Amaterasu (also known by Amaterasu-omikami, Ohirume-no-muchi-no-kami) is part of Japanese mythology and is also a major deity of the Shinto religion. She is known as the goddess of the sun, but also of the universe. Her name is means “shining in heaven” and her whole name means “the great august kami who shines in heaven”. The meaning of her name is understandable since she is the goddess of the sun and the universe. According to the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki in Japanese mythology the Emperors of Japan are considered to be the direct descendants of Amaterasu. It also appears to be a Japanese expression of a historical pan-Asiatic solar goddess. There are some similarities between Amaterasu and the Korean solar goddess Hue-nim, particularly in regards to shamanistic worship that utilizing the same symbols and practices. Although it seems Amaterasu is highly worshiped in Japan, she is still worshiped as a central figure for other places.
The oldest story of Amaterasu comes from about ca. 712 CE Kojiki and ca. 720 CE Nihon Shoki which are the oldest records of Japanese history. Amaterasu is the sister of Susanoo, who is the god of storms and the sea, and of Tsukuyomi, who is the god of the moon. It was written that Amaterasu had painted the landscape with her siblings to create ancient Japan. All three of them were born from Izangi when he was purifying himself after entering Yomi, the underworld, after failing to save Izuanami. Amaterasu was born when Izanagi washed his left eye, Tsukuyomi from his right eye, and Susanoo from washing his nose. Amaterasu then became the ruler of the sun and heavens along with her brother the god of the moon and ruler of the night. At first Amaterasu shared the skies with her brother and husband Tsukuyomi until out of absolute disgust he killed the goddess of food, Uke Mochi, when she supposedly pulled food from her rectum, nose, and mouth. This killing upset Amaterasu and cased her to label Tsukuyomi as an evil god and spirit and split away from him, which caused the separation of night and day.
The texts also state that Amaterasu and her brother Susanoo had a long standing rivalry. At some point Izanagi ordered him to leave Heaven and so he approached his sister to say goodbye. She was suspicious of Susanoo, but he proposed a challenge to prove his sincerity and she accepted the challenge. They both took an object from each other and birthed gods and goddesses. Amaterasu birthed three women from Susanoo’s sword and he birthed five men from Amaterasu’s necklace. After this she claimed that the gods were her’s since they were birthed from her necklace and that the goddess were Susanoo’s since they were born from his sword. Through this kind of logic, she claimed she won the challenge, and they both accepted it and were content for a while. After a while, however, Susanoo became restless and angry that he went on a rampage and destroyed Amaterasu’s rice fields, hurled a flayed pony at her loom, and even killed one of her attendants. Amaterasu was in grief and was angry over this rampage and hid away in the Ama-no-Iwato, or heavenly rock cave, and so the sun was gone for a very long time.
She was finally persuaded to leave the cave, and Susanoo was punished and banished from Heaven. Later Amaterasu and Susanoo amended their conflict when Susanoo got her the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi sword as a reconciliation gift. When they both reconciled the moon became visible again. According to the legend she bequeathed to her descendants Ninigi the mirror, Yata no Kagami the jewel, and Yasakani no Magatama the sword. This sacred mirror, jewel, and sword became the three Imperial Regalia of Japan.
The Ise Shrine located in Ise, Honshu, Japan houses the inner shrine Naiku which is dedicated to Amaterasu. The sacred mirror Yato no Kagami is said to be kept at this shrine as one of the Imperial Regalia of Japan. At this shrine is a ceremony known as Shikinen which is held every twenty years to honor Amaterasu. Each time the ceremony is held the main shrine buildings are destroyed and rebuilt at a location adjacent to the previous site. After this, new clothes and food are offered to Amaterasu. This practice is part of the Shinto faith and has been around since about the year 690.