Tsukuyomi (ツクヨミ)

Tsukuyomi (cited as "月讀" (Tsukuyomi) or Tsukuyomi no mikoto) is one of the gods of Japanese mythology. According to "Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters)" and "Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan)," Tsukuyomi was born from Izanagi. Generally, Tsukuyomi is considered to be the god of the moon who rules the night, but some oppose this view (as discussed later). Tsukuyomi is also referred to as Tsukiyomi.

Based on the story that Tsukuyomi killed Ukemochi no kami (the god of whole grain) with a sword in "Nihon Shoki," this god is generally considered to be male; however, there is no description in "Kojiki" or "Nihon Shoki" that determines the gender of this god. Some scholars argue that Tsukuyomi is female because the myths of many other countries depict the god of the moon as female (and even militant) and that the story of killing Ukemochi no kami isn't decisive enough to conclude that Tsukuyomi is male.

How Tsukuyomi is described in myths

Although Tsukuyomi is considered to be the god of the moon, his (or her) divinity varies from one literary source to the next. According to "Kojiki," Tsukuyomi was born from the right eye of Izanagi as she purified herself when running back home from Yomi (the world after death), as well as Amaterasu from her left eye and Susanoo from her nose, and together they comprise Mihashira no uzuno miko (the three noble children). On the other hand, in "Nihon Shoki" Tsukuyomi was born from Izanagi's left eye or a masokagami (bronze mirror) held in her right hand, and his (or her) ruling area is different from story to story-at one time the heavens and at another the ocean.

Tsukuyomi was born in a pair with Amaterasu, the god of the sun, and this idea is, in comparison mythology, common across various myths. For example, in the Chinese Pangu legend "Gounrekinenki" there is a story of the origin of the sun and moon, which states that Pangu's left eye became the sun and his right eye the moon as he died, while in Greek mythology Apollo (the god of the sun) and Artemis (the god of the moon) are depicted as twins.
(Note that Apollo was initially a different god than Helios, the god of the sun; eventually they came to be regarded as identical.)
Additionally, the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible tells a story about the creation of the sun and moon, stating that God created the two great sources of light-the sun and the moon floating in the heavens--four days after the Creation, and then separated light and darkness by having the sun and the moon rule the day and night, respectively. The birth of Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi is in keeping with a story common throughout the world: that the sun and moon were created as a pair.

Although in Japanese mythology Tsukuyomi is considered equally as important as Amaterasu and Susanoo, he (or she) appears in "Kojiki" and "Nihon Shoki" much less often and is generally less active. The story of Tsukuyomi is told only in Document 1 of Section 11 of Chapter 5 of "Nihon Shoki," where the origin of whole grain is described. Some say this is an effort to strike a balance by placing a quiet, inactive god between two gods of contrasting characteristics: Amaterasu and Susanoo. Similar structures are seen with Ameno minakanushi no kami against Takamimusubi and with Kamimusubi, and Hosesuri against Hoori (Yamasachihiko) and Hoderi (Umisachihiko). This is referred to as the "hollow structure" of Japanese mythology. Some consider that Tsukuyomi and Susanoo are identical, because their ruling areas and episodes are somewhat the same.

Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters)

In the first part of "Kojiki," Tsukuyomi was born from Izanagi no mikoto as she rinsed her right eye and, together with her other children Amaterasu and Susanoo, is called Mihashira no tattokiko (the three noble children). Although Tsukuyomi no mikoto was instructed to rule the country of the night, none of his subsequent activities is stated. Some say that Tsukuyomi was ordered to rule Yomi (the world after death) where Izanami no kami had lived.

Jindaiki (Records of the Period of Gods)

Chapter 5 of "Jindaiki (Records of the Period of Gods)" in "Nihon Shoki" gives a short description of Tsukuyomi, stating that Izanagi gave birth to the god of the brilliant moon next to the sun and sent him (or her) to the heavens to work with the sun as a ruling god, while in Document 1 of Section 1 that follows, Izanagi no mikoto is said to have given birth to Ohirume no mikoto by holding a masokagami (bronze mirror) in her left hand and Tsukuyomi no mikoto by holding the same mirror in her right hand.

