my japanese art history professor made each student in the class sign up for a 15 minute appointment with her just to talk about why we were taking the class what we thought of it so far and such and i had my meeting with her last week and earlier in one class i had mentioned something from japanese mythology and she wanted to know where what i said came from so basically we ended up having a conversation about okami


Mystical Takachiho Gorge, Japan

A little-known jewel to travelers outside of Japan, hidden in the Miyazaki Prefecture in the center of the Kyushu Mountains, is the breath-taking Takachiho Gorge. The V-shaped gorge consists of stunning limestone cliffs that were formed from the lava of Mt. Aso (the largest active volcano in Japan) which over time was eroded by the Gokase-gawa River. The result of which is a beautiful gorge with sparkling clear aquamarine water surrounded by 80 to 100 meter high cliffs of volcanic basalt columns.

At the gorge, you can rent a boat and row past these high walls to Manai-no-taki Falls, which is a 17 meters high waterfall. In addition, the gorge has over 600-meters of walking trails, with views that overlook the beauty of the gorge and the waterfall.

Takachiho Gorge is not only a natural wonder but an important spiritual retreat with more than one million Japanese visitors a year. The gorge is home to the Amanoiwato shrine which is dedicated to a cave off the river. The cave holds the secrets of the myth of how solar eclipses began.

According to myth, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu-omikami hid herself in a cave called Amanoiwato to avoid Susanoo-no-mikoto, her brother. This is an interpretation of how solar eclipses began as the Sun Goddess’ “light” was hidden within the cave. Tradition says that the Amanoiwato Shrine is dedicated to this cave.

source 1, 2, 3, 4




Amaterasu [天照], Amaterasu-ōmikami or Ōhirume-no-muchi-no-kami is a part of the Japanese myth cycle and also a major deity of the Shinto religion. She is the goddess of the sun, but also of the universe. 

In Japanese mythology, Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, is the sister of Susanoo, the god of storms and the sea, and of Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon. It was written that Amaterasu had painted the landscape with her siblings to create ancient Japan. She became the ruler of the sun and the heavens along with her brother, Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon and ruler of the night. Originally, Amaterasu shared the sky with Tsukuyomi, her husband and brother until, out of disgust, he killed the goddess of food, Uke Mochi. This killing upset Amaterasu, causing her to label Tsukuyomi an evil god and to split away from him; separating night from day.

There is also a long-standing rivalry between Amaterasu and her other brother, Susanoo. When he was to leave Heaven by orders of Izanagi, he went to bid his sister goodbye. Amaterasu was suspicious, but when Susanoo proposed a challenge to prove his sincerity, she accepted. Each of them took an object of the other’s and from it birthed gods and goddesses. Amaterasu birthed three women from Susanoo’s sword while he birthed five men from her necklace. Claiming the gods were hers because they were born of her necklace, she decided that she had won the challenge. The two were content for a time, but her brother became restless and went on a rampage, destroying Amaterasu’s rice fields, hurling a flayed pony at her loom, and killing one of her attendants in a fit of rage. Amaterasu, who was in fury and grief, hid inside the Ama-no-Iwato (“heavenly rock cave”), thus effectively hiding the sun for a long period of time. The world, without the illumination of the sun, became dark. The gods could not lure Amaterasu out of her hiding place until the goddess of dawn, Ame-no-Uzume, was able to trick her into reappearance.


A Cup of Salt Tears

Victo Ngai

Besides the fact that Irene Gallo being one of the best ADs, I am always excited to work onTor.com short story art there’s no way to tell what kind of subject matter will come along. 

This piece accompanies Isabel Yep’s novelette A cup of Salt Tears - an eerie yet beautiful story. You can read it here. The audiobook of IQ84 by Murakami Haruki accompanied the working of this piece, it was quite the perfect track. 

Makino’s mother taught her caution, showed her how to carve her name into cucumbers, and insisted that she never let a kappa touch her. But when she grows up and her husband Tetsuya falls deathly ill, a kappa that claims to know her comes calling with a barbed promise. “A Cup of Salt Tears” is a dark fantasy leaning towards horror that asks how much someone should sacrifice for the one she loves.” 

