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Top 10 Japanese Gods and Goddesses

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Laura Keating
With more than 80,000 shrines in Japan, the gods and goddesses of Japan still get a lot of attention. For this list, we’ll be looking at the most important goddesses and gods. WatchMojo counts down Top 10 Japanese Gods and Goddesses. Special thanks to our user Norris Vaughn for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Japanese+Gods+and+Goddesses.

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Script written by Laura Keating

Top 10 Japanese Gods and Goddesses

With more than 80,000 shrines in Japan, the gods and goddesses of Japan still get a lot of attention. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Japanese Gods and Goddesses.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most important goddesses and gods.

#10: Watatsumi

This god of the sea goes by many names, and is sometimes identified as Ryūjin, a dragon which acts as the guardian of the ocean. Despite his immense size, he was able to take human shape. As such (and still in the tradition of Ryūjin), it is said that his daughter, Otohime, married prince Hoori, The first Emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu, claimed to be a descendent of Hoori and Otohime, thereby bringing Watatsumi/ Ryūjin into the Imperial Dynasty. There are a number of shrines throughout Japan dedicated to or associated with this god, including the Watatsumi jinja in Tarumi-ku, Kobe, and the Daikai jinja in Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka.

#9: Tsukuyomi

Tsukuyomi, the god of the moon, is the second born of the “three noble children,” gods formed by the creator god Izanagi after returning from a journey to Yomi, the Underworld. His sister Amaterasu, goddess of the sun, left him alone in his half of the sky after he attended a feast prepared by Uke Mochi, goddess of food. It turns out that Tsukuyomi disapproved of Uke Mochi’s style of cooking, which consisted of pulling food from her various orifices. Tsukuyomi responded to this by killing his hostess, which Amaterasu thought was going too far. Now he sits, and reads, alone in the dark.

#8: Susanoo

The third of the “three noble children,” Susanoo was born from Izanagi’s nose. He and his sister Amaterasu did not get along, so one day he proposed a challenge to his sister. Each took an object from the other, from which they produced either gods or goddesses. Amaterasu produced three women from her brother’s sword, while Susanoo created five gods from his sister’s necklace. These deities allegedly became the ancestors of the Emperors. Afterwards, brother and sister were on good terms – until suddenly Susanoo lashed out, destroying Amaterasu’s fields and killing an attendant. In fury, she hid in a cave, thereby depriving the world of sunlight. As punishment, Susanoo was banned from the Heavens.

#7: Raijin & Fujin

Another stormy duo come in the forms of Raijin & Fujin. These gods are on the minor scale, and sometimes closer to demons (although not “demonic” in the western sense). Fujin, one of the oldest Shinto gods, carries on his green, scaly back a bag of wind. Raijin is similarly a demon/god, and with his drums creates lightning and thunder. Sometimes, Raijin is accompanied by his “thunder beast” Raiju – a creature with a body made of lightning and which may appear in the form of a dog, wolf, fox, cat, or weasel.

#6: Agyō & Ungyo

These two are often found in statue form as Niō, or Kongōrikishi, two fierce temple guardians, one with an open mouth and one closed. This represents creation and destruction. Agyō, the open-mouthed guardian, personifies explicit wrath. With his teeth bared he wields a weapon and he vocalizes “ah.” Ungyo, on the other hand, stands for strength. His mouth is closed, and his hands, in a symbol of confidence, are empty. He vocalizes “hūṃ.” Together, they produce “ahūṃ” – similar to the Aum of Hindu tradition, and which is the manifestation of the alpha and the omega, The Absolute.

#5: Ebisu

A purely Japanese creation, brought into being without any Hindu or Chinese influence, this happy-go-lucky deity is the god of both fishermen and luck. One of the Seven Gods of Fortune, he is also the mascot for Yebisu Beer, so you know he’s alright! His origin story is sometimes linked to the eldest child of Izanagi and Izanami, Hiruko. In essence, he was a crippled child who learned to walk on his own (after being thrown into the ocean and eventually growing his legs … long story). Despite his hobbled figure, he is always joyful.

#4: Benzaiten

A very interesting deity, in that she is not representative of any one aspect, Benzaiten is the goddess of anything and everything that flows: time, words, eloquence, music, water, and knowledge. Pretty cool, right? This protector-deity is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune. Benzaiten is also occasionally known by another name, Benten, which references the god Brahma and relates back to her older origins. Thought to be the third-born daughter of the dragon-king of Munetsuchi, ancient Buddhist monks have also associated her with comets in the past.

#3: Inari

One of the most important of Japan’s gods, Inari is depicted as both male and female. Inari is the patron of swordsmiths and merchants and the kami of fertility, agriculture, industry, and prosperity (among many other things). They are often represented by white foxes, or kitsune, who act as their messengers. Inari’s popularity is attested to by the fact that there are more than 32, 000 Shinto shrines dedicated to them. Perhaps their most famous shrine is the Fushimi Inari Taisha within Kyoto. Even many 21st century companies in Japan continue to acknowledge the importance of Inari.

#2: Izanami

Along with her husband/brother Izanagi, Izanami is a Kami of creation – but also of death. They created the island of Japan and numerous other deities. However, she died while giving birth to Kagu-tsuchi – the god of fire. Devastated, Izanagi went to Yomi (the Underworld) to retrieve her. He insisted he wanted to take her away – but that was before he actually saw her and viewed the rotting corpse she had become. He quickly fled, igniting Izanami’s fury. She warned him she would drag down 1000 souls every day if he did not return. But he replied he would create 1, 500 a day to replace them. Things were never the same between them after that.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Ame-no-Uzume (Goddess of Dawn/Mirth/Revelry)

Sarutahiko (God of Strength/Guidance/Martial Arts)

Hachiman (God of War)

#1: Amaterasu

One of the major gods of Shinto tradition and first-born of the three noble children, Amaterasu is the Goddess of not only the sun, but the universe. No wonder the Emperors of Japan have claimed to be her direct descendants. Depicted as mostly good-natured in temperament, when the earth was being formed it was she who called councils of the gods to decide who would preside over land. However, when distraught or upset, she goes into hiding – as her brother Susanoo discovered after his little rampage – leaving the world in darkness. The Ise Grand Shrine, one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan, is dedicated to her.


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