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The oldest Japanese history book in Japan is Kojiki (古事記). It explains the beginning of the world, how Japan was made, what gods were involved, and the stories of the gods. Here, I’ll introduce 20 Jinja that worship gods or other things that appear in Kojiki, with an abridged version of the story.
1. Nishinomiya Jinja (西宮神社)
Japan was made by two gods, Izanami and Izanagi. They first attempted to make Japan, but made a Hiruko (水蛭子). The Hiruko floated away with a boat of reed, and landed at Onmaehama (御前浜). Nishinoomiya Jinja was built on the grounds that have stories related to Onmaehama and the Hiruko. Hiruko is also called Ebisu, which is one of the gods that bring good fortune. Nishinomiya Jinja is the head shrine of the Ebisu. Official website here in Japanese.
2. Onogorojima Jinja (自凝島島神社)Pinqui/Wikimedia Commons
Izanami and Izanagi first made an island called the Onogoro island. Onogorojima Jinja is located on the hill where Izanami and Izanagi attempted to make the Japanese lands. Official site in Japanese here.
3. Ubuta Jinja (産田神社)
After creating the Japanese lands, Izanami and Izanagi created gods of mountains, oceans, waters and rocks. However, when Izanami gave birth to the god of fire, Honokagutuchi (火之迦具土), she was burnt to death. Ubuta Jinja is told to be the land where Izanami gave birth to Honokagutuchi.
4. Hana no Iwaya Jinja (花の窟神社)
Located nearby Ubuta Jinja, Hana no Iwaya Jinja is said to be the grave where Izanami passed away after giving birth to Honokagutuchi. This is written down in the Nihon Shoki (日本書紀), another mythological historical text, not the Kojiki. Official website in Japanese here.
5. Iya Jinja (揖夜神社)
After Izanami passed away, Izanagi was in a rage and beheaded Honokagutuchi. Still haunted by grief, Izanagi went into Yomi no Kuni (黄泉の国), the land of the dead, to see Izanami. Izanagi did find Izanami, but it was her disfigured rotting corpse. Chilled to the bone, Izanagi fled from the Yomi no Kuni. Iya Jinja is said to built on the boundary line of the land of living and dead, called Yomohirasaka (黄泉比良坂).
6. Akiha Jinja (秋葉神社)takami torao/Wikimedia Commons
Akiha Jinja worships the Honokagutuchi, as a god to protect people from fire disasters. It is the head shrine of all the Akiha Jinja throughout Japan. Official website in Japanese here.
7. Eda Jinja (江田神社)
After returning from the land of the dead, Izanagi cleansed himself, an act called Misogi Harai (禊祓い), at Tsukushino Himukano Tachibanano Odono Ahakihara (筑紫の日向の橘の小門の阿波岐原). Eda Jinja is told to be built on this land. Inside the main building of the Shinto shrine, there is a lake called Misogi Ike (みそぎ池).
8. Sumiyoshi Taisha (住吉大社)
After performing the Misogi, various gods were born from Izanami’s clothing and Kegare (穢れ). Kegare means uncleanliness. In Shintoism, uncleanliness, or unholiness is thought to come from the outside, rather from the inside. Misogi is an act of purifying this Kegare. Sumiyoshi Taisha worships three gods, often called Sumiyoshi Sanshin (住吉三神) all together. It is also the main shrine of all the the Sumiyoshi Jinja throughout Japan. Official website in Japanese here.
9. Koutai Jingu (皇大神宮)
At the Misogi, Izanami cleansed his left eye. From this act, the god called Amaterasu (天照), or Amaterasu-oomikami (天照大御神) was born. This god is said to be the ancestor god of the Imperial family in Japan. Koutai Jingu worships Amaterasu. Koutai Jingu is the inner sanctuary of Ise Jingu (伊勢神宮). Ise Jingu, which is one of the most famous shrines in Japan, also worships Amaterasu. Official website in English here.
10. Takamahiko Jinja (高天彦神社)
Saigen Jiro/Wikimedia Commons
At the end of the Misogi, Izanagi commanded Amaterasu to rule the land of Takamagahara (高天原). Takamahiko Jinja is told to be built on the land of Takamagahara. It is build in the mountains of Kongousan (金剛山).
11. Tsukuyomi Jinja (月読神社)
At the Misogi, when Amaterasu was born from Izanami’s left eye, Tsukuyomi (月読), or Tsukuyominomikoto (月読命) was born from when Izanami cleaned his right eye. Tsukuyomi was ordered from Izanami to rule the Yoru no Kuni (夜の国). Tsukuyomi Jinja worships Tsukuyomi.
