Handbook of Japanese Mythology

by Michael Ashkenazi


Like a supernatural Senate, Japanese gods often gather in the dry bed of the Heavenly River. Too numerous to count, they are known collectively as yaoyorozu-no-kamigami—the eight million—and are the cast of a vast, complex mythology that encompasses two religions, three cultures, and three millennia, one whose ancient deities are still hard at work today.

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Cover image for Handbook of Japanese Mythology

November 2003


Pages 375
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Mythology/General
  • Hardcover



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    Hardcover: £64.00/70,00€/A$107.00

An introductory guide to the mythology of Japan—one of the most pervasive yet least understood facets of Japanese culture.

Handbook of Japanese Mythology makes it easy to travel this vast yet little-known mythological landscape. The book reveals the origins of Japan's myths in the very different realms of Buddhism, Shinto, and folklore, and explores related mythologies of the Ainu and Okinawan cultures and recent myths arising from Japan's encounters with modernization. It then offers vivid retellings of the central Shinto and Buddhist myths, plus descriptions of major historical figures, icons, rituals, and events.

For students or long-time enthusiasts, it is the ideal guide for investigating Japanese reverence for the sun, the imperial family, and the virtues of purity and loyalty. Readers will also learn why sumo wrestlers stomp before each match, how a fussy baby creates thunder, why Japan has a god for soccer, and much more.


  • An extensive glossary of all Japanese terms used in the text, as well as important concepts and historical features
  • An annotated bibliography citing every print and nonprint source for the book, pointing the way toward further research


  • Provides a unique introduction to a potentially overwhelming array of myths, useful for a quick search, casual browsing, or more in-depth study
  • Views the myths in their social, historical, and cultural context—how they emerged and how they reflect and influence Japanese life
  • Helps readers sort through the multiple names and spellings, as well as story variations, of Japan's most popular mythic figures
Author Info

Michael Ashkenazi is a professional writer and the author of numerous scholarly and encyclopedia articles on Japanese religion and culture. His published works include Matsuri: The Festivals of a Japanese Town and The Essence of Japanese Cuisine.



"[E]ngaging and informative guidebook . . . wonderfully vivid and compact introduction tells the core stories and provides key anthropological data explaining the role(s) of myths. The author's lucid, acessible, and even humorous style lightens the impressive scholarship . . . Japanese art enriches the cultural context."School Library Journal

"Highly recommended. All college and university collections."Choice

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