Skip to comments.Israelites Came To Ancient Japan
Posted on 03/27/2003 6:01:51 AM PST by pseudogratix
Many of the traditional ceremonies in Japan seem to indicate that the Lost Tribes of Israel came to ancient Japan.
Ark of the covenant of Israel (left) and "Omikoshi" ark of Japan (right)
Dear friends in the world,
I am a Japanese Christian writer living in Japan. As I study the Bible, I began to realize that many traditional customs and ceremonies in Japan are very similar to the ones of ancient Israel. I considered that perhaps these rituals came from the religion and customs of the Jews and the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel who might have come to ancient Japan.
The following sections are concerned with those Japanese traditions which possibly originated from the ancient Israelites.
The reason why I exhibit these on the internet is to enable anyone interested in this subject, especially Jewish friends to become more interested, research it for yourself, and share your findings.
The ancient kingdom of Israel, which consisted of 12 tribes, was in 933 B.C.E. divided into the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel. The 10 tribes out of 12 belonged to the northern kingdom and the rest to the southern kingdom. The descendants from the southern kingdom are called Jews. The people of the northern kingdom were exiled to Assyria in 722 B.C.E. and did not come back to Israel. They are called "the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel." The following peoples are thought by Jewish scholars to be the descendants from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
They live in Afghanistan. Yusufzai means children of Joseph. They have customs of ancient Israelites.
They live in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They have the customs of circumcision on the 8th day, fringes of robe, Sabbath, Kashrut, Tefilin, etc.
In Kashmir they have the same land names as were in the ancient northern kingdom of Israel. They have the feast of Passover and the legend that they came from Israel.
In India there are people called Knanites, which means people of Canaan. They speak Aramaic and use the Aramaic Bible.
In Myanmar (Burma) and India live Menashe tribe. Menashe is Manasseh, and the Menashe tribe is said to be the descendants from the tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. They have ancient Israeli customs.
They live in China and have ancient Israeli customs. They believe in one God and have oral tradition that they came from far west. They say that their ancestor had 12 sons. They have customs of Passover, purification, levirate marriage, etc. as ancient Israelites.
It is known that there had been a large Jewish community since the time of B.C.E..
This I am going to discuss about on this website.
In Nagano prefecture, Japan, there is a large Shinto shrine named "Suwa-Taisha" (Shinto is the national traditional religion peculiar to Japan.)
At Suwa-Taisha, the traditional festival called "Ontohsai" is held on April 15 every year (When the Japanese used the lunar calendar it was March-April). This festival illustrates the story of Isaac in chapter 22 of Genesis in the Bible - when Abraham was about to sacrifice his own son, Isaac. The "Ontohsai" festival, held since ancient days, is judged to be the most important festival of "Suwa-Taisha."
The "Suwa-Taisha" shrine
At the back of the shrine "Suwa-Taisha," there is a mountain called Mt. Moriya ("Moriya-san" in Japanese). The people from the Suwa area call the god of Mt. Moriya "Moriya no kami," which means, the "god of Moriya." This shrine is built to worship the "god of Moriya."
At the festival, a boy is tied up by a rope to a wooden pillar, and placed on a bamboo carpet. A Shinto priest comes to him preparing a knife, and he cuts a part of the top of the wooden pillar, but then a messenger (another priest) comes there, and the boy is released. This is reminiscent of the Biblical story in which Isaac was released after an angel came to Abraham.
The knife and sword used in the "Ontohsai" festival
At this festival, animal sacrifices are also offered. 75 deer are sacrificed, but among them it is believed that there is a deer with its ear split. The deer is considered to be the one God prepared. It could have had some connection with the ram that God prepared and was sacrificed after Isaac was released. Since the ram was caught in the thicket by the horns, the ear might have been split.
In ancient time of Japan there were no sheep and it might be the reason why they used deer (deer is Kosher). Even in historic times, people thought that this custom of deer sacrifice was strange, because animal sacrifice is not a Shinto tradition.
My friend went to Israel and saw a Passover festival on Mt. Gerizim in Samaria. He asked a Samaritan priest how many rams were offered. The priest answered that they used to offer 75. This may have a connection with the 75 deer which were offered at Suwa-Taisha shrine in Japan.
A deer with its ears split
People call this festival "the festival for Misakuchi-god". "Misakuchi" might be "mi-isaku-chi." "Mi" means "great," "isaku" is most likely Isaac (the Hebrew word "Yitzhak"), and "chi" is something for the end of the word. It seems that the people of Suwa made Isaac a god, probably by the influence of idol worshipers.