Although there are several stories about the territory of Tsukuyomi, who was instructed to rule the heavens together with Amaterasu Omikami, another story claims that Tsukuyomi was ordered to control the ebb and flow of the tide (which may stem from the idea that the moon controls the tides), thus suggesting that there are several stories about the birth of the three gods.

According to Document 1 of Section 11 of Chapter 5 in "Nihon Shoki," both Amaterasu Omikami and Tsukiyomi no mikoto were ordered to rule the heavens, but later Tsukiyomi no mikoto was told by Amaterasu Omikami in the world above to meet Ukemochi no kami (the god of grains), so he (or she) visited her. In trying to entertain Tsukiomi by offering him (or her) food and sake, Ukemochi no kami is said to have vomited rice from her mouth, which disgusted her guest and caused him (or her) to slaughter her with a sword. Cows, horses, silkworms and rice plants were born from her body, and this is said to be the origin of cereal grain. According to the myth, Amaterasu Omikami became angry, knowing the cruel deed of Tsukiyomi and condemning him (or her) as a bad god; from that day on, the sun and moon have come to live one night apart from each other. This is the myth about the separation of the sun and moon, consequently giving rise to day and night.

However, in "Kojiki" Susanoo murdered the god of food (Oogetsuhime) in the same manner (see the origin of foods in Japanese myths). Some say this is because a myth about either one of the gods was later cited as an episode of the other.

Kenzoki (Records of the Kenzo Period)

Tsukuyomi makes his (or her) appearance again in the era when human emperors started to rule this country on behalf of the gods. According to "Kenzo tenno ki (Records of Emperor Kenzo)" of Chapter 15 of "Nihon Shoki," a god of the moon who claimed Takamimusubi as his (or her) ancestor possessed a man and said, 'Worship my god of the moon, then you will have pleasures,' and the people, having heard the words, erected a shrine in Kadono no kori in Yamashiro Province and had Oshiminosukune (the ancestor of Agatanonushi of Iki) serve it. This story describes the origins of Tsukiyomi Jinja Shrine in Yamashiro no kuni, and a shrine called Tsukiyomi Jinja Shrine (Iki City)-which is thought to be the Motomiya (the mother shrine) of the Tsukiyomi Jinja Shrine of Yamashiro Province (Kyoto City)-in fact exists in Iki City, where the revelation took place.

Fudoki ("Records of Air and Soil)," eighth-century notes on local legends and geography)

In the chapter "Shimane no kori" of "Izumo no kuni fudoki (Fudoki of Izumo Province)," Tsukutsumi no mikoto-who is considered to be a son (or daughter) of Izanagi no mikoto-made his (or her) appearance.

The distance between the Umaya (horse station) and the Guke (the governor's office) in the Chikumi district is approximately 17 ri and 180 ho. Tsukutsumi no mikoto, the son (or daughter) of Izanagi no mikoto, sat here. Although he (or she) should have been called Tsukutsumi, people today still call him (or her) simply Chikumi.

Tsukutsumi' is thought to be the spirit of the moon like Wadatsumi (the god of the ocean) and Yamatsumi (the god of the mountain).

According to 'Katsura Sato' of "Yamashiro no kuni Fudoki" (which is incomplete), when Tsukiyomi no mikoto-who had been instructed by Amaterasu Omikami to descend to Toyoashiharano nakatsukuni-visited Ukemochi no kami (the god of whole grain), he (or she) stood against a 'Yutsu katsura' (the Japanese Judas tree); thus the place is called 'Katsura Sato.'
Presumably because of an ancient Chinese legend that associates the moon with the Japanese Judas tree, Tsukuyomi no mikoto is said to have stood at the foot of the tree. Additionally, in Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) there are poems that connect Tsukihito (moon person) and the Japanese Judas tree. In Japanese mythology the tree is associated with several gods and is thought to be the one to which gods descend, as shown in the stories of "Kojiki" about Kiji no nakime, who was sent to Amenowakahiko by Amaterasu Omikami, and Yamasachihiko, who lost his elder brother's fishhook and ended up at the palace of the ocean god.

