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Noragami: Is Yato Really Tsukuyomi? Part 1

Yato Noragami

This post contains spoilers from the Noragami manga that has not yet been covered in the anime. We suggest you refrain from reading this post if you aren’t familiar with the plot of the manga!

Noragami follows the exploits of Yato, a stray god with no shrine of his own. Though he was revealed to be a God of Calamity who used to murder people for fun in the past, doubts have been raised about Yato’s real identity due to the many inconsistencies that arise in the series.

It could be possible that Yato is not an oh-so-minor God as we are being led to believe, but in fact someone with lot of followers and shrines of his own. According to this theory, Yato could be Tsukuyomi, the moon God, who is the brother and fiancee (or husband?) of Amaterasu Omikami.

And thanks to Adachitoka’s possible foreshadowing, there are a lot of clues in Noragami that point towards this!

In this series of posts, we have tried to put together everything surrounding the “Yato is Tsukuyomi” theory in one place. References have been taken from the manga and numerous similar theories that fans have posted online. Links to the original sources have been provided wherever necessary! Please go through the blog and let us know your opinions in the comments section. The links to the other two parts are shared below!

1) Is Yato Really Tsukuyomi – Part 2
2) Is Yato Really Tsukuyomi – Part 3

Also, do not forget to share this blog with fellow Noragami fans if you loved it!

So lets start off this post by looking at some questions that have been bugging us for long.

How could a minor God like Yato survive for so long?

This question has been thrown into our face a number of times by Adachitoka. In the Noragami universe, Gods exist in order to fulfill the wishes of humans, as wishes allow them to be remembered. So, if a God is forgotten and stops receiving wishes, it means that they have fulfilled their duty and will eventually cease to survive/exist. 

Yato did not even have a shrine of his own till Hiyori made him one. So, how did such an obscure and minor god manage to survive for so long? Even Daikoku finds it to be strange.

Daikoki asks Hiyori to not trust Yato!

It is revealed in Noragami that Yato was born out of a wish made by his father (who is quite the mysterious character himself). It was assumed that Yato’s survival was due to his father’s abilities, all thanks to him being the only human to have vividly remembered him. But as the story progressed and more details about the reincarnation of Gods came to light, doubts began to surface about Father’s claims of being Yato’s lifeline.

If a single wish from Father (who is currently possessing the body of Kouto Fujisaki) could sustain Yato’s life for so long, then why is he worried about Yato dying and being reincarnated? 

The Ebisu and God of Fortune arcs gave us a lot of insight into the reincarnation of Gods in Noragami. Gods have no memories about their past lives once they get reincarnated. When Ebisu was replaced, he came to know about his previous self from what his regalias (shinkis) taught him and by reading old records (Nihon Shoki and Kojiki probably) about himself.

Ebisu has no memories of his past self

The Gods not remembering their past lives should have been a convenient situation for Father. If Yato dies and gets reincarnated, he would forget all about his past life, including his attachment to Hiyori, Sakura and everything else that made him despise Father. Whichever way you look, this is a far better and easier solution to keep Yato under control.

Then why is Fujisaki so adamant about keeping Yato alive. Is he afraid that Yato won’t reincarnate to him? 

If Yato is actually Tsukuyomi, it would explain why he still exists. Tsukuyomi is a pretty famous god in Japanese folklore, who has a lot of followers and some huge shrines (especially the Shinto Shrine on Mount Gassan in Yamagata Prefecture).

So this would mean that “Father” was not responsible for the creation of Yato. He was merely in charge of a reincarnated Tsukuyomi. Without having any past knowledge of who he was, Yato was fooled into believing that he was a minor god and made to do Father’s bidding. By setting himself up as Yato’s lifeline (he made Yato believe that if he dies, Yato will most likely die), Father made sure that Yato would think twice before rebelling against him.

But then this supposition raises another question, why wouldn’t the other Gods oppose a major God like Tsukuyomi being raised by a sorcerer or a possible villain with known hatred towards Takamagahara (the heavens)? And if Yato really were Tsukuyomi, why don’t the other Gods recognize him? Tsukuyomi is a major God after all!

Let’s look into a bit of Japanese mythology to understand this part. 