Today, this custom of the boy about to be sacrificed and then released, is no longer practiced, but we can still see the custom of the wooden pillar called "oniye-basira," which means, "sacrifice-pillar."
The "oniye-bashira" on which the boy is supposed to be tied up
Currently, people use stuffed animals instead of performing a real animal sacrifice. Tying a boy along with animal sacrifice was regarded as savage by people of the Meiji-era (about 100 years ago), and those customs were discontinued. However, the festival itself still remains.
The custom of the boy had been maintained until the beginning of Meiji era. Masumi Sugae, who was a Japanese scholar and a travel writer in the Edo era (about 200 years ago), wrote a record of his travels and noted what he saw at Suwa. The record shows the details of "Ontohsai." It tells that the custom of the boy about to be sacrificed and his ultimate release, as well as animal sacrifices that existed those days. His records are kept at the museum near Suwa-Taisha.
The festival of "Ontohsai" has been maintained by the Moriya family ever since ancient times. The Moriya family think of "Moriya-no-kami" (god of Moriya) as their ancestor's god. They also consider "Mt. Moriya" as their holy place. The name, "Moriya," could have come from "Moriah" (the Hebrew word "Moriyyah") of Genesis 22:2, that is today's Temple Mount of Jerusalem. Among Jews, God of Moriah means the one true God whom the Bible teaches.
The Moriya family have been hosting the festival for 78 generations. And the curator of the museum said to me that the faith in the god of Moriya had existed among the people since the time of B.C.E..
Apparently, no other country but Japan has a festival illustrating the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. This tradition appears to provide strong evidence that the ancient Israelites came to ancient Japan.
The crest of the Imperial House of Japan is a round mark in the shape of a flower with 16 petals. The current shape appears as a chrysanthemum (mum), but scholars say that in ancient times, it appeared similar to a sunflower. The sunflower appearance is the same as the mark at Herod's gate in Jerusalem. The crest at Herod's gate also has 16 petals. This crest of the Imperial House of Japan has existed since very ancient times. The same mark as the one at Herod's gate is found on the relics of Jerusalem from the times of the Second Temple, and also on Assyrian relics from the times of B.C.E..
The mark on Herod's gate at Jerusalem (left) and the crest of the Imperial House of Japan (right)
"Yamabushi" is a religious man in training unique to Japan. Today, they are thought to belong to Japanese Buddhism. However, Buddhism in China, Korea and India have no such custom. The custom of "yamabushi" existed in Japan before Buddhism was imported into Japan in the seventh century.
On the forehead of "Yamabushi," he puts a black small box called a "tokin", which is tied to his head with a black cord. He greatly resembles a Jew putting on a phylactery (black box) on his forehead with a black cord. The size of this black box "tokin" is almost the same as the Jewish phylactery, but its shape is round and flower-like.
A "yamabushi" with a "tokin" blowing a horn
Originally the Jewish phylactery placed on the forehead seems to have come from the forehead "plate" put on the high priest Aaron with a cord (Exodus 28:36-38). It was about 4 centimeters (1.6 inches) in size according to folklore, and some scholars maintain that it was flower-shaped. If so, it was very similar to the shape of the Japanese "tokin" worn by the "yamabushi".
A Jew with a phylactery blowing a shofar
Israel and Japan are the only two countries that in the world I know of that use of the black forehead box for religious purpose.
Furthermore, the "yamabushi" use a big seashell as a horn. This is very similar to Jews blowing a shofar or ram's horn. The way it is blown and the sounds of the "yamabushi's" horn are very similar to those of a shofar. Because there are no sheep in Japan, the "yamabushi" had to use seashell horns instead of rams' horns.
"Yamabushis" are people who regard mountains as their holy places for religious training. The Israelites also regarded mountains as their holy places. The Ten Commandments of the Torah were given on Mt. Sinai. Jerusalem is a city on a mountain. Jesus (Yeshua) used to climb up the mountain to pray. His apparent transfiguration also occurred on a mountain.
In Japan, there is the legend of "Tengu" who lives on a mountain and has the figure of a "yamabushi". He has a pronounced nose and supernatural capabilities. A "ninja", who was an agent or spy in the old days, while working for his lord, goes to "Tengu" at the mountain to get from him supernatural abilities. "Tengu" gives him a "tora-no-maki" (a scroll of the "tora") after giving him additional powers. This "scroll of the tora" is regarded as a very important book which is helpful for any crisis. Japanese use this word sometimes in their current lives.
