellyfish drifting aimlessly. The gods in Takamagahara charged Izanagi and Izanami, (the first male and female pair of gods to be born), with giving the world form and creating the deities that would populate the heavens and the earth. After creating the islands that make up Japan, they set to creating the myriad gods. Everything went well at first; the gods of the sea, the winds, the trees, the fields, and the mountains were all born at this time. Then Izanami gave birth to the fire god Kagutsuchi, and she suffered horrible burns that caused her to fall ill and eventually die.
Izanagi buried Izanami on Mt. Hiba, which is on the border of Izumo and Hoki, and her spirit descended to Yomi-no-kuni, the underworld. Now that Izanami was gone, Izanagi missed her terribly. He decided to make the journey to Yomi-no-kuni and bring her back. He followed the dark path to its gates, where Izanami came out to greet him.
Izanagi said, “My dear Izanami, our creation of the world is unfinished. Come back with me so that we may complete what we have begun.”
To which Izanami responded sadly: “I want to go with you, but you’re too late. I have already eaten of the food of this land, and I can no longer go back with you.” Then, giving it some further thought, she said, “You came all the way here to bring me back, and I really do want to go back with you, so I’ll talk to the lord of this land about it. You have to wait here while we’re talking, and you must not look in on me.”
Izanagi agreed, and for a while, he waited patiently. But he finally got to a point where he could wait no longer, and breaking a tooth off of the comb he had in his hair, he made a torch and entered Yomi-no-kuni. When he at last found her, he was shocked by her appearance. She was rotting and crawling with maggots, and eight hideous gods of thunder were hanging on to her body. Terrified, Izanagi decided to flee from Yomi-no-kuni back to the land of the living.
“I told you not to look, and yet you ignored me! You will pay for the shame you have caused me!” shouted Izanami, and ordered the evil hags of the underworld to chase after him.
Izanami and Izanagi created the land of Japan and the gods that populate it.
The entrance to the Underworld, which can still be visited today.
Visiting Locations featured in the Yomi-no-kuni Myth
Yomotsu Hirasaka, the entrance to the underworld, is said to be in the Iya area of Matsue, just off of Route 9. It is a quiet, secluded place that is gloomy even on the clearest day, which creates an atmosphere appropriate to a place said to be a border between this world and the next. Several large boulders are in the area, and one wonders exactly which one was rolled over to block the entrance. Also near this area is Iya Shrine, and a slope near the shrine is said to be the same slope that led to the underworld’s entrance.
Izanami’s grave is said to be on the top of Mt. Hiba, and while there are several mountains with that name, Mt. Hiba in the Hakuta area of Yasugi City has a strong claim to being the actual place, as it is right on the border of eastern Shimane (the land of Izumo) and western Tottori (the land of Hoki). Kume Shrine, at the base of the mountain, enshrines Izanami as well.