Official Name: Amatsu-Kami
Nicknames: Japanese Gods, Gods of Japan, Shinto Gods, Buddhist Gods, et al
Former Aliases: No known former aliases
Other Current Aliases: No other known current aliases
First Appearance: Thor I #301
Origin: Thor I Annual 8
Dimension of Origin: Ama
Population: 400-550 range (estimated)
Other Associated Dimensions: The Japanese underworld, a dark gloomy realm of eternal night known as Yomi, is the realm set aside by the Japanese gods to hold the shades ("astral spirits") of the mortal worshippers of Ancient Japan. It is ruled by the goddess Izanami and her son Emma-O, the god of the dead. The deepest depths of this realm is ruled by Mikaboshi who leads the Tengu, demons of Japan, and the Oni, the unclean spirits of the dead. The Japanese realm is also populated by a race of "faerie-like" divinities.
History: The Kami or Gods of Japan are an extra-dimensional race of superhumanly
powerful humanoid beings who were worshipped by the Ancient Japanese from around 660 BC
when the Japanese Empire first came to power to 1946 when the empire dissolved its last
ties to the Shinto Religion, the last remaining form of its ancient worship rites to the
gods. It is uncertain if there are any connections between the Kami of Japan to the Xian or Gods of China,
their nearest godly neighbors. "Kami" is the ancient Shinto word for "god" or "deity."
The Kami dwell in an other-dimensional realm called Ama or "heaven," a small "pocket" dimension adjacent to Earth; an interdimensional nexus between Ama and Earth exists somewhere on Mount Fiji near Tokyo on the island of Honshu. The pathway which connects the two realms is called Ameno-kihasi-date, or "bridge of heaven." According to legend, Izanagi, the ruler of the Japanese Gods, once stood on this path as he plunged his staff into the sea and created the islands of Japan. He claimed the island of Onokoro for himself as the location of his first temple.
The precise origin of the Japanese gods, like that of all of Earth's pantheons of gods, is shrouded in legend. According to the Kojiki, a Japanese tome describing the creation of the universe, the first divine couple was Takamimusubi and Kamumimusubi who were born from Ama-no-minaka, the Japanese Chaos. Takamimusubi and Kamumimusubi were followed by eight siblings which included Izanagi and Izanami, ancestors of the Emperors of Japan. However, according to the later Nihongi, a later Japanese tome, the Japanese gods were children of Inn and Yo, the male and female principles of the universe. It is believed that Yo was actually Gaea, the primordial earth-mother who had survived the destruction of the Elder Gods of Earth by infusing her life into the life-giving essence of the Earth. Many of the Elder Gods had degenerated into demonic status and were destroyed by Atum or had fled Earth for other planes of existence. Atum had been born from Gaea by mating with the sentient biosphere of the Earth known as the Demiurge. Atum later departed the earth after shedding the excess demonic energies of the Elder Gods he had slain; some of these energies becoming demonic beings like Mephisto, Satannish and Mikaboshi, who became the eternal enemy of the Japanese gods. Whether the Japanese god Inn was another form of the Demiurge or of Atum himself is unrevealed.
Inn and Yo gave birth to the first generation of Japanese gods, but only one couple from among them, Izanagi and Izanami, prospered. They conceived many of the main gods of Japan, but Izanami was badly burned by her last child, the fire-god Kagi-Tsuchi, who Izanagi split into three pieces with an axe. (Kagi-Tsuchi later regenerated himself and fathered several of the minor divinities of Japan.) Izanami died as a result of his birth, and her spirit departed Ama with the souls of her children for the underworld of Yomi, the Land of Gloom. Izanagi departed Earth to look for her and calling her name. Izanagi heard her voice calling to him and warning him that she had already eaten from the table of the dead and could not return with him. She admitted she wanted to return to earth, but she would have to ask the spirits of the dead if she could be allowed to return with him. Izanami had warned Izanagi not to look upon her while she in the underworld, but he grew tired of waiting for her and took a long pin from his hair to use as a torch to look for her and his children. When he found Izanami, he discovered that she had become a rotting corpse covered in maggots devouring her flesh and recoiled from her horrible appearance. Collecting his children, he fled from Yomi, but Izanami was so upset that he had peeked upon her undead body that she sent the forces of the underworld upon him. To escape these demonic forces, Izanagi tossed away his headdress, transforming it into grapes that the demons stopped to eat. As they caught back up to him, Izanagi tossed away the comb from his hair, transforming it into bamboo shoots that the demons once more stopped to eat. When Izanami caught up to him, Izanagi reached the boundary of Yomi that entered into the land of the living and erected a great barrier to forever separate the land of the living from the land of the dead. Izanami cursed at him claiming that she would take a thousand people a year from earth for revenge, but Izanagi promised to cause one thousand and five hundred people to be born a year so that there would always be people on earth.
