Wooden Sculpture of Raijin at Sanjusangendo Temple

Raijin (雷神), also known as Yakusa no ikazuchi no kami, Kaminari-sama, and Raiden-sama, is a god of lightning, thunder and storms in Japanese mythology and the Shinto religion. The name 'Raijin' is derived from the Japanese words kaminari (雷, meaning thunder) and kami (神, meaning god). Raijin is typically depicted with fierce and aggressive facial expressions, standing atop a cloud, and is shown beating on drums. The drums are often shown to have the symbol tomoe drawn on them. Raijin is often depicted as a protector and/or warrior figure within Japanese temples and shrines.


Raijin is often depicted with a fierce, frightening face and a muscular figure with gravity-defying hair. He is surrounded by Taiko drums that he plays to create the sound of thunder. Raijin holds large hammers in his hands that he uses to play the drums. In some cases, Raijin is portrayed with three fingers which are said to represent the past, present and future. Two of the most notable sculptures of Raijin are located in the Sanjusangendo temple and the Taiyuin Rinnoji temple.

Raijin and Fujin reside side by side in the Kaminarimon gate that guards the entrance to the Sanjusangendo temple. These sculptures are made of wood with lacquer, gold leaf and paint along with crystal, inlaid eyes. The Raijin and Fujin sculptures in Sanjusangendo are considered national treasures.

In the Taiyuin Rinnoji temple, Raijin and Fujin are located in the Niten-mon gate. They are made of wood with paint and are seen with their token talismans, Raijin's drums and Fujin's wind bag[1].


Raijin was born from the divine pair Izanagi and Izanami after Japan was first created. Raijin came from Izanami's corpse when she was in Yomi, the land of darkness[2]. Izanami later sent Raijin and several female demons to chase after Izanagi, after he fled the image of her rotting form, to bring him back to Yomi[3]. Raijin has many siblings, most notably, Fujin (the god of wind), Kagutsuchi (the god of fire), Susanoo (the god of the sea), and Amaterasu (the goddess of the sun).

Raijin is also often seen in the company of his brother, Fujin, and his son, Raitaro[4]. He is often seen fighting with Fujin, mending his drums, or causing mischief. He is also shown in the company of Raiju, a thunder-beast or thunder demon.

Prayers to Raijin were mainly based upon agriculture as it was believed that rice that was struck by lightning would produce the best harvest.

Fūjin-raijin-zu by Tawaraya Sōtatsu, with Raijin shown on the left and Fūjin right.


In one legend, Raijin is shown to defend Japan against the invading Mongols. In this legend, the Mongols are driven off by a vicious storm in which Raijin is in the clouds throwing lightning and arrows at the invaders[5].

Another legend depicts how a man named Sugaru (nicknamed the God-catcher) was ordered to catch the Thunder God Raijin and deliver him to the Emperor in order to stop a storm. Sugaru commands Raijin to cease the storm in the name of the Emperor but to no avail. Sugaru prayed to Kannon who later delivered Raijin to him. Sugaru then tied him up in a sack and took him to the Emperor[6].

Modern role

Some Japanese parents tell their children to hide their belly buttons during thunderstorms so that Raijin doesn't take them away and eat them.

Raijin also appears in the kabuki play Narukami, in which he is imprisoned under a pool of water, thus causing a drought.[7]

See also

  • Leigong (Chinese), god of thunder
  • Leizi (Chinese), goddess of lightning
  • Parjanya (Hindu), god of rain, thunder and lightning
  • Sanjūsangendō (Japanese Temple)
  • Izanagi (Japanese), part of divine pair of creation deities
  • Izanami (Japanese), part of divine pair of creation deities
  • Fujin (Japanese), god of wind


External links