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The Sun goddess emerging out of a cave, bringing sunlight back to the universe

Amaterasu (天照), Amaterasu-ōmikami (天照大神/天照大御神) or Ōhirume-no-muchi-no-kami (大日孁貴神) 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. The name Amaterasu derived from Amateru meaning "shining in heaven." The meaning of her whole name, Amaterasu-ōmikami, is "the great august kami (god) who shines in the heaven".[N 1] The Emperor of Japan is said to be a direct descendant of Amaterasu.


  • History 1
  • Worshipping the Sun Goddess 2
  • In popular culture 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6


The oldest tales of Amaterasu come from the ca. 680 AD Kojiki and ca. 720 AD Nihon Shoki, the oldest records of Japanese history. 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. All three were born from Izanagi, when he was purifying himself after entering Yomi, the underworld, after failing to save Izanami. Amaterasu was born when Izanagi washed out his left eye, Tsukuyomi was born from the washing of the right eye, and Susanoo from the washing of the nose.

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, when she pulled "food from her rectum, nose, and mouth" [2] This killing upset Amaterasu causing her to label Tsukuyomi an evil god and split away from him; separating night from day.

The texts also tell of 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 Susano's sword while he birthed five men from her necklace. Claiming the gods were hers because they were born of her necklace, and the goddesses were his, she decided that she had won the challenge, as his item produced women. 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. Though she was persuaded to leave the cave, Susanoo was punished by being banished from Heaven. Both later amended their conflict when Susanoo gave her the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi sword as a reconciliation gift.

According to legend, Amaterasu bequeathed to her descendant Ninigi: the mirror, Yata no Kagami; the jewel, Yasakani no Magatama; and the sword, Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi. This sacred mirror, jewel, and sword collectively became the three Imperial Regalia of Japan.

Worshipping the Sun Goddess

The Ise Shrine located in Ise City, Honshū, Japan houses the inner shrine, Naiku dedicated to Amaterasu. Her sacred mirror, Yata no Kagami is said to be kept at this shrine as one of the Imperial Regalia of Japan. At this shrine, a ceremony known as Shikinen Sengu is held every 20 years to honor Amaterasu. The main shrine buildings are destroyed and rebuilt at a location adjacent to the site. New clothing and food is then offered to the goddess. This practice is a part of the Shinto faith and has been practiced since the year 690.

The worship of Amaterasu to the exclusion of other kami has been described as "the cult of the sun".[3] This phrase can also refer to the early pre-archipelagoan worship of the sun itself.[3]

In popular culture

  • In the Naruto series, members of the Uchiha clan use a technique of the same name to burn their opponents with black flames that will burn for seven days and seven nights (168 hours), even after the target is reduced to ash (or otherwise destroyed), unless extinguished by the caster (cannot be extinguished by water).
  • In One Piece, Kizaru can use a technique of the same name to blind his opponents.
  • In Ōkami, Amaterasu is the protagonist, in the form of a wolf.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG series (specifically the "Bujin" archetype) there is a card named after Amaterasu.
  • In the Cardfight!! Vanguard TCG series (specifically the "Oracle Think Tank" clan), there's a duo of cards named after Amaterasu.
  • In Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle Amaterasu is the older sister of Princess Tomoyo whose title is called Tsukuyomi.
  • In God Eater, Amaterasu is an Aragami with a head like a goddess and a body of spider that shoot heat rays.
  • Amaterasu appears in the romantic comedy manga series, Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha.
  • In Fairy Tail, Hades, master of the dark guild Grimoire Heart, has a special magic power named 'Amaterasu's Magic Circle'.
  • In Stargate SG-1 Amaterasu is a minor Goa'uld System Lord who visits the SGC alongside other Goa'uld to form an Alliance with Earth against Ba'al after the defeat of Anubis.
  • In Starship Operators (スターシップ・オペレーターズ Sutāshippu Operētāzu), Amaterasu is the name of a powerful starship crewed by the story's protagonists.
  • Amaterasu is one of the main characters in Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's creator-owned, on going comic, The Wicked + The Divine. In this story, twelve gods are reincarnated every 90 years and allowed to live on earth for two years before dying again. Amaterasu is one of the gods to be chosen for the year 2014, coming back as a pop singer.
  • Amaterasu is one of the Japanese series gods in the game Puzzle & Dragons.
  • In Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, Tsurugi Yagami is one of the female characters and is revealed to be Amaterasu herself who became fed up with her power and passed it on to Sasami's distant ancestor.
  • In Dimension Book 3 of Rifts (role-playing game) the "Oni" race worship a goddess called "Ameratsu" whose name resembles Amaterasu.
  • In NetHack, Amaterasu Omikami is the lawful deity of the samurai.
  • In the novel, Giles Goat-Boy, author John Barth makes reference to the people of Japan as the "Amaterasu," who were EATEN by WESCAC (a reference to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) during the "Second Campus Riot" (World War II).[4]

See also


  1. ^ ama means "heaven"; tera is an inflectional form of teru, "to shine"; su is an honorific auxiliary verb which shows respect for the actor; then amaterasu means "to shine in the heaven". And ō means "big" or "great"; mi is a prefix for noble and august beings.[1]


  1. ^ Akira Matsumura, ed. (1995).  
  2. ^ Roberts, Jeremy (2010). Japanese Mythology A To Z (2nd ed.). New York:  
  3. ^ a b Wheeler, Post (1952). The Sacred Scriptures of the Japanese. New York: Henry Schuman. pp. 393–395.  
  4. ^ Barth, John (1966). Giles Goat-Boy, or, The Revised New Syllabus. New York: Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc.  
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