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 Myths and Legends of Japan

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ari

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PostSubject: Myths and Legends of Japan   Sun May 16, 2010 5:39 pm

As people interested in all things Japanese, I thought that it would be cool to have a thread dedicated to any myths, legends or odd stories you may find about Japan. It is probably right to start at the beginning, so here is a version of a Japanese creation myth, taken from Myths & Legends of Japan:

We are told that in the very beginning “Heaven and Earth were not yet divided.” The In and Yo, corresponding to the Chinese Yang and Yin, were the male and female principles. These male and female principles “formed a chaotic mass like an egg which was of obscurely defined limits and contained germs.” Eventually this egg was quickened into life, and the purer and cleaner part was drawn out and formed Heaven, while the heavier element settled down and became Earth, which was “compared to the floating of a fish sporting on the surface of the water.” A mysterious form resembling a reed-shoot suddenly appeared between Heaven and Earth, and as suddenly became transformed into a God called Kuni-toko-tachi, (“Land-eternal-stand-of-august-thing”). We may pass over the other divine births until we come to the important deities known as Izanagi and Izanami (“Male-who-invites” and “Female-who-invites”).
Izanagi and Izanami
Izanagi and Izanami stood on the Floating Bridge of Heaven and looked down onto the abyss. They inquired of each other if there was a country far, far below the great Floating Bridge. They were determined to find out. In order to do so they thrust down a jewel-spear, and found the ocean. Raising the spear a little, water dripped from it, coagulated, and became the island of Onogoro-jima (“Spontaneously-congeal-island”).
Upon this island the two deities descended. Shortly afterwards they desired to become husband and wife, though as a matter of fact they were brother and sister. These deities accordingly set up a pillar on the island. Izanagi walked round one way, and Izanami the other. When they met, Izanami said: “How delightful! I have met with a lovely youth.” One would have thought that this naïve remark would have pleased Izanagi; but it made him extremely angry, and he retorted: “I am a man, and by that should have spoken first. How is it that on the contrary thou, a woman, shouldst have been the first to speak? This is unlucky. Let us go round again.” So it happened that the two deities started afresh. Once again they met, and this time Izanagi remarked: “How delightful! I have met a lovely maiden.” Shortly after this very ingenuous proposal Izanagi and Izanami were married.
When Izanami had given birth to islands, seas, rivers, herbs, and trees, she and her lord consulted together, saying: “We have now produced the Great-Eight-Island country, with the mountains, rivers, herbs, and trees. Why should we not produce some one who shall be Lord of the Universe?”
The wish of these deities was fulfilled, for in due season Ama-terasu, the Sun Goddess, was born. She was known as “Heaven-Illuminate-of-Great-Deity,” and was so extremely beautiful that her parents determined to send her up the Ladder of Heaven, and in the high sky above to cast for ever her glorious sunshine upon the earth.
The next child to be born was the Moon God, Tsuki-yumi. His silver radiance was not so fair as the golden effulgence of his sister, the Sun Goddess, but he was, nevertheless, deemed worthy to be her consort. So up the Ladder of Heaven climbed the Moon God. They soon quarrelled, and Ama-terasu said: “Thou art a wicked deity. I must not see thee face to face.” They were therefore separated by a day and night, and dwelt apart.
F. H. Davis, Myths & Legends of Japan (London: Ballantyne Press, 1912), 21-23.
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mikade

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PostSubject: Re: Myths and Legends of Japan   Fri May 21, 2010 9:27 pm

ari wrote:
Izanagi walked round one way, and Izanami the other. When they met, Izanami said: “How delightful! I have met with a lovely youth.” One would have thought that this naïve remark would have pleased Izanagi; but it made him extremely angry, and he retorted: “I am a man, and by that should have spoken first. How is it that on the contrary thou, a woman, shouldst have been the first to speak? This is unlucky. Let us go round again.” So it happened that the two deities started afresh. Once again they met, and this time Izanagi remarked: “How delightful! I have met a lovely maiden.” Shortly after this very ingenuous proposal Izanagi and Izanami were married.

I seem to recall having read something along these lines a long time ago. Still, it was interesting to re-read. Arigatou~. I don't know what I think about this being a translation, but it's interesting to see how the author both shows / reinforces Japanese gender stereotypes, and yet subtly undermines them. Izanagi is the one who gets his way and comes out on top, but from the wording (to the modern western reader), he appears quite unintelligent for just bluntly reiterating Izanami's idea. The word "ingenious" seems almost sarcastic. Anyone else have any thoughts? study
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ari

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PostSubject: Re: Myths and Legends of Japan   Fri May 21, 2010 11:03 pm

lol, I know. I did find the whole gender thing quite funny. I am always sceptical of translations but I don't think I'd understand it if I found in in Japanese Embarassed sorry...
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Nantalith

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PostSubject: つる の おんがえし   Mon May 24, 2010 1:50 pm

I have some tales - here is one.

