Soku-no-kuni is the yomi in Japanese mythology ruled by the god Amatsu-Mikaboshi. The realm of Soku-no-kuni is a parallel of heaven and reflects the bitterness of the goddess Izanami after she died giving birth to the fire god Kagutsuchi and ended up in the Underworld where she remained, trapped behind a boulder that the horrified Izanagi placed there.
Soku-no-Kuni residents are the souls of the sinful, spirits known as Shitidama who are violent beings more demonic in nature than humane. Occasionally these spirits do escape from Soku-no-Kuni and cause havoc on Earth. Due to his contempt for humankind, Amatsu-Mikaboshi does nothing to bring them back.
There are some inconsistencies with the terminology for the name of the realmYomi No Kuni — Yomi is formed from the same root derivative as yoru, yo, meaning "night"
Ne No Kuni — Ne could refer to the notions of base or origin
Soko No Kuni — Soko implies "basis" although sometimes comparable to Tokyo No Kuni
The earliest descriptions are derived from Kojiki and Nihongi. In the Kojiki version of the Izanagi and Izanami story, the realm of Yomi No Kuni is described as;
- obscure in origin or existence
- a place of defilement
- having a passageway from the land of the dead and the world of the living that's blocked by a boulder
- characteristically having an atmosphere that's volatile with furies and thunderstorms
- somewhat similar to our world (i.e. containing plants, people, even a palace.)
There isn't any mention or referencing to the question of the judgement of the dead or of the souls.
It's not clearly stated who the ruler is. Izanami is called, "The great deity of yomi" towards the end of the story although in the beginning she was just going to ask other deities for advice.
In other Norito, During Ho shizume no matsuri norito, the festival of the appeasement of fire, the Underworld realm aspects are more easily known whereas this isn't so for the Kojiki interpretation. During michi ae no matsuri norito, the festival of the meals offered on the roads, implies the notion of an impure land and source of diseases for both nomenclature Ne No Kuni and Soko No Kuni.
Susano-o refused to rule the ocean from Izanagi's order and chose to go to Ne No Kuni, the land of his mother Izanami. In an alternative of the Nihongi, after he has been chased from takama no hara, the high celestial plain, Susano-o dresses in the guies of mare bito, a voyager coming from the next world to bring prosperity.
In the Okuninushi myth Susano-o rules Ne No Kuni. Although it's said to have snakes and wasps it contains different objects that assure sovereignty. Susano-o would have a daughter said to become married to Okuninushi. One explanation of the myth contrasts the trials of Okuninushi to a symbolic death through rites of initiation that cause one to become reborn into a new life. In this story, death doesn't pollute, it regenerates. The land of the dead also contains the forces of life, tama.
Ne No Kuni is compared to the Niraikanai. This paradisiacal land is situated beyond the seas. Under the rule of Susano-o, Ne No Kuni is also a part of the ocean.
In O Harae no matsure norito, the festival of the great purification, one expels pollution to Ne No Kuni located in the oceanic plain where it disappears. That text connects it to another mythical place, tokyo no kuni.
The Kojiki and Nihongi don't state the dead, burial, afterlife, or realm as from mountains although the Yomi could be akin to Yama, meaning "mountain". The subterranean qualities aren't mentioned until late in other norito. It's possible the myth may originate from the province of Izumo from custom burials in caves. A cavern was discovered that contains numerous skeletons from the Yayoi time in which the Kojiki places the entrance to yomi no kuni. Izanagi shutting off the realm with a boulder in the Kojiki recount and Izanami shutting herself within the rock grotto in divergent norito may refer to the stone rooms of artificial mountains that are funerary mounds.