Category Archives: language

Kototama and “Now” — An Izumo Taisha Shinto Perspective

KOTOTAMA

Okunomichi and WoshiteWorld are deeply interested in the study and practice of Kototama. This is another in the Kototama series of expository articles. Here, we share a Shinto view of Kototama. We received the statements below from a representative of Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine. 

Introduction

Izumo Taisha (Izumo Ōyashiro) is one of the oldest and largest Shinto shrines in Japan. The taisha enshrines Ōkuninushi no Ōkami, kami of earth and spiritual world.

Shinto is the native Japanese religion which is based on traditional nature worship and animism. It does not have a particular founder, doctrine, or scripture. This is similar to old Hawaiian and Native American religions.


Nakaima, The “Now”

The word Nakaima comes from a national history book, Shoku Nihongi, Sequel to Chronicle of Japan, 797 CE [sequel to Nihon Shoki, 720 CE]. Nakaima is made up of two words, naka and ima, where the former means middle and the latter means now, the present time.

As Shinto does not have concepts about heaven and hell in the hereafter, “this world” is considered the most valuable and important time for all lives. It is the “middle” between the past and the future. “Now” is the precious time to reflect the past and expect the future.

Kototama of Norito

Shinto prayers, norito, are based on Kototama, the worship to words and language itself. From ancient times, it is said that, “The words can move the heaven and the earth” especially in the Japanese poems (waka, tanka). Traditionally, people use and choose words very carefully when they compose the poems because of Kototama, especially yamato kotoba (ancient Japanese classical words). This is why norito is composed only from yamato kotoba. When the words are pronounced, Kototama is involved — with its vibration toward the world.

Kototama and Nakaima

In Shinto cosmology, Kototama is the basic tool to affect Nakaima.  

Experience Kototama and Nakaima

To experience Kototama in Nakaima, recite Ōharae no Kotoba, the prayer for Great Purification, one of the most famous norito. 

HARAE NO KOTOBA, PRAYER FOR PURIFICATION AND BLESSING

The Harae no Kotoba below is an invocation often recited at Izumo Taisha asking Ōkuninushi no Ōkami, and all the myriads of Kami to join in the ceremony. There are three basic types of harae purification and blessing:

  • the body (to maintain health and well-being, to heal or avoid illness;
  • the soul or spirit of the living and the dead;
  • our surroundings and natural environment.

The last three lines can be recited as a short prayer for purification and blessing.

Harae no Kotoba

kakemaku mo kashikoki Izanagi no Ōkami

Tsukushi no Himuka no Tachibana no Odo no

Ahagihara ni misogi harai tamaishi toki ni

narimaseru haraido no Ōkami tachi

kamunagaranaru Ōmichi no naka ni umarete

arinagara sono mikage woshi fukaku omowazute

sumekamitachi no mimegumi wo oroka ni omi

tarishitoki ni ayamachi okaseru wa saranari

ima mo tsumi-kegare aramu woba harai tamai

kiyome tamae to mousu kotowo yaoyorozu no

kamitachi tomoni kikoshimese to

kashikomi kashikomi mo mousu



harai tamai kiyome tamae

harai tamai kiyome tamae

harai tamai kiyome tamae

References

Izumo Taisha, Izumo Ōyashiro, website:  http://www.izumooyashiro.or.jp/’

Izumo Taisha: https://yamanomiya.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/eleven-shrines-in-izumo-izumo-taisha/

Norito and Oharae:  [https://japanshrinestemples.blogspot.com/2015/09/norito-incantations.html]

Kototama on Okunomichi and WoshiteWorld: Type the word “Kototama” in the Search box.

This post also appears on Okunomichi.

 

 

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Jomon Population and Language: Notes from Ruins of Identity

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Jomon Population

According to Mark J. Hudson, in Ruins of Identity, University of Hawaii Press, 1999, the Japanese islands were settled by populations from Southeast Asia and/or South China during the Pleistocene (epoch before the Holocene). They were the ancestors of the Jomon who occupied the islands from the beginning of the Holocene (approximately 11,500 years before present) until the end of the Jomon period. The Yayoi period began in 300 BCE. with the influx of Northeast Asian people who spread through the islands from Kyushu to Tohoku during the next six hundred years until the Kofun period began in 300 CE.

Jomon Language

There was a single parent Jomon language, Proto-Japanese, which existed before the texts of the 8th century (Kojiki and Nihon Shoki) . Hudson reserves the term Japanese to refer to the population beginning in the Yayoi period that was the admixture of the indigenous Jomon with the Continental immigrants.

He points out that “the most noticeable things… is the comparative lack of linguistic variation in Ainu, Japanese, and Ryukyuan. Many Japanese linguists assume that Japanese has a long history stretching back into the Jomon period for 10,000 years or more, e.g., Sakiyama 1969, 169.” This quote is from Hudson, p 92, and the italics are Hudson’s.

The Northern Kyushu dialect should be the oldest, based on the movement of the immigrating people. However, there is the lack of variations as mentioned above. There is a “relative uniformity of dialects,” p 96, considering the 10,000 years of history.

Commentary by WositeWorld 

WoshiteWorld has been providing information about the Wosite language of the Jomon period. Wosite corresponds to Hudson’s “Proto-Japanese.” Hudson has emphasized the uniformity of dialects through the Japanese islands. That phenomenon may be due, whether in part or in large measure, to the efforts of the Hutakami who unified the Wosite language and the population as they created the kuni called Yamato. See Awanouta and other posts about kuni-umi.  

 

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