Everything there is to know about the concept of "God / Kami" in Japanese

  • Published on : 13/07/2020
  • by : S.R. / I.D.O.
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"God / Kami", a complex notion in Japanese

"GOD" AS REPRESENTED IN THE WORLD OF ABRAHAMIC RELIGIONS, A SINGLE BEING, CREATOR OF THE WORLD, TRANSCENDENT, DOES NOT EXIST IN THE SHINTOIST RELIGION. ANIMIST AND POLYTHEIST RELIGIONS, IT IS RATHER TALK OF DIVINE BEINGS IN DIFFERENT FORMS.

Beyond Shintoism, Japan was influenced much by Buddhism but let's start with Shinto's notion of the divine.

 

Mention of kami is found in the very first two books written in the Japanese language, the Kojiki "Chronicle of Ancient Facts", which is a collection of myths dating from 712, and the Nihon-shoki "Annals of Japan" from 720. We find in particular the myth of the creation of the world by Izanagi or the adventures of Amaterasu.

The great Kojiki commentator, Mootori Norinaga, said: "Any being who possesses certain outstanding qualities out of the ordinary, or who is impressive in nature, is called a kami". There is thus a myriad of kami.

Le Kanji de Kami

Le Kanji de Dieu en japonais

S.R.

A multitude of Japanese deities with multiple functions

 

Some of these kami embody the divine ancestors of the Japanese people. They were born from Shinto mythology. These are the kami of the "age of the gods", called amatsukami (heavenly kami). There are also kunitsukami (terrestrial kami.)

The other kami can be the spirits of the deceased or the spirits who govern nature. Thus, for the Shintoists, mountains, rivers, forests, and other natural elements are all inhabited and ruled by spirits who are honored during traditional festivals.

 

Amaterasu sortant de la caverne (Shunsai Toshimasa, XIXe s.)

Amaterasu sortant de la caverne (Shunsai Toshimasa, XIXe s.)

flickr

Le drapeau au disque solaire rayonnant est encore aujourd'hui le symbole des forces armées japonaises et rappelle pour beaucoup le Japon de la Seconde Guerre mondiale

Le drapeau au disque solaire rayonnant est encore aujourd'hui le symbole des forces armées japonaises et rappelle pour beaucoup le Japon de la Seconde Guerre mondiale

Wikipedia

Dans la sanctuaire intérieur d'Ise ont lieu quotidiennement des rituels et cérémonies de purification.

In the inner Ise shrine , daily rituals and purification ceremonies are held.

Wikipedia

Sanctuaire Inari

Sanctuaire Inari

Flick/ thaths

Are there alternatives to the term kami?

 

The term kami was coined to give meaning to the traditional notion of divinity in Shinto Japan. The emergence of Catholicism on the archipelago with its idea of the unique God creator of all things has shaken up this linguistic tranquility.

To reflect the peculiarity of the notion of God of monotheisms, the term Tenshu 天主, or "master of the heavens" was created and was used by Japanese Catholics, in competition with the term Jotei 上帝 "ruler above", and this until the end of the kami-sama 神さま only necessary from the nineteenth century. Since then, the term kami has resumed its preponderance but is enriched with new meanings and external influences.

 

L'intérieur de l'église Oura (Nagasaki), dont les vitraux ont été importés de France.

L'intérieur de l'église Oura (Nagasaki), dont les vitraux ont été importés de France.

Wikipedia

Façade de l'église Oura à Nagasaki

Façade de l'église Oura à Nagasaki

jpellgen

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