The Amatsukami are the heavenly divinities of ancient Japan. When asked how long they have been around, they are certain to reply “forever.” Other tribes usually estimate their age as falling between that of the Dodekatheon and the Aesir, though it is possible that the Amatsukami are not lying about their age. Regardless, the Amatsukami certainly have a different way of working in the World.
Amaterasu AKA: Omikami, Tensho Daijin
Amaterasu is the Queen of the Heavenly Plain, Goddess of the sun and mother of the imperial family of Japan. She was the most powerful of the Japanese deities, and when she went into hiding in a cave, the World was plunged into darkness. Only by positioning a mirror before the cave entrance and staging an elaborate and noisy entertainment outside were the other Gods able to draw her from her seclusion. Once she looked in the mirror, she realized how beautiful and elegant, how glorious and how delightful, she truly was. She resumed her duties more radiant and wonderfully confident than she had been before.
It was a more than adequate preparation for modern life. Amaterasu knows her own beauty so well that she can use it as a mirror to reflect others’ beauty. She helps mortals understand their own appearance and their own beauty, because she knows how to use her own. As a fashion and artistic photographer, she has sought to turn her lens on the poor and the powerful alike, to reveal their dignity, their honor and their strength of character. As a dancer, she moves in ways that lift people’s spirits. As a jeweler, she’s made pieces that complement and elevate their wearers in the eyes of others. Anything to which she puts her hand becomes ever more beautiful and refined. And, more than anything else, what she puts her hand to is Japan.
Since the other Gods and the US Army quashed metaphysically and physically her maternal relationship with the rulers of Japan, Amaterasu has taken to strengthening her whole people. Great artists-be they sculptors, painters or designers-become her partners and help give birth to new generations of Scions who will make Japan great and beautiful. She raises them to be engineers, doctors, artisans, martial artists, musicians-all sorts of people who are capable of making her land great. The Scions of Amaterasu are called upon to make their homeland in truth the land of the rising sun.
Hachiman, lord of fishing nets, fertile fields and war, is a changeable and flexible God. His symbol, the tomoe, is three teardrops circling in a vortex, signifying the forces of change and transformation that he brings to any occasion. In legends, he could be a warrior with a topknot, a bald-headed priest or a long-haired fisherman. As a divine protector of all social classes, he is able to shift even his divine form, becoming fat or thin, tall or short, bald or hairy, as the moment takes him. Unfortunately, he is unable to shift forms on the fl y; whatever shape he takes for a given encounter, he must retain. In addition, the dove and his eight traditional banners are present wherever he goes. They are inviolable symbols of his presence.
In modern times, Hachiman sees Amaterasu’s obsession with Japan as needlessly focused. As a martial artist and Buddhist monk, he has brought the benefits of Japanese ideals to the West. As a dexterous chef, he’s served up the benefits of its cuisine. As an anime producer, he’s touted its storytelling and its culture. He laughs early and often, and enjoys family gatherings where he can sit as the wise old uncle, spinning tales about life after the war or in the internment camps. Most of all, he carries on war against the enemies of reality by other means: tying together networks of people and ideas, fertilizing the open fields of hungry minds and campaigning for good education in science and technology. Like all generals, he knows that logistics, not glory, wins battles and wars. Hachiman chooses which of his children he will reveal his true nature to for exactly the same reasons. The most aggressive and difficult ones he tends to ignore, in favor of those with practical goals and achievable ends.
His Scions need to be officers and leaders of soldiers, not cannon fodder on the field, especially now that the theater of battle is the World. Rarely are his Scions dull or unintelligent, for the Lord of Eight Banners wants an army that loves its country with eyes open to both its benefits and its flaws. His Birthrights are often books-manuals of battle tactics or business management, designed to shift a reader’s consciousness.