There is no knowledge that a real scroll of a Jewish Torah was ever found in a Japanese historical site. However, it appears this "scroll of the tora" is a derivation of the Jewish Torah.
In the Bible, in First Chronicles, chapter 15, it is written that David brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord into Jerusalem.
"David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of units of a thousand went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-Edom, with rejoicing. ...Now David was clothed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and as were the singers, and Kenaniah, who was in charge of the singing of the choirs. David also wore a linen ephod. So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouts, with the sounding of rams' horns and trumpets, and of cymbals, and the playing of lyres and harps." (15:25-28)
Illustration of Israeli people carrying the Ark of the Covenant
When I read these passages, I think; "How well does this look like the scene of Japanese people carrying our 'omikoshi' during festivals? The shape of the Japanese 'Omikoshi' appears similar to the ark of the covenant. Japanese sing and dance in front of it with shouts, and to the sounds of musical instruments. These are quite similar to the customs of ancient Israel."
Japanese "Omikoshi" ark
Japanese carry the "omikoshi" on their shoulders with poles - usually two poles. So did the ancient Israelites:
"The Levites carried the ark of God with poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the LORD." (1 Chronicles 15:15)
The Israeli ark of the covenant had two poles (Exodus 25:10-15).
Some restored models of the ark as it was imagined to be have used two poles on the upper parts of the ark. But the Bible says those poles were to be fastened to the ark by the four rings "on its four feet" (Exodus 25:12). Hence, the poles must have been attached on the bottom of the ark. This is similar to the Japanese "omikoshi."
The Israeli ark had two statues of gold cherubim on its top. Cherubim are a type of angel, heavenly being having wings like birds. Japanese "omikoshi" also have on its top the gold bird called "Ho-oh" which is an imaginary bird and a mysterious heavenly being.
The entire Israeli ark was overlaid with gold. Japanese "omikoshi" are also overlaid partly and sometimes entirely with gold. The size of an "omikoshi" is almost the same as the Israeli ark. Japanese "omikoshi" could be a remnant of the ark of ancient Israel.
King David and people of Israel sang and danced to the sounds of musical instruments in front of the ark. We Japanese sing and dance to the sounds of musical instruments in front of "omikoshi" as well.
Several years ago, I saw an American-made movie titled "King David" which was a faithful story of the life of King David. In the movie, David was seen dancing in front of the ark while it was being carried into Jerusalem. I thought: "If the scenery of Jerusalem were replaced by Japanese scenery, this scene would be just the same as what can be observed in Japanese festivals." The atmosphere of the music also resembles the Japanese style. David's dancing appears similar to Japanese traditional dancing.
At the Shinto shrine festival of "Gion-jinja" in Kyoto, men carry "omikoshi," then enter a river, and cross it. I can't help but think this originates from the memory of the Ancient Israelites carrying the ark as they crossed the Jordan river after their exodus from Egypt.
In a Japanese island of the Inland Sea of Seto, the men selected as the carriers of the "omikoshi" stay together at a house for one week before they would carry the "omikoshi." This is to prevent profaning themselves. Furthermore on the day before they carry "omikoshi," the men bathe in seawater to sanctify themselves. This is similar to an ancient Israelite custom:
"So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel." (1 Chronicles 15:14)
The Bible says that after the ark entered Jerusalem and the march was finished, "David distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins" (1 Chronicles 16:3). This is similar to a Japanese custom. Sweets are distributed to everyone after a Japanese festival. It was a delight during my childhood.
The Bible says that when David brought up the ark into Jerusalem, "David was clothed in a robe of fine linen" (1 Chronicles 15:27). The same was true for the priests and choirs. In the Japanese Bible, this verse is translated into "robe of white linen."
In ancient Israel, although the high priest wore a colorful robe, ordinary priests wore simple white linen. Priests wore white clothes at holy events. Japanese priests also wear white robes at holy events.
In Ise-jingu, one of the oldest Japanese shrines, all of the priests wear white robes. And in many Japanese Shinto shrines, especially traditional ones, the people wear white robes when they carry the "omikoshi" just like the Israelites did.
Buddhist priests wear luxurious colorful robes. However, in the Japanese Shinto religion, white is regarded as the holiest color.
