O no Yasumaro, who lived in the early 8th Century AD, authored the two texts that form the foundation for the Shinto religion. Born the son of O no Honji, a key figure in the Jinshin War, Yasumaro was a nobleman, bureaucrat, and chronicler in the court of Empress Genmei. At her behest, he completed the 'Kojiki' (“An Account of Ancient Matters”) in 712 and the 'Nihon Shoki' (“The Chronicles of Japan”) in 720.
The 'Kojiki' is a compilation of ancient chronicles and myths, divided into three parts: the first is an account of the deities of creation of the four islands and the 'Kamijo' (“Age of the Gods”); the second and third sections focus on the first emperors, including the tale of how Ninigi-no-Mikoto, grandson of Amaterasu, descended from heaven to become the progenitor of the imperial line. The 'Nihon Shoki,' more elaborate and detailed, recounts the same events, but focuses on the merits of the virtuous rulers as well as the errors of bad ones. In the process, it lays out the precepts for the “correctness” of the social hierarchy and the “importance” of orderly living … thus, the political and social agenda of Nippon.
Little else is known of Yasumaro’s life. According to legend, he became head of his clan in 716 and died in 723. No doubt he was welcomed to 'Yomi' (the “World of Darkness”) by the 'Kami' (“spirits” of Japan).