Kami (or Happy Spirits) is the name given in Japanese mythology to certain spirits or divinities who founded the first terrestrial dynasty. All primitive mythologies are coupled with and made to rise out of cosmogony. Unfortunately, however, the cosmogony of the Japanese is not only of the wildest sort, but so mixed with that of the Chinese that it is very difficult to speak with any certainty of this ancient religion. From primeval chaos, say the Japanese, there sprung a selfcreated, supreme God, who fixed his abode in the highest heaven, and could not have his tranquillity disturbed by any cares. Next there arose two plastic, creative gods, who framed the universe out of chaos. The universe was then governed for myriads of years by seven gods in succession. They are called the Celestial Gods. The last of them was the only one that had a wife, and to him the earth we inhabit owes its existence. In what may be called the Genesis of the Japanese Bible the creation of the world is thus narrated:
"In the beginning there was neither heaven nor earth. The elements of all things formed a liquid and troubled mass, similar to the contents of an undeveloped egg, in which the white and the yellow are still mingled together. Out of the infinite space which this chaos filled a god arose, called the divine Supreme Being, whose throne is in the centre of heaven. Then came the celestial reason exalted above the creation; finally, the terrestrial reason who is the sublime spirit. Each one of these three primitive gods had his own existence, but they were not yet revealed beyond their spiritual natures. Then, by degrees, the work of separation went on in chaos. The tiniest atoms, moving in different directions, formed the heavens. The grosser atoms attaching themselves to each other, and adhering, produced the earth The former, moving rapidly, constructed the vault of the firmament which arches above our heads; the latter, being slowly drawn together in a solid body did not form the earth until at a much later period. When the earthly matter still floated as a fish that comes to the surface of the waters, or as the image of the moon that trembles on a limpid lake, there appeared between the heavens and the earth something similar to a piece of reed, endowed with movement, and capable of transformation. It was changed into three gods, which are: the August one, reigning perpetually over the empire; he who reigns by virtue of water; and he who reigns by virtue of fire. All three were of the male sex, because they owed their origin to the action of the divine reason alone. After the first three males there came three pairs of gods and goddesses, reigning over the elements of wood, metal, and earth. This second dynasty contained as many goddesses as gods, because the terrestrial united equally with the celestial reason in producing them. The first of the seven gods commenced the creation of the earth, and all together personify the elements of the creation. The sera of the celestial gods, commencing with the first and terminating with the last male and female pair, who were called Izanaghi and Izanami, continued for millions of millions of years.
"But the world, and, most important of all, the empire of Japan, was not yet created. The, account given, therefore, is very circumstantial. One day, when the god and goddess were sitting together on the arch of the sky, they happened to talk of the possible existence of an inferior world. "There should be somewhere," said zanaghi at length to his wife, " a habitable earth. Let us seek it under the waters that are seething beneath us." He plunged his spear into the water, and, as he withdrew it, some turbid drops trickled from the diamond point of his javelin, congealed, and formed a great island, upon which the pair descended, determined to make it the beginning of a grand archipelago. From out the waters Izanaghi raised the island of Awadzi, then the mountainous Oho-yamato, rich in fruits and with fine harbors; then the others in succession, until the empire of the eight great islands was completed. The smaller islands were then made, six in number; and the islets scattered here and there formed themselves afterwards from the mixture of the sea-foam and the deposits of the rivers. Eight millions of gods (genii) were then called into existence, and ten thousand kinds of things, out of which came everything that can be found in the earth. Upon the completion of this work, Izanaghi and his wife made the earth their habitation, and became the progenitors of the five dynasties of terrestrial deities, who in turn governed the earth during two million and odd years. The last of these, having married a terrestrial wife, left a mortal son upon earth named Linmou-tenwou, the ancestor and progenitor of the races of men, the first of the mikados. SEE MIKADO. Born upon earth, Linmou-tenwou was -of course mortal. His parents, especially the tender Izanami, trembled at the thought that she must one day close the eyes of her children, and yet continue to enjoy immortality herself. They therefore conferred upon their terrestrial offspring the gift of immortality, the power of mediation between the gods and man-made them immortal kamis, happy spirits, worthy of divine honors. This is the point where the Japanese commence their history, and hence their doctrine, that the spirits of human beings survive the body, and, according to the actions of the individual in life, receive reward or punishment. When a man's life has been. distinguished for piety, for patriotism, or for good works, the Japanes deify him, after death, as a kami, and thus the number of these demigods has become indefinite. Some of these spirits preside specially over the; elements and powers of nature.
