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Shinigami Gods Of Death Japanese – Mythology



Shinigami Meaning by The Japanese

In Japan, they have their twist on death, the Shinigami meaning gods of death or death spirits. Rather than begin directly responsible when someone dies, they must invite an as a rope to their demise.

Shinigami death note

Shinigami does not appear too much in Japanese literature. It doesn’t apply to a specific God or spirit but rather to various entities
that are believed to bring death. Describing their appearance can be rather tricky as they can take a host of different forms appearing as a god, spirit, or demon-like figure. In early Japanese literature, the Shinigami will never really describe as physical entities.

Shinigami Ningyo Joruri

Ningyo Joruri

If we look at Ningaloo Oyouri or Bunraku, the ancient Japanese art of puppet theatre, the works of Chikamatsu Monzaemon commonly tackled the issue of suicide in a particular story; he describes a man and a woman attempting to commit double suicide. They explained life has been concise when being lowered by a death god.

It’s unclear if the existence of a shinigami drove their action, but in this context, the word Shinigami was almost used as an expression to describe how short life can be, especially when we waste time worrying
about the inevitable end that awaits us all.

In the classical literature of the Japanese 18th and 19th centuries, the descriptions of the Shinigami began to change; if we take a look at the Ehon Hyaku Monogatari, often referred to as the picture book of a hundred stories, it covers a host of different Yokai and supernatural entities. There is a story titled Shinigami, and in this story, the Shinigami is described as the spirit of someone who passed but still harbored evil intent, quite similar to how we would describe a ghost or a poltergeist.

Shinigami Ehon Hyaku Monogatari

Ehon Hyaku Monogatari

The spirit would lead the living along a bad path and take them to places where previous steps had occurred. They were known to lead those contemplating suicide to places where others had previously hung themselves, hoping that history would repeat itself.

This form of Shinigami was believed to possess people and slowly break their will, causing them to want to die. It was believed that several things would happen to someone possessed by this particular type of spirit; they would eighter find it extremely difficult, to tell the truth when asked questions or find it almost impossible to speak.

What we Understand About Shinigami

We can practically assume that these are techniques used by the Shinigami to alienate their hosts from friends and family making it much harder for them to seek help. It’s believed that they could invade a person’s thoughts, forcing them to relive every horrible thing they had ever done until it became so much that death was the only release.

The Izanagi and the Izanami are what many consider to be an example of the very first Shinigami they were the eight pairs of brother and sister deities that appeared when the earth was created, and they were often associated with both creation and death.

Shinigami Izanagi and Izanami

Shinigami Izanagi and Izanami

The Shinigami are quite similar to the other colony of the Shinto religion, but their history doesn’t stretch as far back because, after all, they are a relatively recent invention. It wasn’t until Japan came into contact with the west and their ideas of particular gods associated with death that the idea of the Shinigami really began to grow and develop where it was common for western cultures to have very few cards to the death god. In Japan, there were many Shinigami, and they often worked in groups and pairs.

Tales and History

There was an exciting tales about a man who fed up with his life, and so he contemplates suicide, but before he can do so, he is visited by Shinigami, who tells him that his time has not come yet the spirit explained to the man that each person’s life is measured on the candle, and once the flame burns out, that person dies; these depictions differ drastically and contradict the early description of the Shinigami who appeared more as vengeful spirits; it’s obvious that in this story, they have no control over who lives and who dies.

Shinigami tales and History japan

They’re essential told when a person’s time has come to an end, but perhaps they are even able to sense when a person’s time is near when the figurative candle is about to burn out; to stop the man’s end in his life, the Shinigami tells him how he could become wealthy.


The man would pretend to be a doctor who would claim he could cure any disease. He was given a magic phrase of words that would send any Shinigami back to the underworld and lengthen someone’s life. The phrase would only work if the Shinigami were sitting at the foot of someone’s bed; If they were at the head of the bed, the magical word would only cause a sick person to die. With his newfound knowledge, the man indeed grew very rich, and one day, when visiting a patient, he saw the Shinigami at the head of the patient bed. The family begged the man to help and offer the client several offers; the family provided an amount of money so large.

