Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Goddess Chronicle ~ Natsuo Kirino



In Japanese mythology, Izanaki (The Male Who Invites) and Izanami (The Female Who Invites) were amongst the original gods who were the creators of Japan and its gods. For many centuries myths like these would have been transmitted orally in Japan, until around 712 A. D. when a written version - the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), was compiled for the Japanese imperial court. The tales in the Kojiki tell of the creation of the world, the origin of the gods, and the ancestry of the Japanese emperors, who claimed their authority through direct descent from the sun goddess Amaterasu. 

Another early source of the mythology would have been the Nihongi, or Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan), completed around 720 A.D.





According to the legends, after their birth Izanaki and Izanami stood on the floating bridge of heaven, stirring the primeval ocean with a jewelled spear, on lifting the spear droplets fell from it into the water forming an island called Onogoro. Izanaki and Izanami descended to the island and became husband & wife. Not long after, Izanami gave birth to their first child who was deformed - the other gods blamed Izanami, because she spoke before her husband at their marriage ceremony. The couple decided to perform another wedding ceremony (perceived correct this time) and Izanami soon gave birth to eight lovely children - these became the islands of Japan.

Izanaki and Izanami then went on to create many more gods and goddesses, representing the mountains, valleys, waterfalls, streams, winds and the many other natural features of Japan. Life seemed good until during the birth of Kagutsuchi (the fire god), Izanami was badly burned, although as she lay dying, she continued creating gods and goddesses, whilst other deities emerged from the tear ducts of the heartbroken Izanaki. When Izanami died, she descended to Yomi (underworld) and her husband decided to go there and bring her back from this land of darkness and death. Izanami greeted Izanaki from the shadows as he approached the entrance to the underworld, warning him not to look upon her - full of desire for his wife, Izanaki lit a torch and looked into Yomi. Horrified by the sight of his wife, now a rotting corpse, Izanaki fled. Izanami, livid that her husband had failed to respect her wishes, sent hideous female spirits, eight thunder gods and an army of fierce warriors after him. Izanaki managed to escape by blocking the entrance between Yomi and the land of the living with a massive boulder. They subsequently broke off their marriage with Izanami now trapped behind this immovable boulder screaming out to Izanaki that if he left her she would kill a thousand of the living every day. He furiously replied he would give life to 1000 in return. Although Izanami has the last bitter laugh by choosing to kill the women her estranged husband impregnates. (Thanks to the Myths Encyclopaedia)



We learn about this from Namima, who with her sister has her life mapped out from birth. Her sister will become their island’s oracle and she will become the island’s priestess of death. This path is so rigidly marked out that there is no chance of her living any form of life she would choose for herself, in fact she is deemed impure – the Yin to her sisters Yang and upon her sister’s death she would be expected to commit suicide to maintain the balance. Yearning to break free from this straightjacket she is coerced to break one taboo & then another, becoming pregnant, leaving her with no choice but to flee with the man who claimed to love her, but will ultimately betray her by killing her and taking her new born daughter for purposes of his own. She wakes to find herself now trapped in Yomi, with a goddess who has had untold centuries to hone her vengeance. Namima, cannot come to terms with her new existence, and learns the tale of the goddess - seeing how it correlates with her and her own life was. She is also burning up with the desire to address the wrongs done to her, and needs to understand what has happened to her daughter.


The Goddess Chronicle is a retelling of the myth of Izanaki and Izanami by Natsuo Kirino and like her other books, this is more than just a simple tale of love gone foul. Anyone having read Out, Grotesque & Real world, will recognise the familiar themes of the deification of women, combined with their subjugation and estrangement from all that is worthwhile within Japanese society. Of women reaching beyond some role/image forced upon them, attempting to seek meaning, control over their existence, whilst they struggle against rigid societal conventions - leaving them with no option but to break the taboos, family ties and conventions laid down by a world that doesn't recognise them as individuals, and to ultimately pay the price. Because as with her other books there is always a tab to be paid. The Goddess Chronicle, is also like her other books in that it is a book that appears to turn its own pages, that sets a pace and just rolls along building up steam or in this case anger, because as John Lydon said “Anger is an energy” and in this book it burns off the page and through the retina - searing its cautionary tale into your neurons.


Natsuo Kirino, born October 7, 1951 in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture is the pen name of Mariko Hashioka, a Japanese novelist and a leading figure in the recent boom of female writers of Japanese detective fiction.
She earned a law degree in 1974 from Seikei University, and she dabbled in many fields of work before settling on being a writer. Not knowing what she wanted to do in life, Kirino began working at the Iwanami Hall movie theatre in her early twenties. She soon discovered it wasn't right for her and just before her thirtieth birthday she started taking scriptwriting classes. It wasn't until she was in her thirties that she began to seriously think about becoming a writer. It wasn't until her forties that she became popular as a writer.

10 comments:

Harvee Lau - Book Dilettante said...

I have been impressed by her other books, and would love to read this one too.

Parrish Lantern said...

Hi Harvee

Totally agree concerning her other books, this is not as good as "out" which is my favourite, but still a great read & an interesting take on this mythology.

me. said...

Very much need to get to a reading of this very soon.

Parrish Lantern said...

Hi Me, Yes I can see you enjoying this very much, I personally still prefer
Out, but thought this was good.

Brian Joseph said...

Great post.

I love mythology but know almost nothing of Japanese mythology.

The themes as you describe them seem fascinating. It is ironic that deification and worship, sometimes does go along with subjugation and control.

Parrish Lantern said...

H Brian

I have some Japanese mythology books, but for this post apart from the book itself I accessed Myths Encyclopaedia, which was a great help & provided me with all the information I needed. http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/

Bellezza said...

Out was one of the first books I ever read of Japanese Literature. I loved it at the time, and I'd like to revisit it as one blogger I quite respect didn't like it at all. But, of course, you and I both liked it! ;). It seems to me that Kirino has some anger issues, although that's probably putting it strongly. She is quick to point out the mistreatment of women which seems to be a point of is book, too. I'm glad you brought it to my (our) attention as it is new to me.

(I hope my comment is lucid; I'm under so much medication still for this damn oral surgery.)

Parrish Lantern said...

Hi Bellezza
I loved out & that's why are wanted to try this.
The way women are perceived & treated does appear to be one of her themes, but like great writers she does this without detracting from the storytelling.

Parrish Lantern said...

Hi Bellezza
I loved out & that's why are wanted to try this.
The way women are perceived & treated does appear to be one of her themes, but like great writers she does this without detracting from the storytelling.

Parrish Lantern said...

Hi Bellezza
I loved out & that's why are wanted to try this.
The way women are perceived & treated does appear to be one of her themes, but like great writers she does this without detracting from the storytelling.