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Amaterasu-ō-Mikami (Jap., ‘heavenly-shining-deity’). The central deity (kami) of the classical Shinto tradition. This female deity, usually associated with the sun, plays a central part in the most important myth cycles of Shinto, and subsequently in the ritual traditions of Shinto—especially as connected to the imperial household and the sense of a national religion. The mythologies tell us that she was born of the original parent deities, Izanagi and Izanami, and became the ruling deity in the ‘high heavenly plain’ (takama-no-hara) where the myriad heavenly deities dwell. Subsequently, she sent her grandson, Ninigi, to subjugate and rule the land of Japan. Out of this process the earthly kami were subjugated to the heavenly kami, and the imperial line came into being.

As the ancestral deity of the imperial family, Amaterasu was enshrined in the central shrines of Shinto at Ise. There, through the centuries, emperors and peasants alike have worshipped her, sought her help in times of trouble, and appealed to her life-giving power of renewal—especially on behalf of the whole nation.

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