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The man was consumed by greed; when the Shinigami fell asleep, the patient swapped the ends of the bed, and the magical words sent the spirit back to the underworld. When the man arrived home, the same Shinigami was waiting for him. Infuriated by what he had just done, the Shinigami told the man that all would be forgotten if they went for a drink to celebrate the man’s newly earned fortune. The man, of course, agreed; not knowing that he had just fallen for a trick, he was taken to a building filled with candles. He was shown his own candle, which was nearly burnt out because of his actions, the man was told he could extend his life by transferring the wick and the wax of his candle to another, but of course, this was another trick; the man failed to drop his candle and dying.

Shinigami Japanese Gods of Death Ryuk

This is a story that I enjoy because not only does it show us that Shinigami are unpredictable, but they seem to have distinct personalities; The first Shinigami appeared as quite friendly, explaining to the man how death worked and even helping him improve his life; the following spirit the man came across did not seem to be too concerned of the fact that he was sending them back to the underworld but
it was a lost Shinigami; he was angered by his action, swearing revenge against the man and ultimately taken the man’s life as a payment for the soul he had stopped him acquiring.

The modern Age Shinigami Explain

Now I know you fans of the Death Note anime and manga had been waiting for this type of article for a while, and a topic discussed in Shinigami wouldn’t exactly be complete without taking and look at their recent depictions and transformations.

Shinigami in death note ryoka japan

Shinigami in death note Ryuk

Shinigami the Shinigami appear as demon-like gods who write the names of mortals in books known as death notes causing them to die to the extent of their own life; Shinigami are not responsible for every death that
occurs, but they can sometimes end life sooner than intended.

The character known as Ryuk in Death Note is quite a curious Shinigami who, out of boredom, drops one of these death notes into the human world with instructions on how it can be used. Those who find the book are essentially entered into a bargain or pact with Ryuk where he agrees to kill anyone whose name is written in the book in the desired manner.

Shinigami death note rule

Shinigami death note rule

Ryuk appears to feel no apathy for those who find the book as they essentially just the means for him to extend his own life. Still, he doesn’t mention several times that he considers humans and their behavior extremely interesting.

The individual who enters into an agreement of reacting are told if they no longer desire to be the keeper of the book; then they can pass it along to someone else, or they can separate themselves from the book for seven
days once the seven days are up, Ryuk could find a new person to assume the role as the keeper of the book, those who find the book are often consumed by the power it comes with, and ultimately, the Death Note is responsible for their death.

The Shinigami in Death Note do also vary in appearance; if we take Ryuk as an example, he has long, thin appendage and a ghoulish like appearance; his head and neck appeared to be stitched to his body, and he almost reminds me of Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas; only much more menacing and deadly. There are quite a few Shinigami that appear in the series, and the one similarity in appearance that they all seem to share is that they will resemble corpses, and I guess when you think about it, that isn’t too out of the ordinary for gods of the death.

Shinigami of the Death note japan Ryuk


The deities surrounding death in other culture are often shown to be the selfless individual who performs a thankless task; I guess one of the main reasons I find the Shinigami so interesting is because they differ drastically. It is not only because of the sheer number of them that exist, but they also seem to have distinct personalities. The Shinigami played drastically changed over the years in Japan; In early Japanese culture, they were used to explain someone was dying, particularly the act of suicide. Still, they soon began to manifest as vengeful spirits capable of possessing people and driving them insane until the early release was death.

In the most recent depictions, they appear as demon-like gods who strike bargains of mortals as a means of extending their own lives; the Shinigami is most definitely a mixed bag; some choose to help people as they transition into the underworld, there are those who seek revenge and enjoy causing death, and there are those who use the lives of mortals as bargaining tools as a means to extend their existence; Whether you see the Shinigami as spirits, demons, or gods, they’re incredibly intriguing figures who give us a different outlook on deities surrounding death.

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