The first man of the Amatsukami, was the father of Amaterasu and the creator of all the lands and islands of Japan. He was the parent, with Izanami, of many deities and spirits, and most continue to pay court upon their father. As lord of the sky, he helps maintain both the motion of the stars and planets, and keeps the weather fl owing in orderly patterns. He has some responsibility for assuring the fertility of human beings, as well. After his wife Izanami died in childbirth, he beheld her putrescent form during an ill-fated rescue from Yomi. Embarrassed and enraged, she swore vengeance, saying she would destroy 1,000 of his people a day; Izanagi retorted that 1,500 of his people would thus be born each day. Tall, with black hair, moustache and beard, graceful hands and a regal bearing, Izanagi appears as a mature Japanese man whose eyes hold a look of grim determination touched with sadness.
In modern times, Izanagi often appears as a lonely businessman. He spends a lot of time in bars and graveyards, lingering in both on his way to and from his workplace every day. Whether he plays at being a middle manager, a train conductor, a bank branch manager or a shop salesman, he really lives for those few minutes in the graveyard when he can talk to his dead wife. (Or those few minutes in the bar when he can sing karaoke mournfully about the love he had and lost.) The other Gods put Izanagi in charge of monitoring and minimizing changes in the atmosphere, but he has no real heart for the work and neglects vast amounts of his duties.
Izanagi’s Scions are often at loose ends in the World as a result. Not yet tasked with any specific function by their father, they are often contacted first of all by other divinities, trying to shake their old man loose from his maudlin behavior (which has been going on at least six or seven thousand years). Some feel that Izanagi could soon fall to the rage and aggression of a Titan or worse.
Izanami is Izanagi’s dead wife, queen of the Underworld and the first woman of the Amatsukami. In the days when she was alive, she helped give birth to all the Gods and islands of Japan. She died giving birth to a child, and her husband immediately killed the boy out of anger and frustration after the woman he loved was taken from him. Izanami became Queen of Yomi, the Japanese Underworld. Her horrific appearance there-half-rotted and swarming with maggots-causes her to choose darkness and death over life and light. She and Izanagi are forever separated and cannot bear to look on each other anymore. The shikome, Izanami’s handmaidens, are almost as terrifying to look on as she is.
Izanami doesn’t get out into the World much. She tends to be reclusive; a common disguise is as old lady living with 47 cats in a house that smells of formaldehyde and dust. Even then, though, a search of her history turns up great achievements in the past-as a biologist, a mother, an ethicist, a philosopher and a campaigner for family values. Her history tends to latch onto her and find a way to express itself, as it does for all the Gods. Fate catches up with everyone eventually.
Izanami’s Scions tend to be children of either her creative, light phase or her dark and deathly phase. The creative children are clever and happy, capable of beautiful works of great energy. The other Gods usually shower them with artistic Birthrights in memory of their living mother, but keep them away from any real power or place where they might do genuine damage or good. Her dark Scions, on the other hand, tend to receive their power directly from their mother’s hand. Izanami does not always love the Gods who could not save her in childbirth, and she picks out her aggressive offspring to be scourges to the other divinities. Some wonder if she intends to side with the Titans in the current conflict.
Red-skinned, with clawed feet and a demonic visage, orbited by a set of drums and wielding a mighty bow, Raiden is the God of thunder and lightning. A guardian against invaders and invasions, he so effectively turned back the Mongol fleet sent against Japan that only three sailors survived. Many fear him because of his terrible face and his often-angry opinions about the state of the World and the nation.
Yet if you can get him to calm down long enough (usually through the application of sake in copious quantities), he proves to be quite a likeable fellow who can offer advice on just about any subject. Whether you take that advice depends on how drunk you made yourself in the process. Raiden is a famous admirer of belly buttons, and he has been known to steal them from people. Current fashion trends favoring bare midriffs please him tremendously.
These days, Raiden is a pig. He is ugly by anyone’s standards, no matter what disguise he puts on. So, other than hiding his teeth, muting the red of his skin and sheathing his feet in boots, Raiden tends to not hide very much of his amiably disgusting behavior. He eats too much, belches and farts publicly, drinks soda in the white rooms and server rooms (of course he works in the computer field-harnessed lightning is always interesting to him) and leers at pretty women. He openly disdains ugly ones. When he plays at being a college student, he wins invitations to fraternities simply because he can be so boorishly funny. After graduation, though, everyone discovers how difficult it can be to have him as a roommate camped on the couch for weeks on end.
