Project Japan

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  1. Bullet  Ancient Israelites Came to Japan


Judaism & Japanese Culture?

Japanese language shows similarities to Hebrew language. Here are some examples:

Similar Words

Japanese (J) words that are similar to Hebrew (H) words:

Agam (H) means to be sad, to be weary—Aguma (J) means to be weary

Aika (H) means anguish, sorrow—Aika (J) means a sad song

Anta (H) means you—Anata (J) means you

Asei (Aramaic) means to press—Assei (J) means oppression

Barer (H) means to clarify—Bareru (J) means to find out

Daber (H) means to talk—Daberu (J) means to talk aimlessly

Hake (H) means to beat—Haku (J) means a beat

Hallelu (H) means shine, praise—Hareru (J) means glorious, sunny, sanctified

Hara (H) means to be angry—Hara (J) means anger

Hatsa’a (H) means a suggestion—Hatsuan or Hatsui (J) means a suggestion

Heker (H) means measure—Hekari (J) means measure

Horer (H) means to hollow out—Horeru (J) means to hollow out

Karer (H) means to cool—Kareru (J) means to get hoarse

Kava (H) means to convey water into a canal—Kawa (J) means a river, a stream

Ko (H) means thus—Ko (J) means thus

Kor (H) means cold—Kori (J) means ice/Koru (J) means to freeze

Magov (H) means a rake—Makuwa (J) means a rake

Mishge (H) means mistake—Michigai (J) means mistake

Mits (H) means juice—Mitsu (J) means nectar

Nase (H) means to try—Nasu (J) means to try

Nigar (H) means flowing of water—Nagare (J) means the flow of the water

Ra’am (H) means a thunder—Raimei (J) means a thunder

Rei (H) means to show (by example)—Rei (J) means an example

Sagar (H) means to close, to block—Saegiri (J) means to block, to bar

Shagam (H) means to end—Shagamu (J) means to sit down upon the heels in a bent posture

Shamashut (H) means administration service of synagogue—Shamusho (J) means administrative section of Shinto temple

Shamrai (H) means guard—Samurai (J) means warrior, guard

Tayar (H) means a sort of spy—Tayori (J) means intelligence, information

Umat (H) means in front of—Omote (J) means the front

Of course there are many words which differ only slightly, yet, have almost the same meaning—both in Japanese and in Hebrew. The interesting aspect of this is that the words mentioned above cannot be a matter of mere coincidence. They are instead, echoes of a forgotten history, an outcry of a neglected aspect of Japanese culture.

Shinto Shrines and the Hebrew Tabernacle

The basic layout of the Shinto shrine and the ancient Hebrew tabernacle are similar. Some shrines, like the Ise Shrine, are strikingly similar to it, with its large courtyards and many buildings that are used for expanded ministry and worship. The parallel to the construction and arrangement of the elements of the temple built by King Solomon seems obvious (Art & Yoshiko Van Meter, 1999).

The Hebrew Tabernacle is a small, wooden building surrounded by solid walls in three directions. Its main gate is closed tightly, its ceiling, covered by a tent. The inside of the Tabernacle in ancient Israel was divided into the following two parts: the room near the gate was called “the Holy Place,” and the rear room was “the Holy of Holies.” In the Holy of Holies, the Arc of the Covenant was placed and decorated partly with gold. As Israel’s Shrine consisted of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, the Japanese Shinto shrine is also divided into two parts. The functions performed in the Japanese shrine are similar to those of the Israelite tabernacle as well. The common people in Japan pray in front of its Holy Place as well, but are not allowed to enter it. Only Shinto priests and special individuals can do so, and that only on special occasions. This is similar to the Israelite tabernacle. Also, most of the parts of Shinto shrines are made of wood, as were many parts of the ancient Israelite temple.

The Israelites used stone in some places, but walls, floors, ceilings and the entire interior was overlaid with wood—cedar from Lebanon. In Japan, cedar from Lebanon is not available; therefore, in Shinto shrines, Hinoki6 cypress is used. Unlike cedar, cypress is rarely eaten by bugs. God’s Tabernacle was possible to disassemble and was called a “movable shrine.”

The “Shikinensengu” of Ise is a typical Japanese shrine. From ancient times, it had, by tradition, been torn down and reconstructed once every 20 years. This practice of reconstructing the shrine is referred to as “Shikinensengu.”

Both the Tabernacle and the Shrine consist of an entry, the gate in Hebrew and the torii in Japanese shrines (see Figure 3.4). One interesting fact is that some toriis are painted red, the color which could symbolize the blood of the lamb in Passover. God asked the Israelites to place the blood of a lamb on their door-frames so that the angels of death might pass over their houses. Anyone in such a house would be saved and rescued, ready to escape from Egypt (Exodus 12).

Another common element between the Hebrew tabernacle and the Japanese Shinto shrine is the laver in the Hebrew tabernacle and the Temizuya in the Japanese Shinto shrine—a place for worshipers to wash their hands and mouth. In the past, Japanese people also used wash their feet, a custom still found in Jewish synagogues. The Israelite ancient tabernacle and temple of Israel also had a lavatory for washing hands and feet near the entrance. The interesting fact is that the word Temizu (Tamiz) in Persian means cleanness. So, if we indicate that Tamiz or Temizu may mean to be clean, and ya indicated Jehovah, then the combined word may mean to be clean in the presence of Jehovah, or be clean before worship. I am surely aware of the Kanji—Chinese characters—of the word Temizu or Te-mizu, which stands for hands-water (washing), meaning washing hands. This is, however, a Kanji description; but, the word phonetically resembles the Persian word, which is often used for washing hands as well and which surely fits in the kanji character of the word.

Lastly, in front of the typical Japanese shrine (see Figure 3.4), there are two “Komainus”; two statues of lions that sit on both sides of the approach to the entrance. They are not idols, but guardians of the shrine. Although there are no lions in Japan, the statues of lions have been placed in Japanese shrines since ancient times. The same sort of sculptures were found in ancient Israel.

In my book I describe many more comparisons.

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