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Unformatted text preview: late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries went so far as to say that the “original” nature of the Japanese was
an emotional, Shinto nature, and that Buddhist metaphysics and Confucian rationality should be rejected as alien. Apart from the beliefs of these
Neo-Shinto scholars of later times, we can observe that the Japanese have
always placed great store in the emotional side of human nature, and
that sincerity of feeling and action has more often than not taken precedence in their minds over other possible values, such as “truth,” “justice,”
or “the good.” This is not to suggest that sincerity is necessarily incompatible with these other values, but simply that sincerity, the ethic of the
emotions, has been a dominant—if not predominant—strain in the Japanese sentiment throughout the ages.
Shinto has an exceptionally rich mythology, which has been recorded
primarily in two works, Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) and Nihon Shoki
(or Nihongi [Chronicles of Japan]) that were compiled in the early eighth
century (712 and 720) and are the oldest extant books written by Japa- 12 The Emergence of Japanese Civilization nese. These works will be discussed in the next chapter; let us note here
some of the principal myths in the Shinto tradition.
The beginning of the mythology, a creation story, was probably composed at a relatively late date, perhaps in the seventh century, under the
influence of Chinese ideas of cosmology. We are told that in the beginning the world was in a state of chaos, but gradually, in the manner of
Chinese yin-yang dualism, the light particles of matter rose to form
heaven and the heavy particles settled to become the earth (or, more precisely, an oceanlike body of viscous substance). Deities (kami) materialized and, after the passage of seven generations, the brother and sister
gods Izanagi and Izanami were instructed to create a “drifting land.”
Izanagi thereupon thrust his spear into the ocean mass below, and as he
withdrew it brine dripping from the tip formed a small island. Izanagi
and Izanami proceeded together b...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13