After escaping the underworld, Izanagi and his children eventually rested at the mouth of a stream surrounded by orange trees and bushes and clovers near modern-day Hyuga. With these sacred waters, he washed the filth of the underworld from himself and his children and imparted portions of godhood from himself to his children from his eyes and face. (In later myths, it was claimed he actually created his children from his eyes by wiping them from his face.) One of his children, Emma-O, however, remained behind in Yomi and became god of the dead.
Izanagi baptized his children from the springs to make them gods. Among his children, he was most pleased with Amaterasu the sun-goddess, Tsukiyomi the moon-god and Susanowo the storm-god among all of them that he divided the world up between them. He gave Amaterasu complete rule of Japan and the other gods, he gave Tsukiyomi reverence over the night and he gave Susanowo dominion over the ocean and all that was within it. Susanowo, however, preferred to have gained control over Yomi, but the underworld had become the domain of Izanami and Emma-O. Susanowo, meanwhile, wandered heaven and earth causing trouble for the other gods. Amaterasu, in her rule as Empress of Japan, reportedly shared her bed with both Tsukiyomi and Susanowo looking for a perfect mate and eventually accepted Takamimusubi, the sky-god, as her husband, but he only had a certain amount of power in the marriage, and had no real power over the pantheon under Izanagi.
Amaterasu became the ancestor of the ruling Imperial family of Japan, but when she tried to share her hospitality with Susanowo, she became upset when his display of power ruined her palace at Hokkaido. Susanowo had become offended by the means the food-goddess Uke-Mochi produced food from her body and slew her, and Amaterasu in disgrace fled for self-imposed exile within a cave on Mount Fiji. According to legend, her absence resulted in an eclipse over Japan. The Japanese gods tried luring Amaterasu from the cave with no success, but the goddess, Uzumei, turned over a pot and performed a lascivious dance while dropping her clothing that attracted the attention of the other gods. When Amaterasu heard the party and revelry, she looked out to see what was happening and discovered a reflection of herself in a mirror crafted by the gods Amatsumara and Ishikori-dome. Trapped by her own reflection, Amaterasu was pulled from the cave by the other gods as sunlight returned to Japan.
As the Japanese gods grew tired of living on Earth, they retreated to Ama to preside for eternity. When Amaterasu finally departed earth, she left her mirror and throne to her grandson, Ninigi, and departed Earth for the final time. Several of the Japanese gods continued to live between Earth and Ama for centuries to live among their worshippers. Around 1000 AD, an edict by the Third Host of the Celestials forbade the Japanese Gods with trafficking with mortals, but worship of the Japanese gods, or Shintoism, continued well into modern times. During the encounter with the Celestials, Izanagi had met with the rulers of the other pantheons of earth and became a member of the Council of Godheads. As per a pact with Odin, Chieftain of the Asgardian gods, Izanagi donated the necessary life-energies to Thor to restore the Gods of Asgard to life after the Fourth Host of the Celestials.
In recent years, Mikaboshi, the god of evil, sought the Grasscutter Sword, the most sacred weapon of the Japanese gods, and used it to sever the bridge of heaven known as Ameno-kihasi-date, that connected Ama to Earth. It is believed that the Grasscutter was once known as Kusanagi, the mystical sword Susanowo cleaved from the corpse of the eight-headed serpent, Yamato-no-orochi. (Some myths claim Susanowo merely found the sword in the serpent's body). The sword had rested for millennia within a temple guarded by the spirits of the warriors slain by it until Thor came in search of it as part of a quest. Afterward, the sword passed through several mortal hands until Mikaboshi claimed it and conquered Yomi and Ama, killing or driving many of the Kami to earth or other dimensions. In trying to slay the Olympian gods, Mikaboshi kidnapped Alexander Aaron, the mortal son of the war-god, Ares, in order to encourage him to usurp his father. Hermes, the Olympian messenger-god, and Inari the Japanese rice-god, meanwhile, used subterfuge to unite the Olympians and surviving Kami against Mikaboshi. Joined by Kumari, the Japanese goddess of freshwater, the Olympian god Poseidon flooded Yomi, defeating Mikaboshi and losing the Grasscutter sword again for perhaps eternity.