Manyoshu ("Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves")

In the poems of "Manyoshu," Tsukuyomi is cited as 'Tsukuyomi' or 'Tsukuyomiotoko' and depicted in two ways: as a simple metaphor of the moon or as a deity. Additionally, Tsukuyomi is described as the ruler of 'Ochimizu' (the water that turns old people young again)-which is, as pointed out by Nikolai Aleksandrovich Nevskii, Shinobu ORIKUCHI, and Eiichiro ISHIDA, it is similar to 'Sudemizu' in Okinawa, where the myth about 'the moon and immortality' is widely accepted.

Other examples of metaphors of the moon in "Manyoshu" include expressions such as 'Tsukihito (moon person)' and 'Sasarae otoko (little beautiful boy).'

Other literature

According to "Shoku Nihongi," in the era of Emperor Konin, when a storm devastated the country, a seer performed augury and found that it was the wrath of Tsukuyomi no kami of Ise, so people dedicated a horse in order to calm the Aramitama (angry soul).

According to "Kotai jingu gishikisho (Book of Rituals and Ceremonies of Kotai Jinja Shrine)," Tsukuyomi no mikoto was worshipped at 'Tsukiyominomiya ichiin' (the main temple of Tsukiyominomiya Shrine) and described as 'Tsukuyomi. He was a figure of a man riding a horse and was clothed in purple, wearing a golden sword. He was clothed in purple, wearing a golden sword,' and Tsukuyomi, whose gender is never mentioned in "Kojiki" nor "Nihon Shoki," is depicted here as a man riding a horse and carrying a sword.

On the other hand, examples in which the moon is regarded as female include the records of "Nihon sandai jitsuroku (Records of Three Emperors)," dated October 9, 865 and October 10, 871, where court rank was granted to '女月神' (the female god of the moon) ('Metsuki no kami' or 'Himetsuki no kami') of Izumo Province. This shrine appears to worship a female god of the moon. Although this god does not appear in "Kojiki," "Nihon Shoki" or "Manyoshu," this shrine is cited as 'Mezuki no yashiro' in the 'Ogun' chapter of "Izumo no kuni fudoki (Fudoki of Izumo Province)." However, besides the above 'Metsuki no kami,' the record of September 8, 859 carried in "Nihon sandai jitsuroku" about 'Yamashiro no kuni Tsukuyomi no kami (Tsukuyomi of Yamashiro Province)' indicates that 'Metsuki no kami' is a female god of the moon and is therefore different from Tsukuyomi.

How Tsukuyomi is referred to in myths

In "Kojiki," Tsukuyomi is referred to only as '月讀命 (Tsukuyomi no mikoto),' whereas in Chapter 5 of "Nikon Shoki" the god is cited under different names such as '月神(Tsuki no kami),' '月弓尊 (Tsukuyumi no mikoto),' '月夜見尊 (Tsukiyomi no mikoto)' and '月讀尊 (Tsukuyomi no mikoto).'
In "Manyoshu," the moon is referred to as '月讀壮士 (Tsukuyomi otoko),' '月人壮士 (Tsukihito otoko)' and '月夜見 (Tsukiyomi).'
In "Izumo no kuni fudoki," a god called '都久豆美命 (Tsukutsumi = 月津見? (Tsukitumi)' makes his (her) appearance. In "Yamashiro no kuni Fudoki (Fudoki of Yamashiro Province)," Tsukuyomi is cited as '月讀尊 (Tsukiyomi no mikoto)' although the text is incomplete.

"Engishiki (List of Official Shrines)," which was completed at a slightly later time, lists the god worshipped at Ise Jingu Shrine as '月讀 (Tsukuyomi)' and '月夜見 (Tsukiyomi).'

Additionally, the following is a list of how 'Tsukuyomi' was spelled in the "Jodai" special kana orthography (the special kana orthography of the era of Nara or earlier).