Raiden’s Scions are often lesser versions of their father. They might not be quite as appalling, but the apple here never falls very far from the tree. Inclined to indecent behavior and possessing great skill with modern technology, they tend to become the Gods’ programmers and hackers, finding information and defending the soft places in reality’s defenses. Having access to one of the World’s most primal forces, they also have some command over plant life, a powerful, root-level network for change and communication in the World.
God of the sea and of storms, Susanoo is a fiery-tempered, bearded young man, full of rage. He is always haring off on some wild adventure-usually because he is unwelcome where he currently resides. In one legend, he found himself sent out of Takamagahara-the Amatsukami’s region of the Overworld-on some thin pretext, so he decided to visit his sister, Amaterasu, before he left. They had a contest in which they both made people. She made beautiful women from fragments of his sword, and he made men from the jewels of her necklace. Yet Amaterasu was clearly the winner. In anger, Susano-o killed one of her attendants, destroyed her rice fields and finally flung a flayed horse into her weaving room. He was banished to the World, where he had to slay an eight-headed dragon, marry a peasant girl after many trials and give up his sword to his sister before he was allowed to return to Takamagahara.
Given how exciting the World can be, Susano-o sometimes wonders if the apologies were worth it. He likes marching in parades and protests, fighting guerrillas in deserts and jungles, blowing up buildings, setting off fireworks (both physical and metaphorical), jumping out of airplanes, surfing in hurricanes and starting revolutions. It’s an exciting time to be alive, plus there are all sorts of incredibly beautiful women around. What’s not to like? And it’s not nearly so stuffy and orderly as the Overworld. Humans are into chaos, and they like people who can create it, especially in front of TV cameras.
Everything is that much better if it’s possible that his current idiocy could be seen by millions of people. Susano-o’s Scions tend to seek thrills in similar fashion. They behave badly in public, commit atrocities in battle, make fools of themselves in restaurants and manage to get back in people’s good graces by doing amazingly stupid things that succeed beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. They always have a wonderful time, unless there’s no one around to see their exploits after the fact. There’s no point in achieving amazing results if there’s no one to confirm them afterward. Nobody likes a braggart, after all.
Tsuki-yomi, the God of the moon, is the brother of Amaterasu, though the two of them are forever separated. Tsuki-yomi went to a feast as Amaterasu’s representative but killed the hostess-the Goddess of food, Uke Mochi-because she created food by looking at the land or sea from which a particular kind of food came and then vomiting up the food. Tsuki-yomi was so revolted that he simply could not help himself, but drew his sword and slew her. Appalled by his conduct, Amaterasu sent him to the other side of the sky and will not look at him directly ever again. As a result, Tsukiyomi sits and sulks much of the time. Eager of any excuse to be out of his disdainful sister’s presence, Tsuki-yomi spends the rest of his time acting as a messenger between the worlds above and the worlds below.
Such coming and going suits Tsuki-yomi well. As a diplomat, a courtier, an airline pilot, a jet-setter, a quality inspector and a management guru, the moon God’s traveled all over the World, interacting with people and changing lives. Fortunately, he has learned better table manners than when his sister became so furious, but he still watches over offenses committed by hosts on guests, and in those cases, his judgment is swift and terrible. To improve his own manners and impeccable credentials, he has run a whole series of restaurants, and in the process, he’s discovered that he really does like to cook.
Tsuki-yomi’s Scions are motivated to be movers and shakers in the World. While they rarely produce art themselves, they might run galleries and promote the paintings of others; start publishing companies to produce books; edit and distribute magazines of photographs and important news; or sponsor literary nights or poetry readings to further the cause of the arts. Because of the pull of their father, however, their involvement in projects tends to follow a tidal cycle, swinging toward mania during one part of the day and into depression during others-circling from brightness to darkness over the course of every month. Always very good at helping others reach for their dreams, they rarely achieve their own.