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The Ancient Japanese Underworld – Part 2

During the birth of Kagutsuchi Izanami received copious burn wounds that eventually caused her to die of illness. Izanagi was distraught when he buried her body atop Mt. Hiba and her spirit travelled from there to the underworld, Yomi-no-kuni. Izanagi grew only more heartbroken as time passed, something had to be done, it was time for him to take a trip to the underworld and bring back Izanami to the land of the living.

It was in across the dark path in the forest of Matsui that Izanagi travelled, a place that today is still marked. He travelled until he came to the gates of the underworld, straying no further. Here at the gates Izanami came out to meet him and he felt beyond relief to see her once again, he begged her to return to the land of the living, told her that their work was not over and the world was not yet complete. A look of sadness washed over her face, she didn’t believe it would be possible for her to return as she had already eaten the food of the underworld, tying her to that land. Despite that she knew she must try anyway, she would speak to the lord of Yomi-no-kuni and plead with him to leave, though she warned him he must wait at the gates while she did so and must not look upon her no matter what. To this Izanagi agreed.


Naturally, as with any tale no matter it’s origins or roots as soon as someone is told expressively not to do something they will, without a shadow of a doubt, go ahead and do just that. And Izanagi did just that. He waited for a while but could wait no more, he made a torch using a tooth from his comb (obviously) and entered the underworld. After some searching, he finally found Izanami though she was not as he knew her, instead her saw her rotten, maggot-laden corpse of a body and was so utterly horrified by her he ran as fled.

Feeling betrayed and shamed Izanami ordered hags to chase him down, though he fought of their attempts to catch him. She then ordered an army of spirits to hunt him and she too began to give chase. Knowing he could not fight them all off he made for the exit and there he rolled the boulder in front it. As he did so she screamed that she would kill a 1000 people for his treachery, in return he said he would create 1005 more. With those words the gate was sealed, never to return.

Iya Jinja

As well as this boulder the site is home to Izanami’s grave also known as the ‘Shrine of the Dead’ or ‘Iya Jinja’. Here you will find the shrine along with an ancient worship hall that is certainly a must see for anyone interested in Japanese Mythology or simply anyone interested by this story, a sad tale of love lost. Maybe it’s just a myth but maybe, just maybe there’s a grain of truth here. You’ll have to find out for yourself.

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