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Yasakani no Magatama


Magatama are curved beads made of semi-precious stones or jade and typically made into a necklace. The most famous is the jewel known as Yasakani no Magatama, which is part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan. In the creation myth of Japan written down in the Kojiki, Susano-o the Shinto god of storms and the sea had a rivalry with his sister Amaterasu the sun goddess. In a fit of rage he destroyed her rice fields and killed one of her attendants which caused her to flee into a cave.

No one could convince her to come out, and without the sun goddess the world was shrouded in perpetual darkness. On a nearby tree the gods hung a mirror named Yata no Kagami and the Yasakani no Magatama. These objects piqued the curiosity of Amaterasu and she stepped out of the cave to see what they were, at which point the gods grabbed her and dragged her out to restore light to the world.

When Amaterasu sent her grandson Ninigi-no-Mikoto to rule over Japan, she gave him the Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi, Yata no Kagami, and Yasakani no Magatama as proof of his divine lineage. These three objects make up the Imperial Regalia of Japan and represent the divinity of the emperor. Specifically, the Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi represents valor, the Yata no Kagami represents wisdom, and the Yasakani no Magatama represents benevolence.

In the 1st century BCE, Emperor Sujin built the Kusanui Shrine to house the Imperial Regalia and appointed his daughter to care for the sacred relics. He had replicas made of the originals which he kept in the imperial palace. It remained there until 668 when the Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi was stolen by a Korean monk. He attempted to sail away with the sword, but Susano-o caused a terrible tempest and forced the ship to turn back. The sword was returned, at which point it was moved to the Atsuta Shrine.

In 1185, the Imperial Regalia were on a ship with the emperor Antoku and his grandmother who were surrounded by the enemy Minamoto clan representing the shogunate. Rather than allow themselves to be captured, the grandmother grabbed the regalia and the emperor and dove into the sea. A stray arrow caused her to drop the Yata no Kagami, but she carried the Yasakani no Magatama and the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi to the bottom of the sea. The Taira clan loyal to the emperor said that the jewel was lost, but the Minamoto clan said that it was only a replica and the original remained safe. The jewel is believed to be housed at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, but only the emperor and a select few high priests are allowed to look upon it, and there are no pictures or drawings to verify its existence.

Japan, Mythology


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