The Emperor of Japan, just after he finishes the ceremony of his accession to the throne, appears alone in front of the Shinto god. When he arrives there, he wears a pure white robe covering his entire body except that his feet are naked. This is similar to the action of Moses and Joshua who removed their sandals in front of God to be in bare feet (Exodus 3:5, Joshua 5:15).
Marvin Tokayer, a rabbi who lived in Japan for 10 years, wrote in his book:
"The linen robes which Japanese Shinto priests wear have the same figure as the white linen robes of the ancient priests of Israel. "
Japanese Shinto priest in white robe with fringes
The Japanese Shinto priest robe has cords of 20-30 centimeters long (about 10 inches) hung from the corners of the robe. These fringes are similar to those of the ancient Israelites. Deuteronomy 22:12 says:
"make them fringes in the... corners of their garments throughout their generations."
Fringes (tassels) were a token that a person was an Israelite. In the gospels of the New Testament, it is also written that the Pharisees "make their tassels on their garments long" (Matthew 23:5). A woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage came to Jesus (Yeshua) and touched the "tassel on His coat" (Matthew 9:20, The New Testament: A Translation in the Language of the People, translated by Charles B. Williams).
Imagined pictures of ancient Israeli clothing sometimes do not have fringes. But their robes actually had fringes. The Jewish Tallit (prayer shawl), which the Jews put on when they pray, has fringes in the corners according to tradition.
Japanese Shinto priests wear on their robe a rectangle of cloth from their shoulders to thighs. This is the same as the ephod worn by David:
"David also wore a linen ephod." (1 Chronicles 15:27)
Although the ephod of the high priest was colorful with jewels, the ordinary priests under him wore the ephods of simple white linen cloth (1 Samuel 22:18). Rabbi Tokayer states that the rectangle of cloth on the robe of Japanese Shinto priest looks very similar to the ephod of the Kohen, the Jewish priest.
The Japanese Shinto priest puts a cap on his head just like Israeli priest did (Exodus 29:40). The Japanese priest also puts a sash on his waist. So did the Israeli priest. The clothing of Japanese Shinto priests appears to be similar to the clothing used by ancient Israelites.
The Jews wave a sheaf of their first fruits of grain seven weeks before Shavuot (Pentecost, Leviticus 23:10-11), They also wave a sheaf of plants at Sukkot (the Feast of Booths, Leviticus 23:40). This has been a tradition since the time of Moses. Ancient Israeli priests also waved a plant branch when he sanctifies someone. David said, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean" [Psalm 51:7(9)]. This is also a traditional Japanese custom.
Shinto priest waving for sanctification
When a Japanese priest sanctifies someone or something, he waves a tree branch. Or he waves a "harainusa," which is made of a stick and white papers and looks like a plant. Today's "harainusa" is simplified and made of white papers that are folded in a zig-zag pattern like small lightning bolts, but in old days it was a plant branch or cereals.
A Japanese Christian woman acquaintance of mine used to think of this "harainusa" as merely a pagan custom. But she later went to the U.S.A. and had an opportunity to attend a Sukkot ceremony. When she saw the Jewish waving of the sheaf of the harvest, she shouted in her heart, "Oh, this is the same as a Japanese priest does! Here lies the home for the Japanese."
The inside of God's tabernacle in ancient Israel was divided into two parts. The first was the Holy Place, and the second was 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 Israeli tabernacle. Japanese pray in front of its Holy Place. They cannot enter inside. Only Shinto priests and special ones can enter. Shinto priest enters the Holy of Holies of the Japanese shrine only at special times. This is similar to the Israeli tabernacle.
The Japanese Holy of Holies is located usually in far west or far north of the shrine. The Israeli Holy of Holies was located in far west of the temple. Shinto's Holy of Holies is also located on a higher level than the Holy Place, and between them are steps. Scholars state that, in the Israeli temple built by Solomon, the Holy of Holies was on an elevated level as well, and between them there were steps of about 2.7 meters (9 feet) in width.
Typical Japanese Shinto shrine
In front of a Japanese shrine, there are two statues of lions known as "komainu" that sit on both sides of the approach. They are not idols but guards for the shrine. This was also a custom of ancient Israel. In God's temple in Israel and in the palace of Solomon, there were statues or relieves of lions (1 Kings 7:36, 10:19).
"Komainu" guards for shrine
In the early history of Japan, there were absolutely no lions. But the statues of lions have been placed in Japanese shrines since ancient times. It has been proven by scholars that statues of lions located in front of Japanese shrines originated from the Middle East.
