NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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2008/8/29


箒 Houki Houki (Japanese broom)

Jp En



A Houki is a broom traditionally used in Japan for sweeping trash and dust.  There are two kinds of houki:  zashiki-bouki (room broom) and niwa-bouki (garden broom), depending on where they are to be used.  
Zashiki-bouki are generally made from hemp palm fibers and morokoshi ( millet- a kind of grain) fibers . The hemp-palm broom is more widely used in Western Japan and it is made from gathered “oni-ge” (demon hairs) which are extracted from hemp palm bark.  The morokoshi plants used to make houki are harvested after growing for one year when they are about 2 meters high.   The ears of the millet plants are threshed and dried in the sun for about a week. Then, high quality ears are selected and gathered for making  houki.
Besides their obvious practical application as a cleaning tool, houki also figure in various traditional customs associated with the idea of “sweeping away”.
There was a spell in which a houki was stood upside down when a host wished his guest to cut his long stay short and go home.  In some areas, a houki was considered a guardian charm for the easy and healthy delivery of a baby. The houki was placed by the bedside of the pregnant woman and, once labor started, a light was attached to the houki and the woman prayed to it.  Her belly was then caressed with the houki.
Houki were believed to be sacred and stepping it over or on them was avoided as it would incur divine punishment. Such customs still can be seen today all over Japan.
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2008/8/22


【笑(若)】 Shou, Warau (Jyaku, Wakai, Moshikuha) Laugh (Young; Maybe)

Jp En

There may be some people who wonder what at all 笑う ‘warau: laughing’ has to do with 竹 ‘bamboo,’ as the Chinese characters supposes. As, among living creatures, laughing is a characteristic of human beings this character also somehow has to depict the image of a human being.
The part 竹 ‘bamboo,’ which became the classifier actually is a part of the body, the arms. It is the form of a female shaman calling for a divine message, laughing in an ecstasy-like state of mind, dancing while waving the hands over her head. Therefore, the ancients thought that laughing brings human beings close to the gods.
There is neither a tortoise plastron and bone character nor a bronze inscription of 笑. For the first time it appears in the Tenbun (Zhuàn Wén) seal. What has now become the so called grass classifier at the top of 若, of which tortoise plastron and bone inscriptions do exist, also shows hands and is the form of a dancing female shaman with raised hands. The meaning ‘young’ of the character 若 probably came from the female shamans usually being young of age. Furthermore, its other meaning ‘maybe’ has its origin in that transmission of a divine mission was not guaranteed. Later, starting with the form of the bronze inscriptions, 口, the shape of a prayer writing receptacle was added and from there it developed into the present character form.
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【祭】 Sai, Matsuri Festival

Jp En

Presently, as in the usage ‘matsuri: sale,’ the character 祭 ‘matsuri: feast, festival, festivity’ has come to be used also apart from the original religious context. Compared with the ancient usage, its meaning became slightly shallow.
The character 祭 originally depicts a scene of worship of ancestors’ souls in the mausoleum. The 又 at the right above is a hand, the part 月 at the left above is the meat offered, and 示 below is an altar, thus it shows the part of a ritual of offering worship meat on an altar with the hands. By adding the宀 roof classifier showing the roof of a mausoleum it gets 察 ‘satsu: guess,’ which originally means to inquire the divine will. The 阝 of 際 being a ladder for the gods, when conducting this ritual of presenting offerings, as result the gods descend. The tortoise plastron and bone character form being the starting point of 祭 does not have the element 示, which was added later in the bronze inscriptions. As the original character form of 禮 also has no 示 classifier in the early stages of Kanji development, it can well be understood that the number of character strokes is small on the tortoise plastron characters compared with the forms of later times due to the hard nature of the medium. As also could be seen in the case of 師, the custom of offering meat to worship the ancestors exists since old times. The dots at the part showing the meat in the above tortoise plastron character form represent drops of blood.
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2008/8/21


【蔑】 Betsu, Naigashiro to despise, to neglect

Jp En

When it comes to explaining 蔑 as used in the compound 蔑視 ‘besshi: contempt,’ one has to go back to the curse rituals and ways of war of the Yīn (Shāng) dynasty.
Usually, the grass-classifier above indicates a plant. Here, however, it has to be seen as a unit formed together with 目 ‘eye’ in horizontal position. This unit means a female shaman of another people. As in the above character explanation of 寛 ‘kan,’ it shows the head of a female shaman with curse decoration above the eyes or eyebrows. The lower part 戌 means a weapon (halbard). The character as a whole shows the head of a hostile female shaman cut off with a halberd.
Pioneer forces formed by female shamans usually had the duty of spiritually intimidating the opponents.
The Japanese language has the reading 蔑ろ ‘naigashiro (ni suru: to despise, to neglect),’ which originates on the background of killing the shaman to destroy her curse power.
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