Once upon a time there was a poor hunter. One day he came across a trapped crane. He took pity on the crane and released it. A few days later a lovely woman visited him and asked for shelter. The next day she didn't leave and eventually they married and lived happily. But the hunter couldn't afford to keep his new wife. One day she said she would weave some cloth he could sell. But he was never to see her weaving. After three days she left the weaving shed with some beautiful fabric which the hunter sold for gold. The fabric was very rare and called 'tsuru no senbaori'.

The hunter's wife wove the fabric several times but each time she got a little thinner. One day she said she could no longer weave but the hunter had learned greed and persuaded her to weave once more. Three days passed. And three more. Worried, the hunter broke his promise to not see her weaving and looked into the shed. It was not a woman weaving but a crane. The next morning the woman left the shed with the fabric and said 'you have seen my true form, I can no longer stay with you'. She turned into a crane and flew away leaving the hunter crying.
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mikade

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PostSubject: Re: Myths and Legends of Japan   Wed May 26, 2010 10:45 am

ari wrote:
lol, I know. I did find the whole gender thing quite funny. I am always sceptical of translations but I don't think I'd understand it if I found in in Japanese Embarassed sorry...
Lol, nothing to apologize for. Doubt I'd understand native Japanese mythology texts at this point, either. cyclops

Nantalith wrote:
Once upon a time there was a poor hunter. One day he came across a trapped crane.
Ooh. I know that one, too! bounce
Twas the obvious inspiration for The Decemberist's album The Crane Wife that I've been listening to lately.

[1]

It was a cold night
And the snow lay around
I pulled my coat tight
Against the falling down
And the sun was all
And the sun was all down
And the sun was all
And the sun was all down

I am a poor man
I haven't wealth nor fame
I have my two hands
And a house to my name
And the winter's so
And the winter's so long
And the winter's so
And the winter's so long

And all the stars were crashing 'round
As I laid eyes on what I'd found

It was a white crane
It was a helpless thing
Upon a red stain
With an arrow in its wing
And it called and cried
And it called and cried so
And it called and cried
And it called and cried so

And all the stars were crashing 'round
As I laid eyes on what I'd found
My crane wife, my crane wife
My crane wife, my crane wife

Now I helped her
And I dressed her wounds
And how I held her
Beneath the rising moon
And she stood to fly
And she stood to fly away
And she stood to fly
She stood to fly away

And all the stars were crashing 'round
As I laid eyes on what I'd found
My crane wife, my crane wife
My crane wife, my crane wife

[2]

My crane wife arrived at my door in the moonlight
All star bright and tongue-tied, I took her in
We were married and bells rang sweet for our wedding
And our bedding was ready, we fell in

Sound the keening bell
And see it's painted red
Soft as fontenelle
The feathers in the thread
And all I ever meant to do was to keep you
My crane wife
My crane wife
My crane wife

We were poorly, our fortunes fading hourly
And how she avowed me, she could bring it back
But I was greedy, I was vain and I forced her to weaving
On a cold loom, in a closed room with down and wool

Sound the keening bell
And see it's painted red
Soft as fontenelle
The feathers in the thread
And all I ever meant to do was to keep you
My crane wife
My crane wife
MY crane wife

There's a bend in the wind and it rakes at my heart
There is blood in the thread and it rakes at my heart
It rakes at my heart

[3]

And under the boughs unbowed
All clothed in a snowy shroud
She had no heart so hardened
All under the boughs unbowed

Each feather it fell from skin
'Till thread bare while she grew thin
How were my eyes so blinded?
Each feather it fell from skin

And I will hang my head, hang my head low
And I will hang my head, hang my head low

A gray sky, a bitter sting
A rain cloud, a crane on wing
All out beyond horizon
A grey sky, a bitter sting

And I will hang my head, hang my head low
And I will hang my head, hang my head low
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Nantalith

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PostSubject: Re: Myths and Legends of Japan   Wed May 26, 2010 10:55 am

Yeah, you can see the inspiration - who are The Decemberists?
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mikade

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PostSubject: Re: Myths and Legends of Japan   Tue Jun 01, 2010 1:56 am

Nantalith wrote:
Yeah, you can see the inspiration - who are The Decemberists?
Sorry for late reply. They're a fairly indie-ish folk rock band, I guess. Well-known for the Mariner's revenge.


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