While I was doing research for this project, I learnt a lot of interesting facts about Kappa (河童 ”river-child”), including their obsession with shirikodama (尻子玉 "Small Anal Ball"). It’s believed that kappa lure their victims into the water and gain power by taking their shirikodama, a mythical ball said to contain their soul which is located inside the anus. Check out the amazing manga by Hokusai titled 同河童を釣るの法 (“How to fish for Kappa”).


Yokai - Japanese Monsters

In the Edo period of sophisticated popular culture (1603-1868), much attention was devoted to Japan’s rich variety of traditional monsters and apparitions, known as yokai. The above yokai are from a work titled Hyakkai Zukan in 1737 by Sawaki Suushi, a relatively unknown artist who studied under master painter Hanabusa Itcho (1702-1772). Hyakkai Zukan's colorful depictions of Japan's most notorious creatures inspired and were copied by yokai artists for generations.

  1. Ushi-oni (“cow devil”) is a malevolent sea monster with the head of a bull and the body of a giant spider or crab. It is most often encountered in the coastal waters where it is feared for its vicious attacks on fishermen.
  2. Mikoshi-nyudo is a large, cross-eyed mendicant encountered on mountain passes or on lonely roads at night. He grows taller when you look up at him — and the higher you look, the taller he grows. Look up for too long and you will die, but say “mikoshita" ("I see higher") and he disappears.
  3. Ouni is a mountain hag with a mouth stretching from ear to ear and a thick coat of long, black hair covering her entire body. She can place raw hemp fiber into her mouth and pull out finished yarn.
  4. Nure-onna (“wet woman”) is a fast-swimming amphibious creature with the head of a human female and the body of a gigantic snake. She carries a small child, which she uses to attract potential victims. When a well-intentioned person offers to hold the baby, the child attaches itself to the victim’s hands and grows heavy, making it nearly impossible to flee. She uses her long, powerful tongue to suck all the blood from her victim’s body.
  5. Uwan is a disembodied voice that inhabits old, abandoned temples and homes. When a person enters a haunted building, the formless spirit belts out an ear-piercing “Uwan!” (hence the name).
  6. Kami-kiri (“hair-cutter”) are ghostly spirits known for sneaking up on people and cutting all their hair off when they are unknowingly engaged to marry another yokai posing as a human. These hair-cutting attacks are intended to delay or prevent weddings between humans and otherworldly beings, which are typically doomed to failure.



Funayūrei (船幽霊) are ghosts that have become vengeful spirits at sea. They have been passed down in the folklore of various areas of Japan. In the Yamaguchi Prefecture and the Saga Prefecture, they are called Ayakashi.

Funayūrei are ghosts believed to use hishaku (ladles) to fill boats with water and make them sink. They are said to be the remnants of people who have died in shipwrecks and are attempting to cause humans to join them. According to legends, there are various methods that can be used to protect from the harm they inflict, such as throwing onigiri into the sea or preparing a hishaku with its bottom missing.

Their appearance as depicted in legends varies widely depending on the area. There are stories that speak of ghosts that appear above water, of boats that are themselves ghosts (ghost ships), of ghosts that appear on human-occupied ships, or of any combination of the above. There are many legends of funayūrei at sea, but they have also been described as appearing in the rivers, lakes, and swamps of inland areas.

They often appear in rainy days, as well as nights on a new or full moon, and on stormy nights and foggy nights. When it appears as a boat, the funayūrei itself glows with light, so that it is possible to confirm its details even at night. In the past, to avoid shipwreck on a day of bad weather, people would light a bonfire on land, but a funayūrei would light a fire on open sea and mislead the boatmen, and by approaching the fire, one would get eaten by the sea and drown.


Yuki Onna (“snow woman”) is a spirit or yōkai in Japanese folklore. She appears on snowy nights as a tall, beautiful woman with long black hair and blue lips. Her inhumanly pale or even transparent skin makes her blend into the snowy landscape. Some legends say the Yuki Onna, being associated with winter and snowstorms, is the spirit of a woman who perished in the snow. She is at the same time beautiful and serene, yet ruthless in killing unsuspecting mortals. In many stories, Yuki Onna appears to travelers trapped in snowstorms and uses her icy breath to leave them as frost-coated corpses. Other legends say she leads them astray so they simply die of exposure. Other times, she manifests holding a child. When a well-intentioned soul takes the “child” from her, they are frozen in place. Parents searching for lost children are particularly susceptible to this tactic.


mythology meme:  [4/9] deities

↳ Amaterasu-ōmikami

Amaterasu-ōmikami (天照大神) is a goddess of the sun. Along with her brothers Susanowa the storm god and Tsuki-yomi the moon god, she is tasked with the governing of the Universe; her responsibility is to bring light to the world and thus ensure rice fields’ fertility. It is said that the Japanese imperial family are descendants of Amaterasu. 

