The Seven Generations of the Age of the Kami (神世七代)

The 12 kami that appear in the Kojiki after the Celestial Kami are called the seven generations of the age of the kami (kami no yo nana yo).

One thing to keep in mind while reading the appearance of the kami in the Kojiki is that they mostly represent abstract ideas in the creation story (such as the creation of clouds or animals), not concretely worshiped deities like in Greek myths.

The Kojiki text states:

“After that, one-by-one the following kami appeared, Kuninotokotachi, Toyokumono, Uhijini & Suhijini, Tsunoguhi & Ikuguhi, Ohotonoji & Ohotonobe, Omodaru & Ayakashikone, and finally Izanagi & Izanami. These kami are called the 7 generations of the age of the kami (神世七代).
The first two kami are hitorigami and the remainder are 5 generations of male-female pairs.”

Seven Generations(1) Kuninotokotachi  国之常立神

According to Japanese sources, the name means/represents either:

(1) The appearance of Japan in the creation story
(2) The country of Japan will exist forever

These two interpretations stem from the Chinese characters used in the name.
国 — country
之 — possessive, used in names
常 — always
立 — established
神 — kami

In the Kojiki, this kami appears 6th and is a hitorigami (having no gender).
However, in the Nihon Shoki, Kuninotokotachi appears first and is described as “a pure male (a kami born with only yang and no yin).” In other writings, s/he appears first or second. There are no concrete references to Kuninotokotachi in any text after his/her appearance in the creation story.

In Ise Shinto, Kuninotokotachi is worshiped as one of the Creator Kami with Amenominakanushi and Toyoukebime (famous for doing a vulgar dance to get Amaterasu to come out of a cave).

Due to that influence, Kuninotokotachi is worshiped in Yoshida Shinto as a single deity combined with Amenominakanushi and called “Daigensonshin” (大元尊神) meaning the source of the universe. Yoshida Shinto holds that Buddhist deities are manifestations of Shinto kami, and Shinto is the true primal religion (exciting stuff if you care about whose religion is primal-est…which I don’t.)

Kuninotokotachi also featured in an “end-times” religion founded by a undoubtedly bored housewife named Deguchi Nao in 1892. She claimed she had a vision that Kuninotokotachi had been sealed up by other kami and the time of his awakening was drawing near. She teamed up with another guy named Onisaburo who carried on with the religion after her death.

By 1935, the group (Oomoto) had 1 – 3 million members, an estimated one-third of which were college educated and members of the government/military. Due to their members’ influence in the government, the Japanese government sought to disband the group and levied charges of disrupting the peace and disrespecting the emperor against them for elevating Kuninotokotachi’s status above that of the emperor, who was a “living kami.”

Several of the group’s members spent many years in prison and allegedly 16 of them died from torture at the hands of the special police. The police had gathered over 50,000 pieces of evidence and members remained in prison and seemingly endless court hearings until after Japan’s surrender in World War II, at which time, they were finally released due to the American occupation. It’s a long and depressing tale, and you can read more about it on the group’s modern website (they still exist! and you can join!).

(2) Toyokumono 豊雲野神

Due to the name, Toyokumono is thought to be a deified cloud.

Toyokumono appears 7th in the Kojiki as a hitorigami, and 3rd in the Nihon Shoki as a male kami. Toyokumono makes no other appearances in Japanese mythology.

(3) Uhijini & Suhijini (宇比地邇神 & 須比智邇神)

These two kami are the first male-female pair to appear in the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki.
In the Nihon Shoki, the Chinese characters in their names are “mud” for Uhijini (the male kami) and “sand” for Suhijini (the female kami). Due to this, scholars think they represent the stage in creation when the earth was not yet firm, but was all sand and mud mixed with water.

(4) Tsunoguhi & Ikuguhi (角杙神 & 活杙神)

The Chinese characters in these 2 kami’s names mean “horns” for Tsunoguhi (the male kami) and “life” for Ikuguhi (the female kami). Scholars think they represent the stage in creation when animals and plants could grow and live on the earth.

(5) Ohotonoji & Ohotonobe  (意富斗能地神 & 大斗乃辧神)

The “ji” in Ohotonoji’s name supposedly represents maleness, and the “be” in Ohotonobe’s name represents femaleness. Thus, scholars think these two represent the creation of sexuality.

(6) Omodaru & Ayakashikone (淤母陀流神 & 阿夜訶志古泥神)

Scholars think these names represent completeness, as in “nothing is lacking.” So either a complete man and woman or the completeness of the earth.

Due to this pair appearing 6th in the Kojiki, in the middle ages in Japan they were adopted as manifestations of the demon king (Tenma) of the 6th realm of desire in Buddhism, the heaven/god realm (Deva). I’m not that familiar with Buddhism, but supposedly said demon king implants desires in humans so we don’t break free from the wheel of reincarnation — evidently we’ve been had! Read more about it here.

(7) Izanami & Izanagi (伊邪那岐神 & 伊邪那美神)

If you know anything about Japanese myths at all, you’ve probably heard of these 2 kami. They are prolific creator kami that create the islands of Japan, other kami, and the humans. There are a lot of stories about them, so I’m going to give them their own post.

But for name meanings, there appear to be 3 possible ideas floating around Japan:
(a) They are a Japanese version of Ishana and his queen (a version of Shiva…it seems?) (北畠親房神皇正統記』circa 1339 CE)

(b) Their names come from the old Japanese word “izana” meaning “to invite” (本居宣長古事記伝』1798 CE)

(c) Their names come from the Japanese word “isao” meaning “pious act” (白鳥庫吉『神代史の新研究』岩波書店 1954 CE)

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