Uke Mochi, the goddess of food, held a great feast. Though she was invited, Amaterasu was unable to attend and thus sent her consort, Tsukuyomi, in her stead. He watched as Uke Mochi began to create the feast, but found her methods to be incredibly repulsive. She spit fish, rice, and deer from her mouth before pulling food out of her other orifices. Tsukuyomi was so horrified by her actions that he killed her then and there.

When word reached Amaterasu, she was horrified and labeled her husband an evil kami, unworthy of returning to the Heavens. This separation of Tsukuyomi and Amaterasu was the origin of day and night. For all eternity, Tsukuyomi will continue to pursue Amaterasu across the night sky without ever reaching her; even during an eclipse, the sun will run from the moon.

(you can read more about it here!)

This shows that Tsukuyomi was banished from heaven for his actions eons ago. In the time that followed, he could have rebelled against the heavens (siding with the Emishi probably). The entire Emishi Gods storyline in the manga refers to the conflict between the ethnic groups in ancient Japan, with the heavens fulfilling the role of Imperial Japan which subdued the neighboring Emishi lands, thus leading to their rebellion. Tsukuyomi could have supported this rebellion (or any similar rebellion) to stand up against the corruption in the heavens (or to get one back for being banished).

The top Gods in Takamagahara don’t mind going to the extreme in order to maintain their power (as they created a human child bomb to kill Ebisu in Noragami manga). When a God disobeyed the heavens or rebelled against them, they were destroyed. These Gods were then forced to reincarnate, which is akin to a political purge. The heavens continue to keep a close eye on these Gods once they are reincarnated and give them shinkis (which act as their guide posts) that are loyal to the heavens(Noragami Chapter 58-59). 

Chibi Ebisu telling Yato how disobedient Gods are destroyed by the heavens
Chibi Ebi is very cute!!

These Gods are forced to swear loyalty to the heavens, in exchange they are recognized and allowed to exist, instead of being branded as a cult. The indigenous local Gods (Emishi) who fought against the heavens to protect their local lands and people faced a similar fate. Yato himself could have gone through a forced reincarnation due to his role in some rebellion (if he were part of the Emishi rebellion, the Emishi Gods should have recognized him, so let’s assume that his crime was something different!)

For facts that support Yato’s forceful reincarnation, look no further than when he attended the Kamuhakari (meeting of the Gods). After his allegiance to Takamagahara was confirmed, Yato was placed with these very Emishis at the Kamuhakari. He thought it was a place for the new and unpopular Gods, but the only ones who were placed there were the rebels. 

Yato & Emishis at the Kamuhakari

Now coming to why the other Gods don’t recognize him.

With his current reincarnation being around 1000 years old (which is quite young according to Yato himself), it is possible that most of the major gods who could have recognized Yato (Tsukuyomi) have themselves been reincarnated in this time period and lost any memory pertaining to him. Also, it is not mandatory for the Gods to recognize each other by their appearance (given the high number of deities in Takamagahara). They even go to great extents to hide their appearances from one another (as seen in Kamuhakari and Heaven’s army). And, according to the book ‘A History of Japanese Literature: From Manyōshū to Modern Times’, Tsukuyomi virtually disappeared after Izanagi divided the realm among his three children. So even though he is quite an important part of the Japanese folklore, due to his banishment and other things, there might be very few Gods who know how Tsukuyomi (or Yato) looks like!

Putting these facts together, it is relatively safe to assume that Yato (or Tsukuyomi) is a banished God, later forced to reincarnate. If Yato was banished to the human world, it would make sense as to how Father got hold of him. It could be possible that Father was assigned as the guidepost (authoritative figures, usually shinkis, who are responsible for raising a re-incarnated God) for a reincarnated Yato in order to make him loyal to the heavens. And judging from how Amaterasu has been acting strange around him, she could be the one who chose Father as his guidepost (huge tin-foil assumption). 

But, it seems that Father used Yato to further his personal goals, not divulging any information about his past life. There are theories online that suggest he could have used a name suppression on Yato, making him totally forget that he is actually Tsukuyomi, the moon god. 

