Yomi


Yomi

Yomi (黄泉), the Japanese word for the underworld in which horrible creatures guard the exits; according to Shinto mythology as related in Kojiki, this is where the dead go to dwell and apparently rot indefinitely. Once one has eaten at the hearth of Yomi it is impossible to return to the land of the living. Yomi is comparable to Hades or hell and is most commonly known for Izanami's retreat to that place after her death. Izanagi followed her there and upon his return he washed himself, creating Amaterasu, Susanoo, and Tsukuyomi in the process. (See Japanese mythology.)

This realm of the dead seems to have geographical continuity with this world and certainly cannot be thought of as a paradise to which one would aspire, nor can it appropriately be described as a hell in which one suffers retribution for past deeds; rather, all deceased carry on a gloomy and shadowy existence in perpetuity regardless of their behavior in life. Many scholars believe that the image of Yomi was derived from ancient Japanese tombs in which corpses were left for some time to decompose. After the arrival of Buddhism, Yomi also became one of the Buddhist hells in Japan, like Kakuri which is ruled by Enma.

The kanji that are sometimes used to transcribe "Yomi" actually refer to the mythological Chinese realm of the dead called Huángquán (黄泉 or "Yellow Springs"), which appears in Chinese texts as early as the eighth century B.C.E. This dark and vaguely-defined realm was believed to be located beneath the earth, but it was not until the Han Dynasty that the Chinese had a clearly articulated conception of an underworld below in contrast with a heavenly realm above. With regard to Japanese mythology, Yomi is generally taken by commentators to lie beneath the earth and is part of a triad of locations discussed in Kojiki: "Takamahara" 高天原 (alternatively transliterated "Takamagahara"; literally, "high heavenly plain", which is located in the sky), "Ashihara-no-Nakatsukuni" 葦原の中つ国 (literally, "central land of reed plains", which is located on earth), and "Yomi-no-Kuni" 黄泉の国 (literally, "Land of Yomi", which is located underground). Yomi has also often been associated with the mythological realm of "Ne-no-Kuni" 根の国 (alternatively, "Ne-no-Katasukuni" 根の堅洲国).

Yomi is ruled over by Izanami no Mikoto, the Grand Deity of Yomi ("Yomotsu-Ōkami" 黄泉大神). According to Kojiki, the entrance to Yomi lies in Izumo province and was sealed off by Izanagi-no-Mikoto upon his flight from Yomi, at which time he permanently blocked the entrance by placing a massive boulder ("Chibiki-no-Iwa" 千引の岩) at the base of the slope that leads to Yomi ("Yomotsu Hirasaka" 黄泉平坂). Upon his return to Ashihara-no-Nakatsukuni, Izanagi noted that Yomi is a "polluted land" ("kegareki kuni"). This opinion reflects the traditional Shinto association between death and pollution.


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