Tsukuyomi, the Japanese Moon God

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Konnichiwa! I know it’s been a while since I last wrote, I finally took this weekend off and finished the digging I was doing into Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto also known as Tsukuyomi. There’s a lot to this deity and I have to admit, despite being very brief in the mythology of Shinto and Japanese mythology, Tsukuyomi is an extremely rich and fascinating deity.

Origins

In Shinto and Japanese mythology, Tsukuyomi is considered one of the 3 main gods born out of the eyes and nose of the god Izanagi. Tsukuyomi was born out of the right eye of Izanagi and the goddess Izanami is considered his mother, despite him being born out of Izanagi’s eye. His sister Amaterasu was the goddess of the day, while he was the god of the night. His brother born, along with his sister Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi, out of Izanagi was the god of storms Susanoo. Susanoo was the twin brother of Amaterasu. All three of the siblings were born out of Izanagi during his purification ritual—one from his left eye, the other his right eye and the third out of his nose.

Unlike the majority of the moon deities, Tsukuyomi is a male moon god. If you look up Tsukuyomi’s family tree you will find, aside from his twin siblings Amaterasu and Susanoo, there were three other siblings. Izanagi considered Tsukuyomi, Susanoo and Amaterasu as the most important of the gods. It was then that he decreed that the three of them would rule the Heavens.

Etymology

His name is composed of two different old Japanese words: “tsuku” meaning “moon/month” and “yomi” meaning “reading/counting”. The Nihon Shoki spell his name as “Tsukuyumi” meaning “moon bow”. It could also be a combination of “tsukiyo” and “mi” which can be interpreted as “moonlit night watcher”. In Kojiki and Man’yōshū, he is occasionally referred to as “Tsukuyomi Otoko” or “Tsukihito Otoko”. This translates to “moon-reading man”.

Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi

Amaterasu

For a short while Tsukuyomi was married to his sister, Amaterasu, and it is uncertain if he was the father of her children. He, himself, had a child which he named Ame no Oshihomimi. Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi, as a married couple, ruled the day and night as one. Amaterasu ruled as day while her husband, Tsukuyomi, ruled as night. Together they shared the sky.

This brief marriage was ended when Amaterasu sent Tsukuyomi to Uke Mochi. He became disgusted when Uke Mochi created food from her own body and, as the god of beauty and order, Tsukuyomi found this to be a great violation of etiquette and he killed Uke Mochi because of this violation. However, in the process, he caused a gross violation of etiquette himself by taking the life of another. This would inevitably cause Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi to split up. This in turn caused the separation of day and night. Still loving Amaterasu, he spends eternity chasing her across the sky.

Tsukuyomi is considered a perfect match for Amaterasu as he is beautiful, serene and believes in order and etiquette. However, the irony is, he is willing to break this etiquette in order to uphold it.

Pop-Culture References

Modern day pop culture references have Tsukuyomi appearing as a woman, despite his clear mythological presence as a man.

He makes appearances in various anime and manga, such as:

  • Naruto where Tsukuyomi is a powerful hypnotic technique where the victim is put under a terrifying illusion by the Sharingan. This illusion causes them to experience days  of pain within second simply by looking into the eyes of the Sharingan.
  • In the light novel series Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy (Tsuki ga Michibiku Isekai Douchuu), Tsukuyomi is an important deity.
  • In Tsubasa Chronicle, the Princess Tomoyo of Nihon Country is called Tsukuyomi.

He is also present in games such as:

  • The Shin Megumi no Tensei series portrays him as a demon in the gaming series. He is first mentioned in Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx2
  • The famous card came Yu-Gi-Oh: Card Game Duel Monsters has Tsukuyomi.
  • In the card game Shadowverse, there are cards for both Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi.
  • In the world-famous MMORPG Final Fantasy, they have Tsukuyomi appearing as a female primal boss battle in Final Fantasy XIV.
  • In the game Chou Super Robot Wars, Tsukuyomi is patron deity of far eastern Rad in Eastia. He appears as a mechanical colossus. He is also a deity and a mecha created by his worshippers.
Tsukuiyomi: God Eater; July 12, 2015

In the video game God Eater, Tsukuyomi is a deusphage or “god-devourer’. He is also portrayed as a large human-like Aragami (violent god).

Conclusion

Tsukuyomi is relatively unique as one of few male moon gods. His appearance in mythology is very brief, but also very important. Despite people’s love of the moon, Tsukuyomi is cast in a very negative light in Shinto and Japanese folklore. Despite this negative light, he is still worshipped in shrines such as the one at Matsunoo-taishi in Kyoto. Some say Tsukuyomi could even be the forefather of the Japanese Imperial Family. This is not a commonly held belief, though.

Despite all the negative stigmatism, he is still considered the most proud and beautiful of the three siblings. You will be hard-pressed to find a deity like Tsukuyomi.

References:

www.mythos.fandom.com/wiki/tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto

www.mythopedia.com/topics/tsukuyomi

www.shinmegamitenseidx2.fandom.com/wiki/Tsukuyomi

www.gameideas.fandom.com/wiki/Tsukuyomi

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