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Japanese imperial regalia

The Japanese imperial regalia (jp: 三種の神器; "Sanshu no Jingi", or "Three Sacred Treasures") consists of a replica of the sword 草薙剣 "Kusanagi", the jewel 八尺瓊曲玉 "Yasakani no magatama", and the mirror 八咫鏡 "Yata no kagami". The regalia represent the three primary virtues: valor (the sword), wisdom (the mirror), and benevolence (the jewel).

The replica of the sword is located at Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, and the jewel and mirror are located in the Ise Shrine in Mie prefecture. Since 690, the presentation of these items to the Emperor by the priests at the shrine are a central part of the imperial enthronement ceremony. This ceremony is not public, and these items are by tradition only seen by the emperor and certain priests.

According to legend, these artifacts were brought by Ninigi no Mikoto, legendary ancestor of the Japanese Imperial line, when his grandmother, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, sent him to pacify Japan. Since 690, the presentation of these items to the Emperor by the priests at the shrine are a central part of the imperial enthronement ceremony (which is not public). Traditionally, they were a symbol of the emperor's divinity as a descendant of Amaterasu, from which he derived his legitimacy as paramount ruler of Japan.

According to legend, when Amaterasu hid in a cave from her brother Susanowo, thus plunging the world in darkness, the goddess Ama-no-Uzume hung the mirror outside the cave and lured her into peeking out of the cave, at which point she saw her own reflection and was startled enough that the gods could pull her out of the cave. Susanowo later presented in apology to Amaterasu the sword, Kusanagi, which he had obtained from the body of an eight-headed serpent.

During the Northern and Southern dynasties period in the 14th century, the possession by the Southern Dynasty of the imperial regalia has led modern chroniclers to define that as the legitimate dynasty for purposes of reign names and genealogy.

See also

 

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