Kojiki
読 ("yomi") of 月読 ("Tsuki yomi"): spelled ヨ乙 ('yo')・ミ甲('mi')

Nihon shoki
読 ("yomi") of 月読 ("tsuki yomi"): spelled ヨ乙 ("yo") ・ ミ甲 ("mi")
弓 ("yumi") of 月弓 ("Tsuki yumi"): spelled ユ- ("yu") ・ ミ甲 ("mi")
夜見 ("yomi") of 月夜見 ("Tsuki yomi"): spelled ヨ甲 ("yo") ・ ミ甲 ("mi")

Manyoshu
読 ("yomi") of 月読 ("Tsuki yomi"): spelled ヨ乙 ("yo") ・ ミ甲 ("mi")
夜見 ("yomi") of 月夜見 ("Tsuki yomi"): spelled ヨ甲 ("yo") ・ ミ甲 ('mi')
余美 ("yomi") of 月余美 ("Tsuki yomi"): spelled ヨ乙 ("yo") ・ ミ甲 ('mi')

As the above shows, in "Kojiki," "Nihon Shoki" and "Manyoshu" the "ミ" ("mi") of ツクヨミ (Tsukuyomi)" follows the official kana orthography of this era, but "ヨ" ("yo") of ツクヨミ (Tsukuyomi)" comes with "甲" and "乙"-indicating that "ヨ" ("yo") was pronounced in two ways, and even that the sound was replaced with "ユ" ("yu").

The following is a list of the kana orthography that focuses on ヨ ("yo") and ユ ("yu"):
ヨ乙: used in 月読 ('tsukuyomi') and "月余美" ('tsukiyomi')
ヨ甲: used in 月夜見 ("Tsukiyomi")
ユ: used in 月弓 ("Tsukiyumi")

What does Tsukuyomi mean?

The name of the god (Tsukuyomi) allows for several theories about where it comes from.

The most popular theory is to connect the name to the calendar, as Tsukuyomi is about reading ("yomi") the moon ('tsuki"). Because the term "yomi (to read)," which means counting cycles of the moon phase, was spelled "余美" ("yomi") or "餘美" ("yomi") in Chinese characters in order to reflect the Japanese pronunciation and both were spelled "ヨ乙・ミ甲" ("yo・mi") in the Jodai special kana orthography-which conforms precisely to the spelling of "yomi" of "Tsukuyomi"--it would be safe to conclude that the name Tsukuyomi came from counting days and months. Just as "Koyomi (calendar)," for example, means reading ("yomi") dates ("ka"), Tsukuyomi means reading ("yomi") the moon ("tsuki"). As is also shown in "Manyoshu," where expressions like 'reading days' or 'reading months' are used to mean measuring time (or counting days), historically speaking the cycles of the moon phase and its motion have provided a basis for calendars; and, as considered worldwide, the lunar calendar has an older origin than the solar one. As the way the month is counted, for example, '一月' (the first month, indicating January) and '二月' (the second month, indicating February) shows the old habit of counting days, the moon and the calendar have a close mutual relationship. That is why Tsukuyomi, who counts days and months, is considered to be the measurer and ruler of time and the calendar.

On the other hand, '月弓' (the moon and bow)-which is how Tsukuyomi is cited in "Nihon shoki"-indicates that people associated the crescent moon with a bow, being a weapon. In "Manyoshu" there is a poem (2051 of Chapter 10) that expresses the first and third phases of the moon as '白真弓' ('shiramayumi') (beautiful white bow), '月弓尊' ('Tsukuyumi no mikoto') is considered to be an alias of Tsukuyomi, having been coined under such a concept.

Besides the above, there is a view that Tsukuyomi is the spirit or god of the moon night because his (her) alias '月夜のミ' ('Tsukiyo no mi') shows ('tsukiyo' meaning a moon night and 'mi' a spirit like Watatsumi (the god of the ocean) and Yamatsumi (the god of the mountain)).

