Sketches of Japanese Folk Religion and Fairy Tales
Tall forest covered mountains rise from the ocean above the Japan’s villages and towns and into the sky where they bridge the gap between heaven and earth, between pure and impure. For it is from the mountains, from this avenue between heaven and earth which water springs. It is the pure water from these mountains which brings life to the world.
In Japan’s oldest folk religion’s the mountains are typically considered to be the most important and sacred of all objects. In ancient times the fishermen believed that the deity who controlled navigation and weather lived upon the mountains. Further there are a number of folktales in Japan in which the Thunder Kami which brings rain lives within the mountains.
Life giving water comes down from the mountains in the form of springs, and glacial streams to water peoples crops and create the forests. So the source of all life in Japan came from the mountains, the source of agriculture. The mountain kami were also the agricultural kami, the terms Yama-no-kami (kami of the mountain) and Ta-No-Kami (Kami of the rice paddy) were interchangeable. So in order to insure an abundant crop the farmers had to entice the kami down from the mountains in the spring time.
Each mountain kami was unique. Some were bright red and easily angered, like the ones in Tono. Others. were the spirits of bears or stages. Many, others, however were women who had lots of children and so needed the village to provide them with food to feed these children.
Learn More About Japanese Kami
Japanese Fairy Tales With Kami
The Bear Kami
How a bear's spirit became the guardian of a village. This fairy tale shows one way animals could become guardian kami. There was also a white deer enshrined in one region, a cat which became the guardian spirit of a samurai's home, a dog, and even a cow.
The Witch of the Mountain
A mountain witch's child is starving so she demands that the village bring her food.
The Mountain Kami and the Ugly Fish
The village uses humor to bring a mountain kami back to them.
The Priest and the Kami's cave
Those who are boastful are punished by the mountain kami.