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Imperial Regalia of Japan

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The Imperial Regalia of Japan (「三種の神器」?; Sanshu no Jingi/Mikusa no Kandakara), also known as the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan, consist of the sword Kusanagi (「草薙劍」?), the mirror Yata no Kagami (「八咫鏡」?), and the jewel Yasakani no Magatama (「八尺瓊曲玉」?). The regalia represent the three primary virtues: valor (the sword), wisdom (the mirror), and benevolence (the jewel).

Due to the legendary status of these items, their locations are not confirmed, but it is commonly thought that the sword is located at Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, the jewel is located at Kokyo (the Imperial Palace) in Tokyo, and the mirror is located in the Ise Grand Shrine in the Mie prefecture.

Tradition

Since 690, the presentation of these items to the Emperor by the priests at the shrine have been a central element of the imperial enthronement ceremony. This ceremony is not public, and these items are by tradition only seen by the emperor and certain priests. Because of this, no known photographs or drawings exist.

Two of the three treasures (the jewel and sword, as well as the emperor's seal and the state seal) were last seen during the accession and enthronement of Emperor Akihito in 1989 and 1993, but were shrouded in packages.

According to legend, these treasures 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. Traditionally, they were a symbol of the emperor's divinity as a descendant of Amaterasu, confirming his legitimacy as paramount ruler of Japan.

According to legend, when Amaterasu hid in a cave from her brother Susanoo, thus plunging the world in darkness, the goddess Ame-no-Uzume hung the mirror and jewels outside the cave and lured her 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. Susanoo later presented the sword Kusanagi to Amaterasu as a token of apology; he had obtained from the body of an eight-headed serpent, Orochi.

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

The importance of the imperial regalia to Japan is evident also from the declarations made by Emperor Showa to Koichi Kido on 25 and 31 July 1945 at the end of World War II, when he ordered the keeper of the privy seal to protect them "at all costs".

Other interpretations

Archaeological research has discovered prehistoric precedents for the regalia.

The regalia can also be interpreted as the mirror representing the sun; the jewel, the moon; and the sword, the stars.

In Ōkami and Ōkamiden

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