The Shinto religion of Japan is deeply based in nature, with the notion that kami, or gods, can be found practically anywhere. When Buddhism arrived in Japan, it brought a new set of renowned deities to worship. While there are numerous deities, we’ll focus on ten that are frequently shown in Japan.
Are you interested in Japanese culture? You can check weird Japanese candy and snacks too.
But now, let’s explore weird Shinto gods together!
First of the weird Shinto gods is Inari. The kami Inari is a Shinto deity of many essential things, including rice, sake, tea, and prosperity. It is not to be mistaken with the foxes he uses as earthly messengers.
Inari has also been shown as a long-haired woman holding rice. However, he is frequently depicted as a bearded man riding a white fox. The number of fox statues on the site and long rows of torii gates distinguishes Inari shrines, such as Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto!
Izanagi & Izanami
A central figure in Japanese mythology, the mother and father Shinto deities Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto form the nucleus of the country’s creation story. They plunged a jeweled spear into the eternal gulf between heaven and earth, unsure how to bring order out of disorder. The spear’s falling drips formed the land.
Later, the kami that would eventually inhabit it began to emerge. When Izanami gave birth to the fire deity, Kagutsuchi, she was burned to death. Izanagi made a pilgrimage to Yomi, the Land of the Dead, in an attempt to reclaim her.
After discovering his wife’s decomposing corpse, he fled back to the door in disgust. He imprisoned her, and she became a deity of the dead, avenging her dishonor by killing 1,000 people a day. It was Izanagi’s decision to make it such that 1,500 people were born each day.
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The Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami is the ancestor of the Japanese imperial family. When Izanagi cleaned the remains of the underworld off of his face after escaping from his wife, Izanami, it is stated that he gave birth to her from the left eye of his face.
Amaterasu’s aggressive brother Susano-O was rumored to have fought her in the past. Having won the battle, she escaped into a cave, causing the world to go dark. The other gods organized a loud celebration at the cave’s entrance to entice her out of it.
When Amaterasu’s curiosity aroused, she went to see what they could do without light to amuse themselves. But unfortunately, the other gods blocked her escape from the cave with a shimenawa (holy straw rope), so she couldn’t go back in.
Buddhist deity Benzaiten, also known as Benten, was revered by geisha as a protector of the arts and women. A goddess of good fortune, she is also the only female member of the “Seven Gods of Fortune” in Japan.
She is frequently pictured either riding a sea monster or performing a biwa, a traditional Japanese lute. Ryuko-ji in Enoshima, Japan, is said to be the resting place of a five-headed dragon that terrorized coastal fishing settlements because of her beauty.
Yebisu, another of Japan’s “Seven Gods of Fortune,” is another name for Ebisu, the god of fishermen and tradespeople. As a red snapper and fishing rod in one hand, he’s generally shown as a fat, joyful fisherman.
Because its Japanese name, tai, is phonetically similar to the phrase for an auspicious or festive occasion, omedetai, the snapper, also represents good fortune. Ebisu’s origin may be traced back to the misconceived Hiruko, the first god born by Izanagi and Izanami, who was thrown into the sea because of his deformity. According to some, Okuninushi, the “Great Land Master,” was his father.
Cans of the famous Japanese brew Yebisu often feature him.
Tengu are influential and legendary figures in Japan’s yokai folklore tradition, even though they are not deities. Long, crimson noses, immense strength and magical powers, martial arts prowess, and the ability to fly are just a few of these birds’ characteristics.
Because of their aggressive pursuit of Buddhists, they were first viewed as enemies of the religion, attempting to corrupt their beliefs and deter them from attaining nirvana. As a result, they’ve developed a reputation as tricksters, but that hasn’t stopped people from seeing them as protectors or guardians.
Raijin and Fujin
Fujin is a kami of wind, while Raijin is a god of lightning, thunder, and storms. Raijin is usually shown on the left, hammer in hand, flanked by drums, whereas Fujin is shown on the right, bag of wind in hand, hair wildly out of place.
When the Mongols invaded Japan for the second time in 1281, Raijin and Fujin were feared as much as revered, and the kamikaze divine wind they are supposed to have created is credited to them. As a result, they can frequently be seen guarding the entrances to Buddhist and Shinto sites all around Japan.
The last of the weird Shinto gods is Oni. For ages, Oni has been one of Japan’s most popular figures in art, literature, and theater… In folklore, they are described as enormous, horned beasts with a fearsome aspect. A tiger’s skin is used for their loincloths, and they carry enormous iron clubs.
Oni, like Tengu, is more of a demon than a god, although he is revered despite his greater level of dread than Kami. People believe that demons are responsible for natural disasters, the spread of disease, and the retribution of sinners. An oni is born when a bad human dies and is sent to one of the many Buddhist hells. They are then transformed into Oni by Hell’s Great Lord Enma.
Onis are notorious for their wickedness. As punishment for their sins, they strip off their skin, shatter their bones, and inflict pain on their victims.
Onis have lost their reputation for evil in modern society. Instead, it is employed as a form of protection and is thought to ward off bad fortune. Buildings in Japan are increasingly sporting onigawar, or oni-faced, tiles as a decorative accent to ward off evil spirits.
We learned about the eight weird Shinto gods today. Eight million kami are claimed to exist. However, this isn’t a precise figure; instead, it was utilized in ancient Japan to signify infinity. These beings are more like spirits than gods, but they’re just as powerful. Even though the stories told by our ancestors never cease to amaze us, we always go along with the flow and are taken in.