Located near the entrance of a Japanese shrine is a "temizuya" - a place for worshipers to wash their hands and mouth. They used to wash their feet, too, in old days. This is a similar custom as is found in Jewish synagogues. The ancient tabernacle and temple of Israel also had a laver for washing hands and feet near the entrances.
In front of a Japanese shrine, there is a gate called the "torii." The type gate does not exist in China or in Korea, it is peculiar to Japan. The "torii" gate consists of two vertical pillars and a bar connecting the upper parts. But the oldest form consists of only two vertical pillars and a rope connecting the upper parts. When a Shinto priest bows to the gate, he bows to the two pillars separately. It is assumed that the "torii" gate was originally constructed of only two pillars.
In the Israeli temple, there were two pillars used as a gate (1 Kings 7:21). And in Aramaic language which ancient Israelites used, the word for gate was "taraa." This word might have changed slightly and become the Japanese "torii".
Some "toriis," especially of old shrines, are painted red. I can't help but think this is a picture of the two door posts and the lintel on which the blood of the lamb was put the night before the exodus from Egypt.
In the Japanese Shinto religion, there is a custom to surround a holy place with a rope called the "shimenawa," which has slips of white papers inserted along the bottom edge of the rope. The "shimenawa" rope is set as the boundary. The Bible says that when Moses was given God's Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, he "set bounds" (Exodus 19:12) around it for the Israelites not to approach. Although the nature of these "bounds" is not known, ropes might have been used. The Japanese "shimenawa" rope might then be a custom that originates from the time of Moses. The zig-zag pattern of white papers inserted along the rope reminds me of the thunders at Mt. Sinai.
The major difference between a Japanese Shinto shrine and the ancient Israeli temple is that the shrine does not have the burning altar for animal sacrifices. I used to wonder why Shinto religion does not have the custom of animal sacrifices if Shinto originated from the religion of ancient Israel.
But then I found the answer in Deuteronomy, chapter 12. Moses commanded the people not to offer any animal sacrifices at any other locations except at specific places in Canaan (12:10-14). Hence, if the Israelites came to ancient Japan, they would not be permitted to offer animal sacrifices.
Shinto shrine is usually build on a mountain or a hill. Almost every mountain in Japan has a shrine, even you find a shrine on top of Mt. Fuji. In ancient Israel, on mountains were usually located worship places called "the high places". The temple of Jerusalem was built on a mountain (Mt. Moriah). Moses was given the Ten Commandments from God on Mt. Sinai. It was thought in Israel that mountain is a place close to God.
Many Shinto shrines are built with the gates in the east and the Holy of Holies in the west as we see in Matsuo grand shrine (Matuo-taisya) in Kyoto and others. While, others are built with the gates in the south and the Holy of Holies in the north. The reason of building with the gates in the east (and the Holy of Holies in the west) is that the sun comes from the east. The ancient Israeli tabernacle or temple was built with the gate in the east and the Holy of Holies in the west, based on the belief that the glory of God comes from the east.
All Shinto shrines are made of wood. Many parts of the ancient Israeli temple was also made of wood. The Israelites used stones in some places, but walls, floors, ceilings and all of the insides were overlaid with wood (1 Kings 6:9, 15-18), which was cedars from Lebanon (1 Kings 5:6). In Japan they do not have cedars from Lebanon, so in Shinto shrines they use Hinoki cypress which is hardly eaten by bugs like cedars from Lebanon.
The wood of the ancient Israeli temple was all overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:20-30). In Japan the important parts of the main shrine of Ise-jingu, for instance, are overlaid with gold.
When Japanese people pray in front of the Holy Place of a Shinto shrine, they firstly ring the golden bell which is hung at the center of the entrance. This was also the custom of the ancient Israel. The high priest Aaron put "bells of gold" on the hem of his robe. This was so that its sound might be heard and he might not die when ministered there (Exodus 28:33-35).
Golden bell at the entrance of Shinto shrine
Japanese people clap their hands two times when they pray there. This was, in ancient Israel, the custom to mean, "I keep promises." In the Scriptures, you can find the word which is translated into "pledge." The original meaning of this word in Hebrew is, "clap his hand" (Ezekiel 17:18, Proverbs 6:1). It seems that the ancient Israelites clapped their hands when they pledged or did something important.
