Thunderbolt and Lightning, Very Very Frightening Me


One god I’ve been meaning to look at for a while is the Japanese Raijin, a thunder deity. It’s interesting that we tend to use the term “thunder god” (the literal meaning of the name Raijin) even though it’s the lightning that’s the damaging part. Even in English, it sounds more impressive. Raijin is actually mentioned in the Mario Wiki entry for Thunder Lakitu, as his appearance is somewhat similar. Raijin isn’t a turtle (well, not usually, anyway; most gods can shape-shift to some extent), but he does carry drums to produce the thunder, and is often colored in red. While he can be destructive, he also has a beneficial aspect, as lightning is necessary to make rice grow.

He is the son of the creator gods Izanami and Izanagi, and is accompanied by an animal called Raiju.

Apparently made of lightning, this creature can take the form of a cat, weasel, fox, or wolf. It’s normally pretty calm, but during a thunderstorm it runs amok and scratches everything within reach. It also sleeps inside human navels, and Raijin has to use lightning to get it out. That’s why it’s a superstition in Japan to cover your belly button during a storm. Or maybe it’s because Raijin eats belly buttons. The thunder god often hangs out with his brother, the wind god Fujin, who carries winds around in a bag.

Statues of the two of them can often be found outside temples.

In addition to Thunder Lakitu, there are many other references to Raijin in video games. He’s often called Raiden, combining the words for thunder and lightning. His form in Mortal Kombat, that of a man in monk’s robes and a straw hat, is likely a reference to the movie Big Trouble in Little China.

In Final Fantasy VI, Raiden is the upgraded form of the Esper Odin. Considering that he’s a thunder god, he would seem to have more in common with Thor than Odin, but strangely Raiden in this game doesn’t use a lightning-based attack. Instead, he has a magic sword that he can use to instantly kill enemies.

Apparently the Raiden summon in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings does use a thunder attack, however. And Raijin’s pet is the namesake for Pikachu’s evolved form in the Pokémon games, although I don’t know if that Raichu sleeps in navels.

Picture by Doomcakes
I guess it would be preferable to a Snorlax doing that.

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This entry was posted in Final Fantasy, Japanese, Mario, Mythology, Norse, Pokémon, Video Games and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Thunderbolt and Lightning, Very Very Frightening Me

  1. Pingback: The Game Names | VoVatia

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