Kitsunebi, watercolour.

Kitsune (狐) is the Japanese word for fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Foremost among these is the ability to assume human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.
Kitsunebi (狐火) is a kaika (atmospheric ghost lights and fires of unknown origin similar to the will-o’-wisp) told about in legends all across Japan outside Okinawa Prefecture. As its name implies, it has a close relation to kitsune (foxes), and there are many theories stating that the glow of the sigh or long breaths of a fox, other than that it is also said that a fox is knocking together its tail and causing a fire, or that it is the glow from a ball that the fox possesses called the kitsunebi-dama (kitsunebi ball).

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© Nataša Ilinčić, please do not remove credits




In Japanese mythology, a kodama (木霊 or 木魂) is a spirit that lives in a tree. Not all trees have kodama dwelling in them, however, and usually these entitites tend to inhabit trees of very great age or size.

While Kodama are generally invisible to human eyes, they are thought to mischievously play with and mimic human voices, creating echos in the forest. “Echo” has also come to be another meaning of the word kodama. Kodama are believed to live in the forest and are the protectors of those with a ‘pure spirit’ who entered the forest.

They are said to take on the appearance of atmospheric ghost lights, of beasts, and of humans. There is a story where a kodama fell in love with a human, and, in order to meet him, took on the appearance of one. 


The Jorōgumo is creature from Japanese folklore, depicted as a spider that can change its appearance into that of a beautiful woman. In this form, the Jorōgumo would entice men into a quiet location and begin to play a biwa, a type of Japanese lute. While he is distracted by the sound of the instrument, she binds her victim in silk threads and devours the unsuspecting individual. A Jorōgumo is also known as the mistress of the Jōren Falls in Izu, Shizuoka. In the legend, a man was resting at the foot of the waterfall when his feet were bound with a vast number of spider threads. To free himself, he cut the threads and tied them to a tree stump, which was pulled from the ground and drawn into the water. After this incident, the villagers became afraid and avoided the area. One day, a woodsman from out of town, unaware of the Jorōgumo, began cutting wood near the falls. After he dropped his axe into the water, a beautiful woman appeared between the rocks and returned it to him. The man falls in love with her and begins visiting the falls every day to see her, only to grow weaker after each visit. Although the woodsman eventually discovers the woman was the Jorōgumo, he cannot forget his love for her. While running back to the waterfall, he is caught by silk threads and finally falls into the water, never to surface again.

mythology meme:  [6/8] myths, legends, and stories

↳ izanagi no mikoto and izanami no mikoto

Part of the Japanese creation myth, the story of Izanagi and Izanami tells of the birth of the eight great Japanese islands (at least the ones that were part of ancient Japan). Izanagi and Izanami played a part in both Kamiumi and Kuniumi, the birth of the gods and the birth of the lands.

Of the seventh and last generation of the great Kamiyonayo, Izanami and Izanagi would be responsible for both the birth of the Japanese islands as well as the birth of other gods, who’d later become deities. Although the beginning of their union was rocky, they succeeded. They had a great many children, but during the birth of Kagutsuchi, the god of fire, Izanami died from the severe burns. Izanagi killed Kagutsuchi and descended into Yomi, the underworld, to plead for his wife’s return.

He found Izanami, but she stayed in the shadows of Yomi and told him she’d already eaten the food of the underworld and therefore belonged with the dead. However, Izanagi refused to take ‘no’ for an answer and after long negotiations, Izanami asked for a night’s rest before she returned to the world of the living with her husband, and warned him not to come to her bedroom. After waiting a long time, Izanagi got curious and entered the room. Using a comb from his hair, he made it into a torch, and in the beam of light he saw his once beautiful wife’s rotting and horrid form. Terrified, Izanagi fled while Izanami sent shikome after him. Eventually, Izanagi managed to exit Yomi, and rolled a large stone in front of its entrance. Izanami yelled from behind the stone that she’d kill a thousand people every day since he’d abandoned her. Izanagi answered that he’d give life to a thousand and five hundred.