Is watching her plan go awry and seeing Yato suffer because of it, one of the reasons for Amaterasu’s remorse filled behaviour? This leads us to the second glaring inconsistency in the story.

Amaterasu and Yato’s true name:

Amaterasu seems to be the only major God who knows Yato. Knowing a minor God is one thing, but going out of your way to help a minor God who just sided with someone the heavens executed is something different altogether. In Chapter 37 of Noragami manga, when Yato and Bishamon are struggling to escape the clutches of Izanami, it is Amaterasu who comes down and gives Kofuku the idea of the soul-summoning ritual (this part, sadly, was ignored in the anime!)

At that point, no one (other than Nora) knew that Yato had a different name. But Amaterasu explicitly tells Kofuku to call his real name!

Amaterasu’s introduction in Noragami manga
Amaterasu asks Kofuku to call Yato by his real name

“Call him by his real name, I think he would like that.” – Amaterasu

Wait? Yato would like being called by his real name?

For a moment let’s assume that Yato is actually just a minor God and that his real name is Yaboku. If Amaterasu knew him enough to know that his real name was “Yaboku,” she should also have known that Yato absolutely hates that name. The name reminded him of his dark past and his connection to Father. Infact he hates it so much that he hid it from his friends, his past shinkis and even his (only) follower. So why did Amaterasu say calling out Yato’s real name would make him happy?

She could have been referring to his other real name here, which could ofcourse be..(drum rolls build up)… Tsukuyomi!

Question: If Yato’s real name is indeed Tsukuyomi, why did he respond to the name Yaboku? How did the soul summoning work?

To answer this question, let’s go through the following section taken from a Tumblr user’s (undergroundsky) wonderful explanation for the questions revolving around a ‘true name’ in Noragami!

What exactly defines a “true name”? The book Hiyori was reading in the library, as well as Bishamon for a brief moment, also mentioned that they have more than one name. Possibly more than two, three, four… Bishamon’s very common alternate name, as people probably are aware from some English scanlations, is Vaisravana. Yet, when Hiyori screams out “Bishamonten!” to sort of test the waters for the ‘call-them-by-their-real-name’ rule, she actually gets transported back. She’s a god who’s prevalent across multiple cultures, but she seems to have the strongest attachment to ‘Bishamonten’ (which is also the version used in Japan; maybe that’s why).

By this point, it’s been drilled into our heads that everything gods say or do is law, and it’s extremely likely that, regardless of how many believers they have, their own identity is something they make for themselves. Thus by proxy, it’s also extremely likely that any god’s “true name” is the one they feel truly belongs to them, the one they identify with.

In Yato’s case, it’s clear from his previous interactions with the stray, that he believes himself to be “Yaboku,” no matter how much he hates it. Hence the guilt when he remembers that he never told Yukine or Hiyori, the dread when the stray attempts to blackmail him back into his father’s clutches (“The only human who knows your real name is Father”), and the constant need to escape. Because it represents the past and misdeeds he wants to run away from.

See how Bishamon seems to have multiple names and all of them are her true names? A soul summoning only works with the true name of a God. A true name is a ‘given name’ which Gods identify themselves with. Like the excerpt clearly says, Yato believed that his real name was Yaboku, which made the soul summoning work.

Bishamon has many names, including Vaisravana

Coming back to the part where we talked about name suppressing spells. If Yato is really under a name suppressing spell, could hearing someone, especially his follower, call out his real name (Tsukuyomi) break the spell he is under. Is this what Amaterasu really wanted to do, break the spell and make him realize he was not Yato (or Yaboku), but Tsukuyomi, a major God  (this part, again, is a huge tinfoil assumption!)

And if she really was the reason why Yato ended up with Father, this could be her way of making things right. It could also provide a base for her strange and apologetic (kind of) behaviour when it comes to Yato!

This brings us to the next doubt which the series raises. If Amaterasu knew Yato enough to know his real name, then why did she act as if she was meeting him for the first time in chapter 70 (after being captured for tearing apart the heavens with Sekki)? Also, why was she hell bent on executing Yato, without even giving him a chance to explain himself. After all, he had stopped Bishamon as the heavens wanted. We shall look into these anomalies in the next part of this blog!!!

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