Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Amaterasu was born from the eye of the primordial god Izanagi while he was purifying himself in a river. She became the ruler of the High Celestial Plain (Takamagahara).
Kojiki, the earliest Japanese sacred chronicle, recounts an ancient tale, which is a version of the Missing Sun myth . When her unruly brother, the storm god Susanowo, ravaged the earth and ruined his sister's rice fields, garden and temples, Amaterasu was so embarrassed that she retreated into the cave, Ama-no-Iwato. The world was plunged into darkness.
The other gods begged her to come out, to no avail. Then the goddess Ama-no-Uzume had an idea. She hung a mirror on a nearby tree, organized a celebration and performed an erotic dance before the cave. It made the other gods laugh so loud that Amaterasu became curious and peeked out. She saw her own reflection in the mirror, which startled her so much that the other gods were able to pull her out and convince her to return to the sky.
Later she sent her grandson Ninigi no Mikoto to pacify Japan: his great-grandson became the first emperor Jimmu Tenno. With him he had a sacred sword (Kusanagi), jewel and mirror that became the Japanese imperial regalia.
Amaterasu is commonly known as a female, however, the Kojiki gives little clue about her sex. (Early Japanese language does not use pronouns like he or she.) Some other books, notably the Hotsuma Tsutae, describe "her" as a male.
Amaterasu is also credited with inventing the cultivation of rice and wheat, the use of silkworms, and weaving with a loom. Her most important shrine, Ise Shrine, is located in Ise, Japan on the island of Honshu. The temple is torn down and rebuilt every twenty years. In that temple she is represented as a mirror.
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