The Japanese gods and the Olympian gods have been close allies ever since. The Japanese gods still have worshippers today, having been overwhelmed by other religions like Buddhism, where they are worshipped under other names, and even Christianity introduced to Japan from the West. While the extent of their worship is not as great as it once was, Shintoism is still a practiced religion in many parts of Japan and the islands of the Pacific rim.
Relationships to Other Pantheons: The Kami or Gods of Japan have undefined tenuous links with the Xian of China, the Kahunas or Oceanic Gods of the Pacific and even the Devas (Hindu Gods of India) due to their connections to Buddhism. Each pantheon has left an indelicate mark on the religion which has resulted in several of their deities to share attributes as Buddhist deities; for example, the Japanese goddess Benten is often linked to the Hindu goddess Sarasvati and the Chinese goddess, Guan-Yin, and is respected as a goddess in both the Hindu and Japanese pantheons. Furthermore, it is possible, Emma-O, the god of the dead, is actually Yama, the Hindu god of the dead. In recent years, the Kami have also become allies of the Olympians against Mikaboshi. It has also been suggested that the Kami might have ties with the Anasazi gods of North America and the Coatli of Central America based on vague similarities between the culture of the Orient and the Ancient Mexican culture. It is believed these similarities could be connected to Japanese sailors and invaders visiting the Pacific coasts of North America and South America in the First Millennium.
Body Type: Humanoid
Avg. Height: 5' 11"
Avg. Weight: 425 lbs
Fingers: Five with opposable thumb
Special Adaptations: The Kami or Japanese gods are exceptionally long-lived, but they are not immortal like the Olympian gods; they age very slowly upon reaching adulthood, but they are not invulnerable to death. They are physically more durable than human beings; their skin, bone and tissue being three times more durable and dense than similar tissue in human beings.
Strength Level: The average male Japanese god possesses superhuman strength
enabling him to lift (press) about 30 tons under optimal conditions; the average
female Japanese goddess can lift (press) about 25 tons under optimal conditions.
Known Powers: The Kami or Japanese gods possess superhuman strength, speed, stamina, longevity and resistance to harm. They are also inclined to tap and manipulate mystical energies for feats of magic, mostly for tapping into the elemental forces of the weather, altering their appearance, teleporting through dimension barriers and casting spells through incantations. The scope of each god's powers are mostly limited to one object, idea or field, usually tied into their personality. For example, as the Japanese goddess of the sun, Amaterasu can conjure intense light and heat equal to a small sun whereas Susanowo, as god of sea and storm, can create tidal waves and create hurricanes and tsunamis.
Known Abilities: The Japanese Gods are versed in a full range of martial arts superior to most forms of unarmed combat resembling earthly ninjitsu, tae kwan do, judo or karate. They also have skills equal to their fields of expertise, Bishamon, the war-god is a brilliant military strategist well-versed in weapons and Fukrokuju, the wisdom-god, is well-versed in the knowledge and secrets of the Orient.
Type of Government: Monarchy (resembling Imperial Japan)
Level of Technology: Magic
Cultural Traits: The Kami were worshipped as gods by the people of Ancient Japan and parts of the South Pacific, into recent times as part of the modern Shinto religion.
Names of Representatives: Amaterasu, Benten, Bishamon, Dosojin, Emma-O, Fukrokuju, Ho-Ti, Inari, Izanagi, Izanami, Kagutsuchi, Kaminari, Kumari, Kwannon, Michiniokami, Mikaboshi, Raiden, Susanowo, Takamimusubi, Takemikasuchi, Tsukiyomi, Uke-Mochi, Uzumei, et al.