12. Izanagi Jingu (伊弉諾神宮)
At the Misogi, Susanoo (須佐之男), or Susanoonomikoto (須佐之男命) was born from cleansing Izanagi’s nose. He was commanded to rule the Unabara (海原). However, he had a fit crying that he wanted to see Izanami in the Yomi no Kuni, creating great destruction to the lands. Izanagi exiled Susanoo from the lands for punishment. Then, Izanagi rested and finished his role in the lands of Taga (多賀). Izanagi Jingu is built on the Kakurinomiya (幽宮) where Izanagi ended his life. Official website in Japanese here.
13. Munakata Jinja (宗像神社)
Banished from his lands, Susanoo visisted Takamagahara where his sister Amaterasu lived. However, Amaterasu took this visit as Susanoo trying to take over her lands, and stood in front of him armed. To remove this misunderstanding. Susanoo suggested an Ukei (誓約). Ukei is a form of fortune-telling depicting whether the intentions are right or wrong. By this Ukei, three goddesses were born. Munakata Taisha worships these three goddesses. It consists of three Jinjas. Official website in Japanese here.
14. Amanoiwato Jinja (天岩戸神社)
Susanoo was rude and destructive during his stay in Takamagahara. Amaterasu first tried to cover up for him, but ended up angry and afraid of his actions, and hid inside the Ama no Iwato (天の岩屋). Amanoiwato Jinja worships the cave of Ama no Iwato. Official website in Japanese here.
15. Hiraoka Jinja (枚岡神社)
The gods were distressed from this hiding. They made a mirror and a magatama (勾玉), which is a comma shaped bead. Amenokoyane (天児屋), or Amenokoyanenomikoto (天児屋命) chanted the Shinto prayer, and Amanouzume (天宇受賣) danced half naked. Interested in what was going on outside, Amaterasu peeked a little. Then she was dragged out, and all was good. Hiraoka Jinja worships Amenokoyane. Official website in Japanese here.
16. Isonokamifutunomitama Jinja (石上布都魂神社)
Susanoo was banished from the Takamagahara. He then landed at Torikami on the upstream of the Hinokawa river part of Izumon country. There an elderly couple was crying that the monster, Yamatonoorochi (八岐大蛇), would appear every year and eat one young woman, and it was their youngest daughter’s, Kushinadahime (櫛名田比売), turn this year. Susanoo promised to kill the Yamatanoorochi, and in exchange he would take Kushinadahime as his wife. He successfully killed the monster with the sword called Totsukaturugi (十拳剣). Isonokamifutunomitama Jinja worships this Totsukaturugi.
17. Atsuta Jingu (熱田神宮)
Saigen Jiro/Wikimedia Commons
From the tail of the Yamatanoorochi became a sword, called Amenomurakumonotsurugi (叢雲剣). This sword was conceded to Amaterasu. Atsuta Jingu worships this sword. Official website in English here.
18. Suga Jinja (須賀神社)Monado/Wikimedia Commons
After defeating the Yamatanoorochi, Susanoo and his wife, Kushinadahime looked for a place to live, and found the place where they felt was “Sugasugashi” (すがすがしい), which means refreshing. Suga Jinja is told to be the land where the couple found their new home.
19. Hakuto Jinja (白兎神社)
Time went by, and the story continues in the land of Inaba (因幡), which is now Shimane. The descendant of Susanoo, Oonamuchi (大穴牟遅), found a skinned, wounded rabbit. The backstory was that the rabbit was skinned by a shark, and his conditioned worsened when he tried the wrong treatment told to him by the half brother of Oonamuchi, Yasogami (八十神). Oonamuchi applied the right treatment, and the rabbit became its healthy self again. Hakuto Jinja is built near the coast where Oonamuchi helped the rabbit.
20. Mii Jinja (御井神社)暗黒な方/Wikimedia Commons
Yasogami and Oonamuchi were heading toward Inaba, in order to propose to Yagamihime (八上姫). After hearing the story of the rabbit, Yagamihime decided to marry Oonamuchi. Enraged from this result, Yasogami killed Oonamuchi twice, and each time Oonamuchi was revived by the power of the gods.
Then Oonamuchi went into the Ne no Kuni (根の国) where Susanoo lived. At the Ne no Kuni, Susanoo’s daughter, Suseribime (須勢埋毘売) fell in love with Oonamuchi at first sight. Susanoo gave him different trials to test his strength, and he succeeded in all of them. After fleeing from the Ne no Kuni with Suseribime, Susanoo said these words: “Oonamuchi, you will fight off Yasogami, and become the ‘Ookuninushi’ (大国主).” And so Oonamuchi became the Ookuninushi, and started building the country of Japan.
Mii Jinja is said to be the land where Yagamihime gave birth to the child of Ookuninushi.