All about Fujin & Raijin: Japanese Wind & Thunder Gods

Fujin and Raijin are two gods in the Japanese Shinto pantheon. They were born out of the rotting body of Izanami, the female creator god.

Fujin, Raijin and many other demons were released unto the human world when Izanagi came to retrieve Izanami from the Underworld, but was frightened by Izanami’s rotten appearance.

Raijin, The Japanese Thunder God
Raijin, The Japanese Thunder God

Seeking revenge, Izanami ordered Fujin, Raijin and many other demons to kill as many living beings as possible.

Fujin, the Japanese God of Winds

FUJIN (sometimes FUTEN). The God of the Winds, shown with the head of a demon, two claws on each foot and a thumb, with three claw-like fingers on each hand, with one of which he grasps a bag containing the winds, whilst the other holds a spear from which depends a red pennant.

Fujin, the Japanese God of Winds
Fujin, the Japanese God of Winds

When thus depicted he is one of the Twelve Deva Kings, VASU; when without the spear, he grasps his bag with both hands, the winds escaping from one end of it.

He is sometimes shown with Raijin, the Thunder God, whose attributes he occasionally borrows, both repairing their “plant,” very much the worse for wear, or fighting in the sky.

Raijin, the Japanese Thunder God

RAIJIN – The Thunder God – usually depicted as a creature of red colour with the face of a demon, with two claws on each foot, and carrying on its back a drum or a wheel of drums. He is often represented in company with FUJIN, or with his own son, and the treatment is generally humorous.

The drum is perhaps torn or burst, and needs mending, or the mice are eating it, or the God drags along his burden of drums in a cloth bag. Falling from its aerial haunts, it occasionally drops upon the earth, and in so doing damages both its drums and itself; hence, it is shown rubbing or holding with both hands the bruised part of its body.

It may also have tumbled in Otafuku’s foot-bath, or be shown hiding under a hat from a shower of beans, like an ordinary Oni.

Or, sometimes, Raijin fights with Tengus, or with FUTEN, or peaceful walks about with the latter. His son, RAITARO, is often his companion.

Taking the form of a thunder animal, Raijin jumps from tree to tree in storms; it is fond of eating people’s navels, and the only protection against such contingency occurring consists in the use of a mosquito net, which the animal cannot enter, and in the accessory burning of incense, which it abhors.

Several times, however, the thunder animal was caught by a human being, as will be seen in the stories of SUGARU, and SHOKURO, and the Nihongi. Both Sugawaru Michizane and Minamoto Yoshihira are said to have become transformed into the Thunder God to avenge themselves upon their enemies.

When the Mongols attempted to invade Japan, they were repelled in a storm, and legend has it that only three men escaped to tell the story.

Raijin’s intervention in favour of Japan is often depicted in this event, when he is shown in the clouds emitting lightning and speeding arrows at the invaders.

Shokuro captures and beats Raijin

Legend of SHOKURO. There is a story of a man named Shokuro, of the village of Oinura, who, to earn the good graces of Toru, the magistrate of his district, promised him that he would catch the Thunder God.

He had hit upon a special plan which consisted in attaching a human navel to the end of a kite, and flying the latter during a storm. The Thunder God, being fond of human navels, would be sure to pounce upon the bait and be caught.

The only difficult part of the business was how to obtain the navel of a live person. The occasion presented itself when he met in the woods a woman named O Chiyo, whom he killed, cut out her navel, and threw her corpse in a ditch.

Kaminari Sama (another name for Raijin) noticed the woman in the ditch, and came down upon her, when he was struck by her beauty, and taking from his mouth a navel which he was chewing, he restored her to life, married her, and took her with him into the sky.

Hence the saying which couples the name of Kaminari and O Chiyo. Some days later Shokuro was on the war-path, hunting for the thunder, and O Chiyo let herself be caught by his kite. As she came down she recognised her murderer, and he was just as much astonished; she then regained her own navel. Kaminari Sama came down in a rage, only to receive a severe beating from Shokuro, who made his peace with O Chiyo and became famous in his village.

Sugaru captures Raijin to stop a thunderstorm

SUGARU, nicknamed the God-catcher, was a courtier of Yuriaku Tenno. It is said that once, as the Emperor prepared to leave his palace in Yamato, a thunderstorm burst, and he ordered Sugaru to catch hold of RAIJIN, the Thunder God. Sugaru rode to Mount Abe, chasing the God before him and commanding him in the name of the Emperor to stop the storm, but without avail until he began to pray to Kwannon, who delivered Raijin into his hands. He tied Raijin in a sack and took him to the Emperor; hence his nickname.

Atlas Mythica

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