Izanami (given as 伊弉冉尊), meaning “she who invites”, is seen as a Japanese goddess of the Earth, creation, and death. As the former wife of Izanagi, god of the sky, they represent the creation deities that produced the land masses and mythological figures of Japan.
The first gods summoned two divine beings into existence, the male Izanagi and the female Izanami, and charged them with creating the first land. They descended from the bridge of heaven and made their home on the island. They bore six more islands and many deities. However, Izanami died giving birth to the child Kagu-tsuchi, the god of fire.
Izanagi lamented the death of his wife and undertook a journey to Yomi, the underworld. He searched for Izanami and found her. At first, he could not see her for the shadows hid her appearance. He asked her to return with him. Izanami spat out at him, informing her husband that he was too late: she had already eaten the food of the underworld and was now one with the land of the dead. She could no longer return to the living. The news shocked Izanagi, but he refused to leave her in Yomi. While Izanami was sleeping, he took the comb that bound his long hair and set it alight as a torch. Under the sudden burst of light, he saw the horrid form of the once beautiful and graceful Izanami. She was now a rotting form of flesh with maggots and foul creatures running over her ravaged body. Crying out loud, Izanagi could no longer control his fear and started to run, intending to return to the living and abandon his death-ridden wife.
Izanami woke up, shrieking and indignant, and chased after him. She also sent Raijin, the god of thunder, and shikome (foul women) to hunt for Izanagi and bring him back to Yomi. Izanagi burst out of the entrance and pushed a boulder in the mouth of the Yomotsuhirasaka, the cavern that was the entrance of Yomi. Izanami screamed from behind this impenetrable barricade and told Izanagi that if he left her she would destroy a thousand residents of the living everyday. He furiously replied he would give life to a thousand and five hundred.
Izanagi (recorded in the Kojiki as 伊邪那岐) is the god of the sky in Japanese Shinto mythology. Izanagi (“the male who invites”) is also a creation deity, who along with his spouse and sister Izanami (“the female who invites”), were given the task of creating the world.
Izanagi and Izanami produced numerous islands and deities. In the act of giving birth to the fire god Kagu-tsuchi, Izanami was fatally burned and went to Yomi-no-kuni, the underworld. Izanagi followed her there, hoping to retrieve her, but she had already eaten the food of that place, rendering her return impossible. Izanami compelled her husband not to look at her. However, he betrayed his promise and lit up a fire, only to behold in her monstrous and hellish state. To avenge her shame, she dispatched Raijin, the god of thunder, and Shikome, the “Ugly Woman of the Underworld,” to chase after him. Izanagi escaped, but the goddess promised to kill a thousand of his people everyday. Izanagi retorted that a thousand and five hundred would be born everyday.
Izanagi bathed in the sea to purify himself from contact with the dead. As he bathed, a number of deities came into being. The sun goddess Amaterasu was born from his left eye, the moon god Tsukuyomi was born from his right eye, and the storm god Susanoo was born from his nose.