Reflections of the Sun Goddess: the Evolution of a Japanese Myth Over Time

Third Thursday lecture - Sainsbury Institute

Thursday 19 January, 2023
6:00pm GMT - 7:00pm GMT

Online lecture, via Zoom.
50 min lecture followed by Q&A.
Free and open to all, booking essential.
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Dr Joshua Frydman (Assistant Professor of Japanese, University of Oklahoma and author of The Japanese Myths: A Guide to Gods, Heroes and Spirits)

About the Talk

When we talk about mythology in the English-speaking world, we often talk about “dead” myth systems—those that are no longer actively in use, such as Greco-Roman, Norse, Egyptian or Celtic mythology.  Because these mythologies are not around anymore, it is difficult to understand them as living systems that develop over time alongside and within their cultures.  However, as Japan is one example of a culture with a still living mythology, explaining the Japanese myths requires us to understand how they have changed over the centuries from the forms we see recorded to those we can witness today.  This talk will look at one example of this, specifically mythology surrounding the Japanese deity Amaterasu, Sun Goddess and progenitrix of the imperial family. By understanding how views of Amaterasu have changed and developed over time, we can learn how to understand mythology more broadly as part of a vibrant and continually evolving culture.

About the Speaker

Joshua Frydman is Assistant Professor of Japanese in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Linguistics at the University of Oklahoma.  A scholar on ancient Japan, his interests include the development of writing systems (in East Asia and worldwide), and the role of transregional and global cultural interactions in the development of premodern societies as viewed through literature and art. He is the author of The Japanese Myths: a Guide to Gods, Spirits and Heroes (Thames & Hudson, 2022) and Inscribed Objects and the Development of Literature in Early Japan (Brill, 2023).

Image: Woodblock print. History, myth and legend. The Gods luring Divine Light, Amaterasu, with music. 1 of 2. Nishiki-e on paper.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

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The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Yakult UK.