According to Japanese mythology, the world began as a formless mass that drifted aimlessly like a jellyfish in water.
Out of this mass, a slender reed arose.
This was Kuntiokotachi, the first god. Two more gods joined him, and together they created seven generations of gods and goddesses, ending with the male Izanagi and female Izanami.
The gods ordered the couple to create order in the world.
Standing on the Bridge of Heaven, which spanned across the watery void, Izanagi stirred the depths with a jeweled spear.
When he pulled the spear from the water, the drops became an island called Onokoro. Onokoro was the first solid land.
Together, Izanagi and Izanami built a palace on Onokoro, with a central stone pillar.
Izanagi walked one way around the pillar while Izanami walked in the opposite direction. When they met together face to face, they carried out the courtship of marriage.
Soon afterwards, Izanami gave birth to a son. They discovered to their horror that the baby was deformed, and they named him Hiruko, meaning Leech-Child.
They placed him a reed boat and set him adrift. Hiruko became the god of fisherman. The next time Izanami gave birth, she had healthy children, the eight islands of Japan and numerous gods and goddesses, including the gods of trees, mountains, and wind.
When Izanami gave birth to the god of fire, Kagusutchi, she was so badly burned that she died.
Izanagi dips his jewelled spear into the ocean while Izanami watches. The droplets falling from the spear form the first island of Japan.
This magnificent hanging scroll was painted by Japanese artist Kobayashi Eitaku (1843-1890).