Izanami (written as 伊弉冉, 伊邪那美, 伊弉弥) is a goddess in Japanese mythology. Because she is described as 'imoto (literally 'younger sister') Izanami' in some documents, she may be misinterpreted as a younger sister of Izanagi. However, in this case, 'imoto' affectionately referred to a wife or girl younger than oneself. It does not mean younger sister here. She was the wife of Izanagi. She is also known as Yomotsu Okami and Chishiki no Okami.
Episodes from mythology
In the creation of heaven and earth, Izanami and Izanagi were the last generation of Kaminoyonanayo (seven generations of gods). Izanami and Izanagi had a lot of children who formed the land of Japan. They created the Japanese Islands starting with Awaji-shima Island and Oki no shima Island, and then created the various gods of nature, including the mountain god and sea god. When Izanami gave birth to Kagutsuchi (the god of fire), she burned her genitalia, got sick, and eventually died.
Even after her death, gods were created from her urine, faeces and vomit. The "Kojiki" (Records of Ancient Matters) says that her body was buried in Hibanoyama Mountain (currently, Hakuta-cho, Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture), located on the border between Izumo Province and Hahaki (Hoki Province), while an addendum to the "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) says that her body was buried in Arima-mura, Kumano, Kii Province (Hananoiwaya-jinja Shrine in Arima, Kumano City, Mie Prefecture).
Izanagi went to Yominokuni (the realm of the dead) to see Izanami but when he saw her decomposed body, Izanami was ashamed and chased Izanagi, who had fled in terror. However, Izanagi blocked the road at the Yomotsu Hirasaka, the slope that forms the border between the land of the dead and the world above, so that they would not see each other again. Then, Izanami and Izanagi got divorced.
After that, Izanami became the ruling goddess of Yominokuni, and was called Yomotsu Okami or Chishiki no Okami.
Origin of the name
The 'Izana' part of her name comes from 'izanau' (invite), and 'mi' signifies a female. There is also another theory that Izanami ('nami' means wave) and Izanagi ('nagi' means lull) are paired. One of her other names, Yomotsu Okami, means the deity presiding over Yominokuni. Chishiki no Okami means the god who caught up with Izanagi at Yomotsu Hirasaka. The name Yomotsu Okami implies one who controls death and war. In terms of comparative mythology, Yomotsu Okami is related to the Hainuwele myth of Seram, Indonesia.
There is a theory that the place name Izumo (出雲) is derived from Izumo (稜威母), which was the eulogistic name of Izanami, mother god of Japan. Hoki Province, adjacent to the eastern part of Izumo Province, was called Hahaki (which mean 'mother's port') in ancient times. In the Edo period, the area where the Izumo mausoleum of the gods is located (Hakuta-cho, Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture) was known as Mori Domain (written with characters meaning 'mother's village'), a sub-domain of Matsue Domain. There is an anecdote in "Izumo no kuni fudoki" (Records of the Culture and Geography of Izumo Province) that Yasugi-go, Ou-gun was named by Izanami's son, Susanoo. The sacred site of Yomotsu Hirasaka, where Izanagi left Izanami for good, is located near Iya-jinja Shrine in Higashi-izumo-cho, Yatsuka-gun next to Yasugi City.
Izanami is worshipped as the goddess who created all things in the universe, the Creator, the sea goddess, and the goddess of iron making.
Other than the above-described sacred sites, shrines where Izanami is enshrined include the following:
Izanagi-Jingu Shrine (Awaji City, Hyogo Prefecture)
Taga Taisha Shrine (Taga-cho, Inugami-gun, Shiga Prefecture)
Tsukiyominomiya, located in Kotai-jingu Betsugu (Ise City, Mie Prefecture)
Hananoiwaya-jinja Shrine (Kumano City, Mie Prefecture)
Mitsumine-jinja shrine (Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture)
Tsukubasan-jinja Shrine (Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture)
Kumano-jinja Shrine (Kamezaki, Yotsukaido City) (Yotsukaido City, Chiba Prefecture)
Kumano Taisha Shrine (Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture)
Kamosu-jinja Shrine (Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture)
Yamasa-jinja Shrine (Yasuki City, Shimane Prefecture)
Iya-jinja Shrine (Higashi-izumo-cho, Shimane Prefecture)
Sada-jinja Shrine (Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture)
Besides Hibanoyama Mountain and Arima, Kumano City which are described in Nihonshoki, there are numerous places throughout Japan where Izanami is said to be buried, especially around the border between Izumo and Hoki. The Ministry of the Imperial Household recognized Mt. Kanna in Yakumo-mura (present-day Matsue City in Shimane Prefecture) as a 'referable mausoleum,' assuming it to be the most-likely site.
The former Ministry of Home Affairs (Japan) designated Mt. Mihaka located in the north of Mt. Sentsu as a 'place said to be the legendary mausoleum of Izanami no Mikoto.'
However, from the 19th century, because of Norinaga MOTOORI's "Kojikiden" (Commentaries on the Kojiki), which successfully interpreted the "Kojiki" for the first time, and the fact that the Izumo-Hoki provincial border area produces the best iron sand for making ironware, Hakuta-cho in Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture was once supported as the likely site, further supported by the confirmation that Mineyama-daigongen appears on an old map of Mori Domain. Recently, Biten YASUMOTO, by comparing these theories in terms of philology, has identified it as the one in Yasugi which is the closest to the border between Shimane and Tottori Prefectures.