Amaterasu Omikami / Sun Goddess
Amaterasu Omikami has been worshipped by the successive emperors as the
ancestral Kami of the Imperial Family and the tutelary deity of the Japanese
people. She was enshrined in Naigu of Ise Jingu at the Isuzu River in Ise
province Mie prefecture) about 2000 years ago, after she had left the Imperial
Palaces on her way. Shikinen Sengu (the reconstruction ceremony) has been
conducted every 20 years for 1300 years. Amaterasu Omikami is Sun Goddess
and she is the most important goddess of Japanese people, therefore several
millions of Japanese visit Jingu to worship her every year.
After heaven and earth had been separated, two married kami, Izanagi-no-kami and Izanami-no-kami, gave birth to the land of Japan and to various kami of the seas, the rivers, the mountains and the fields. Finally the two gave birth to three specially revered kami: Amaterasu Omikami, Tsukiyomi-no-kami and Susanoo-no-kami. They gave necklace of jewel beads to Amaterasu Omikami and ordered her to govern Takama-no-Hara (the Plain of Heaven), they further ordered Tsukiyomi-no-kami to govern the night and Susanoo-no-kami to govern the sea. Susanoo-no-kami, however, went against the will of the married deities and gave up governing the sea. Instead he ascended to Takama-no-Hara, and committed outrageous deeds such as destroying the paddy fields and the weaving house on the Heavenly Plain. Amaterasu Omikami angered by his behavior and hid herself in the Heavenly Rock Cave called Ama-no-Iwato. As a result, the world of both heaven and earth became dark, throwing everything into confusion. The eight million kami got together beside the river in the Plain of Heaven, debating how to induce Amaterasu Omikami to come out of the Heavenly Rock Cave. They decided first to make the divine mirror Yata-no-Kagami and hang it in front of the cave, second, to hold a joyous festival, and third, to perform the sacred dance and music called kagura. As a result of this, Amaterasu Omikami emerged from the Heavenly Rock Cave, illuminating everything with her gentle light. She made heaven and earth bright again and brought back harmony and order. Susanoo-no-kami was expelled from the Heavenly Plain to the land of Izumo. There Susanoo-no-kami, killed a giant snake, the Yamata-no-Orochi, which had been tormenting the people of Izumo. He extracted a divine sword out of the snake's tail and presented it to Amaterasu Omikami. This sword is one of the three imperial regalia.
The three sacred imperial treasures consist of the sacred mirror called Yata-no-Kagami, the sacred sword called Ame-no-murakumo-no-Tsurugi and the sacred jewel called Yasakani-no-Magatama. According to Shinto thought, the mirror as reflecting everything properly is a symbol for "Honesty," the sword for "Braveness," and the jewel for "Affection."
Now, the sacred mirror is enshrined as the august symbol of Amaterasu Omikami at Ise Jingu, while the sacred sword is enshrined as the august symbol for kami at Atsuta Jingu of Nagoya City, and the sacred jewel Yasakani-no-Magatama is preserved in the Imperial Palace.
When Amaterasu Omikami gave the sacred mirror to Ninigi-no-mikoto, her grandson, she said: "Think of this sacred mirror as none other than myself, take care of it, and worship it forever." Ever since, the successive emperors have worshiped Amaterasu Omikami, believing her to reside in this mirror, and after Ise Jingu had been established, they have worshiped Amaterasu Omikami with even more reverence.