The worship of these demigods or Kami is called Kami-no-mitsi, or "the way of the Kami." It possesses some features which are found in the religious observances of no other race. There are chapels dedicated to the several Kamis in all parts of the empire, but they are most numerous and celebrated in the southern islands. "' These chapels are called mias. They are always built in the most picturesque localities, and especially where there is a grove of high trees. Sometimes a splendid avenue of pines or cedars conducts to the sacred place, which is always approached through one or more detached portals, called tors, like the pyle of the Egyptian temples. 'The chapel is usually set upon a hill, natural or artificial, buttressed with Cyclopean walls, and with a massive stone stairway leading to the top. At the foot of the stairs there is a small building containing a tank of water for ablutions. The chapel itself is usually small, and very simple in its plan, much resembling the native dwelling-house. Three sides are closed, and one is open to sun and air. The woodwork is kept scrupulously clean, and the floor is covered with the finest matting. The altar, which stands alone in the centre, is ornamented with a plain disk of metal, but no statues or symbolical figures are to be seen, and very rarely emblems of any kind. Nevertheless, there are sometimes stationed at the head of the staircase, coutside of the chapel, sitting figures resembling dogs and unicorns, which are said to represent the elements of water and fire. The interior is generally hung with strips or ribbons of colored paper, the exact significance of which is not yet clearly understood. The chapels are also ornamented by their pious votaries with colored lanterns, vases of perfume, and of flowers or evergreen branches, which are renewed as fast as they wither. At the foot of the altar there is a heavy chest with a metal grating, through which fall the pieces of money contributed: it is hardly necessary to say that the priest carries a key to the box. These mias were originally commemorative chapels, erected in honor of Japanese heroes, like that of Tell by the lake of the Four Forest Cantons. The prince of the province which had given birth to the hero, or where his deeds had been performed, took upon himself the charge of keeping the chapel in repair; there was no priest to officiate at the altar of the kami; no privileged caste interposed between the adorer and the object of his worship. The act of adoration, in fact, performed before the mirror (representing that bequeathed by the goddess Izanami to her children), passed beyond the guardian spirit of the chapel, and reached the supreme god above him. The chapel, therefore, was open to all; the worship was voluntary, and offered as the individual might choose, no ceremonial being prescribed. With the introduction of Buddhism; however, an important change took place. The new faith was sufficiently incorporated with the old to transfer the chapels to the special charge of the priests [called Kami-nusi, or 'ministers of the spirits'], and to introduce, in place of the voluntary, formless worship of the people, a system of processions, litanies, offerings, and even of miracle- working images. Indeed, almost the only difference between this system and the worship of the saints in Catholic countries lies in the circumstance that the priests who officiate only put on their surplices for the occasion, and become secular again when they leave the chapel" (Bayard Taylor's Japan, p. 255 sq., in the excellent collection of Scribner's Library of Wonders, Travels, etc., N. Y., 1872, 12mo). Compare Humbert, Sojourn in Japan, transl. in Ladies' Repository, March, 1870, p. 184 sq.; Macfarlane, Japan (London, 1852, 8vo), p. 204 sq.; Siebold, Aippon, i, 3 sq.; ii, 51; Kampfer, Japan, in Pinkerton, 7:672 sq.; Tylor, Primitive Culture (London, 1871,'2 vols. 8vo), vol. ii (see Index) (J. H.W.)