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Raijin, the Shinto kami of thunder, lightning, and storms | © D100763 / WikiCommons
Raijin, the Shinto kami of thunder, lightning, and storms | © D100763 / WikiCommons

7 Shinto Kami You’ll Meet in Japan

Picture of Alicia Joy
Tokyo Writer
Updated: 14 November 2017
Kami are the divine spirits or gods recognized in Shinto, the native religion of Japan. There are eight million kami—a number that, in traditional Japanese culture, can be considered synonymous with infinity. Throughout the islands of Japan, you’ll encounter these deities at shrines, monuments and in popular culture time and again. These are seven of the most prominent Shinto kami.

Amaterasu

Amaterasu, or Amaterasu-omikami, is the goddess of the sun, the universe and the High Celestial Plain from which all kami descend. She is a major kami and a central figure in Shinto. According to legend, the Emperors of Japan are descended from Amaterasu, and this was once used as justification for their reign. Amaterasu is the daughter of Izanami and Izanagi, born from her father Izanagi’s left eye.

Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, rises from a cave
Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, rises from a cave | © 歌川国貞 / WikiCommons

Izanami and Izanagi

Izanami and Izanagi are central to the Shinto creation myth. Legend has it that this god and goddess stirred the seas with a spear, and the mud which dripped from the tip became the first island of Japan. The other islands were just some of the couple’s hundreds of offspring, most of which would become the various kami recognized by the Shinto belief system.

Izanagi and Izanami stir the seas, painting by Kobayashi Eitaku