Kojiki (古事記 “Records of Ancient Matters” or “An Account of Ancient Matters”), also known as Furukotofumi, is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century (711–712) and composed by Ō no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Genmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four home islands of Japan, and the Kami. Along with the Nihon Shoki, the myths contained in the Kojiki are part of the inspiration behind many practices. Later, the myths were re-appropriated for Shinto practices including the misogi purification ritual.
The Kojiki is divided into three parts: the Kamitsumaki (上巻 “first volume”), the Nakatsumaki (中巻, “middle volume”) and the Shimotsumaki (下巻, “lower volume”).
- The Kamitsumaki, also known as the Kamiyo no Maki (神代巻, “Volume of the Age of the Gods”), includes the preface of the Kojiki, and is focused on the deities of creation and the births of various deities of the kamiyo period, or Age of the Gods. The Kamitsumaki also outlines the myths concerning the foundation of Japan. It describes how Ninigi-no-Mikoto, grandson of Amaterasu and great-grandfather of Emperor Jimmu, descended from heaven to Takachihonomine in Kyūshū and became the progenitor of the Japanese imperial line.
- The Nakatsumaki begins with the story of Emperor Jimmu, the first Emperor, and his conquest of Japan, and ends with the 15th Emperor, Emperor Ōjin. The second through ninth emperors’ reigns are recorded in a minimum of detail, with only their names, the names of their various descendants, and the place-names of their palaces and tombs listed, and no mention of their achievements. Many of the stories in this volume are mythological, and the allegedly historical information in them is highly suspect. Recent studies support the view that these emperors were invented to push Jimmu’s reign further back to the year 660 BC.
- The Shimotsumaki covers the 16th to 33rd emperors and, unlike previous volumes, has very limited references to the interactions with deities. These interactions are very prominent in the first and second volumes. Information about the 24th to the 33rd emperors are largely missing, as well.