One of the intangibles that can raise a person’s grade is insight into the human condition. Academic insight, meaning solid insight into the mechanisms and accidents of power that create and police social norms, is tangible to evaluate. But when a you understands the joy-tragedy-paradox of the human condition, that will send their grade over the top covering other weaknesses or put a top paper in the A+ category. Think about what moves you the most in films. What happens in dramas about serious subjects that is so extraordinary that it makes you think and feel more deeply than you did before? Sometimes because of an accident of history, the complexity of relationships, a person has to make a choice that changes everything from that moment on, and everyone has to live with the outcome for generations.
REFER TO THE EXAMPLE OF THE MYTH BELOW TO GET AN IDEA OF WHAT IS EXPECTED
THE EARLIEST JAPANESE CHRONICLES
The great native chronicles of early Japan, the Records of Ancient Matters (Kojiki) and the Chronicles of Japan (Nihongi), were completed as late as the first decades of the eighth century c.e., when Japanese writers were already strongly influenced by Chinese traditions.13 It is therefore difficult to distinguish any
pure native traditions in these works, nor are they fully reliable as accounts of Japan’s early history. Many of the events described are anachronistic, and many of the legends are selected with a view to confirming the religious or political claims of the ruling dynasty. The emphasis on ancestry is already quite apparent,
although other evidence indicates that family genealogies were in a very confused
state before the introduction of writing and the Chinese practice of compiling
genealogical records (see chapter 4).
The following excerpts from translations by Chamberlain and Aston were
selected to show what seem to be the most unsystematic and unsophisticated
of legends dealing with the age of the gods and the creation of the land. In
contrast to the founding myths of the Confucian Classic of Documents (Shujing),
which focus on the sage-kings as the founders of civilization and culture
heroes, the focus of attention here is on the creative role of numerous gods in
the formation of many islands. Again in contrast to the Chinese classic account,
which is unicentered and projects a single moral and political authority, the
Japanese mythic world is polytheistic, polycentric, nature oriented, and alive
with an almost ungovernable spiritual e´lan, riotous creativity, and irrepressible
BIRTH OF THE LAND
Before the land was created, there were twelve deities, whose ‘‘forms were not visible.’’
Izanami and Izanagi were the last of these, not the first, but they were directed by the
other deities in concert to solidify the drifting flotsam and jetsam on the sea to shape
the land. In the subsequent profusion of creativity, many islands and regions were
formed, each reflecting the Japanese people’s strong sense of place and pluralism.
Izanagi and Izanami stood on the floating bridge of Heaven and held counsel
together, saying, ‘‘Is there not a country beneath?’’ Thereupon they thrust down
the jewel-spear of Heaven14 and, groping about therewith, found the ocean.
The brine which dripped from the point of the spear coagulated and became
an island which received the name of Ono-goro-jima.
The two deities thereupon descended and dwelt in this island. Accordingly
they wished to become husband and wife together, and to produce countries.
So they made Ono-goro-jima the pillar of the center of the land.
Now the male deity turning by the left and the female deity by the right,
they went round the pillar of the land separately. When they met together on
one side, the female deity spoke first and said, ‘‘How delightful! I have met with
a lovely youth.’’ The male deity was displeased and said, ‘‘I am a man, and by
right should have spoken first. How is it that on the contrary thou, a woman,
shouldst have been the first to speak? This was unlucky. Let us go round again.’’
Upon this the two deities went back, and having met anew, this time the male
deity spoke first and said, ‘‘How delightful! I have met a lovely maiden.’’
Then he inquired of the female deity, saying, ‘‘In the body is there aught
She answered and said, ‘‘In my body there is a place which is the source of
femininity.’’ The male deity said, ‘‘In my body again there is a place which is
the source of masculinity. I wish to unite this source-place of my body to the
source-place of thy body.’’ Hereupon the male and female first became united
as husband and wife.
Now when the time of birth arrived, first of all the island of Ahaji was
reckoned as the placenta, and their minds took no pleasure in it. Therefore it
received the name of Ahaji no Shima.15
Next there was produced the island of O¯ -yamato no Toyo-aki-tsu-shima.16
(Here and elsewhere [the characters for Nippon] are to be read Yamato.)17
Next they produced the island of Iyo no futa-na18 and next the island of
Tsukushi.19 Next the islands of Oki and Sado were born as twins. This is the
prototype of the twin-births which sometimes take place among mankind.
Next was born the island of Koshi,20 then the island of O¯ -shima, then the
island of Kibi no Ko.21
Hence first arose the designation of the Great Eight-Island Country.
Then the islands of Tsushima and Iki, with the small islands in various parts,
were produced by the coagulation of the foam of the salt-water.
preface to records of ancient matters (kojiki )
This preface, from the earlier Kojiki, continues the mythic account to the founding
of the imperial line.
Now when chaos22 had begun to condense but force and form were not yet
manifest and there was nought named, nought done, who could know its shape?
Nevertheless Heaven and Earth first parted, and the Three Deities performed
the commencement of creation; yin and yang then developed; and the Two
Spirits [Izanagi and Izanami] became the ancestors of all things. Therefore with
[Izanagi’s] entering obscurity and emerging into light, the sun and moon were
revealed by the washing of his eyes; he floated on and plunged into the seawater,
and heavenly and earthly deities appeared through the ablutions of his
person. So in the dimness of the great commencement, we, by relying on the
original teaching, learn the time of the conception of the earth and of the birth
of islands; in the remoteness of the original beginning, we, by trusting the
former sages, perceive the era of the genesis of deities and of the establishment
of men. Truly we do know that a mirror was hung up, that jewels were spat out,
and that then a hundred kings succeeded each other; that a blade was bitten
and a serpent cut in pieces, so that myriad deities did flourish. By deliberations
in the Tranquil River the empire was pacified; by discussions on the Little Shore
the land was purified. Wherefore His Augustness Ho-no-ni-ni-gi23 first descended
to the Peak of Takachi, and the Heavenly Sovereign Kamu-Yamato24
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