Therefore, the fact that Tsukuyomi was cited under different names-with the 'ヨ' ('yo') sound being distinctively different between '月読' ('Tsukuyomi') and '月夜見' ('Tsukiyomi') as indicated with "甲" and "乙" and the parallel use of the 'ユ' ('yu') sound-and that these names appear not only in "Kojiki," "Nihon Shoki" and "Manyoshu" but also in the literature of later times like "Engishiki" without converging on any one of them, clearly shows that Tsukuyomi's divinity cannot be determined according to a single quality. Although Amaterasu omikami-the god of the sun-is considered to be the ruler of the firmament as she is depicted in "Kojiki" and "Nihon shoki" as ruling the heavens or Takamagahara, there are conflicting stories about the domain of Tukuyomi-the god of the moon; one in "Nihon shoki" says that Tukuyomi was placed in the heavens next to the sun, and another says that he (or she) was ordered to rule the country of the night or the ebb and flow of the tide. The inconsistency regarding the domain of Tsukuyomi between stories indicates that his (or her) divinity has been created by interweaving different ideas and is therefore prone to variation.

Poems in Manyoshu about Tsukuyomi

Chapter 4 (670): In the rays of the moon, why don't you come and see me, as we are not so far apart with no mountain separating us?
Chapter 4 (671): Although I'm bathed in clear moonlight, I'm confused and bewildered. Chapter 6 (985) Dear Tsukuyomi otoko, the god of the moon sitting in the heavens, I would give you a present if you could make tonight into five hundred nights. Chapter 7 (1075): The moon might be traveling a long way over the ocean; I wonder in the dim moonlight as evening draws on. Chapter 7 (1372): Although you, Tsukuyomi otoko, are traveling over the sky and I can see you every night, you are not the one I can depend on. Chapter 13 (3245): With a long bridge or a high mountain that would take me to the heavens, I could get the water of Tsukuyomi and give it to my master to make him young again. Chapter 15 (3599): In the pure moonlight, I went through Isoumi no ura beach and left the port in a boat. Chapter 15 (3622): In the pure moonlight when the wind died down in the evening, I called a sailor and had him row a boat in the creek.

Shrines that worship Tsukuyomi

There are two types of shrines that worship Tsukuyomi. One is to worship Tsukuyomi, the younger brother of Amaterasu Omikami, and a great example of it is Tsukiyominomiya, an annex to Kotai Jingu Shrine. Tsukiyomi no miya is situated in Toyouke daijingu betsugu, the annex to Toyouke Daijingu Shrine.

The other group of shrines consists of those that initially worshiped a god of the moon that had no bearing to Tsukuyomi but later converged on Tsukuyomi, as it appears in myths. A great example of this is Gassan Jinja Shrine (Shonai Town, Higashitagawa District, Yamagata Prefecture), one of the shrines of Dewa sanzan (the three mountains of Dewa). Most of the Gassan Jinja shrines across this country have been transferred from that of Dewa sanzan. Additionally, Tsukuyomi Shrine, in Iki City, is thought to have honored a god of the moon that is different from Tsukuyomi and that of Dewa sanzan. However, there is an opposing theory based on Kenzoki (Records of the Kenzo Period) of Nihon Shoki, claiming that Tsukuyomi Shrine of Iki is where Tsukuyomi worship started, but no conclusion has been reached. Tsukuyomi Shrine of Kyoto City, which belongs to Matsunoo Taisha Shrine (Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture), has been transferred from Tsukuyomi Shrine of Iki City.

Books and mangas depicting Tsukuyomi

"Tsuki to honoo no senki (The War Chronicle of the Battle Between the Moon and Fire)," by Hiroyuki MORIOKA
"Tsukiyomi," by Ryoko YAMAGISHI
"Susanoo" by Haruhiko MASUDA
"Inochi: Kurenai no shugoshin (Life: The Red Guardian Deity)," by Ryusei DEGUCHI
"Tsukuyomi no matsuei (The Descendant of Tsukuyomi)," by Yu KURAMOTO
"Kujakuo," by Makoto OGINO
"Chrono Cross"
"Megami Tensei"
"Yu-gi-o Official Card Game Duel Monsters" (YU-GI-OH! Trading Card Game Dueling Monsters)
"Naruto" (in which Tsukuyomi appears as a ninja)

"Wagaya no oinari sama (Fox Deity of Our House)," by Jin SHIBAMURA