In Japan, the Sakaki tree plays and important role in the mythology of Amaterasu, the Great Sun Goddess. According to Nihongi, an eighth-century compilation of ancient Japanese myths and legends, the Sakaki tree was instrumental in ending a period of darkness when Amaterasu was in hiding.
Amaterasu was the first born of two creator deities, Izanagi and Izanami, who had first created the Japanese islands and then Amaterasu to shine her radiance and rule over the lands from heaven. Their fourth child, Susano-O was given dominion over the seas.
The relationship between Amaterasu and her youngest brother Susano-O was rocky from the beginning. He was a mischief-maker, constantly playing tricks and upsetting his older sister. He was also in deep grief from the death of his mother after she died, weeping and wailing, causing the forests to wither on the mountains and the rivers and streams to dry up.
Finally, his father sent him to Yomi, the underworld. Before he left, he visited Amaterasu, wrecking havoc in the palace and ruining the rice fields. Amaterasu was so appalled by this incident that she hid herself in a deep cavern in the center of the earth, the Rock Cave, and refused to come out. As a result, the world fell into darkness.
sakakiEight hundred deities gathered around the Rock Cave and tried to convince Amaterasu to come out, though she refused. Kami, one of the deities, artfully crafted the Eight-Handed Mirror which was hung on the sacred Sakaki tree along with jewels outside of the cave. The deities wanted to make Amaterasu believe that there was light in the world despite her absence. Laughter from nude dancing by the goddess Ame no Uzume piqued Amaterasu’s curiosity and she slowly opened the door of the cave. When she appeared, roosters began to crow and the jewels hanging on the Sakaki glistened. The mirror on the tree reflected her light, and she thought that there must be someone equal to her radiance illuminating the world. Amaterasu came out of the cave and was taken by the gods. In the end, she agreed to remain in the visible world, never to withdraw herself again.
Susano-O was exhiled from heaven though eventually made amends by conquering a pillaging dragon. He gave a marvelous sword that he found in the dragon’s tail to Amaterasu as an offering to make amends for his misdeeds.
Von そらみみ - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53498826
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