Japanese people bow in front of the shrine before and after clapping their hands and praying. They also perform a bow as a polite greeting when they meet each other. To bow was also the custom of the ancient Israel. Jacob bowed when he was approaching Esau (Genesis 33:3).
Ordinarily, contemporary Jews do not bow. However, they bow when reciting prayers. Modern Ethiopians have the custom of bowing, probably because of the ancient Jews who emigrated to Ethiopia in ancient days. The Ethiopian bow is similar to the Japanese bow.
We Japanese have the custom to use salt for sanctification. People sometimes sow salt after an offensive person leaves. When I was watching a TV drama from the times of the Samurai, a woman threw salt on the place where a man she hated left. This custom is the same as that of the ancient Israelites. After Abimelech captured an enemy city, "he sowed it with salt" (Judges 9:45). We Japanese quickly interpret this to mean to cleanse and sanctify the city.
I hear that when Jews move to a new house they sow it with salt to sanctify it and cleanse it. This is true also in Japan. In Japanese-style restaurants, they usually place salt near the entrance. Jews use salt for Kosher meat. All Kosher meat is purified with salt and all meals start with bread and salt.
Japanese people place salt at the entrance of a funeral home. After coming back from a funeral, one has to sprinkle salt on oneself before entering his/her house. It is believed in Shinto that anyone who went to a funeral or touched a dead body had become unclean. Again, this is the same concept as was observed by the ancient Israelites.
Japanese "sumo" wrestler sowing with salt
Japanese "sumo" wrestlers sow the sumo ring with salt before they fight. European or American people wonder why they sow salt. But Rabbi Tokayer wrote that Jews quickly understand its meaning.
Japanese people offer salt every time they perform a religious offering, This is the same custom used by the Israelites:
"With all your offerings you shall offer salt." (Leviticus 2:13)
Japanese people in old times had the custom of putting some salt into their baby's first bath. The ancient Israelites washed a newborn baby with water after rubbing the baby softly with salt (Ezekiel 16:4). Sanctification and cleansing with salt and/or water is a common custom among both the Japanese and the ancient Israelites.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the words "clean" and "unclean" often appear. Europeans and Americans are not familiar with this concept, but the Japanese understand it. A central concept of Shinto is to value cleanness and to avoid uncleanness. This concept probably came from ancient Israel.
Buddhist temples have idols which are carved in the shape of Buddha and other gods. However in Japanese Shinto shrines, there are no idols.
In the center of the Holy of Holies of a Shinto shrine, there is a mirror, sword, or pendant. Nevertheless, Shinto believers do not regard these items as their gods. In Shinto, gods are thought to be invisible. The mirror, sword, and pendant are not idols but merely objects to show that it is a holy place where invisible gods come down.
In the ark of the covenant of ancient Israel, there were stone tablets of God's Ten Commandments, a jar of manna and the rod of Aaron. These were not idols, but objects to show that it was the holy place where the invisible God comes down. The same thing can be said concerning the objects in Japanese shrines.
Joseph Eidelberg, a Jew who once came to Japan and remained for years at a Japanese Shinto shrine, wrote a book entitled "The Japanese and the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel." He wrote that many Japanese words originated from ancient Hebrew.
For instance, we Japanese say "hazukashime" to mean disgrace or humiliation. In Hebrew, it is "hadak hashem" (tread down the name; see Job 40:12). The pronunciation and the meaning of both of them are almost the same.
We say "anta" to mean "you," which is the same in Hebrew. Kings in ancient Japan were called with the word "mikoto," which could be derived from a Hebrew word "malhuto" which means "his kingdom." The Emperor of Japan is called "mikado." This resembles the Hebrew word, "migadol," which means "the noble." The ancient Japanese word for an area leader is "agata-nushi;" "agata" is "area" and "nushi" is "leader." In Hebrew, they are called "aguda"and "nasi."
When we Japanese count, "One, two, three... ten," we sometimes say:
"Hi, fu, mi, yo, itsu, mu, nana, ya, kokono, towo."
This is a traditional expression, but its meaning is unknown it is thought of as being Japanese.
It has been said that this expression originates from an ancient Japanese Shinto myth. In the myth, the female god, called "Amaterasu," who manages the world's sunlight, once hid herself in a heavenly cave, and the world became dark. Then, according to the oldest book of Japanese history, the priest called "Koyane" prayed with words before the cave and in front of the other gods to have "Amaterasu" come out. Although the words said in the prayer are not written, a legend says that these words were, "Hi, fu, mi...."
"Amaterasu" is hiding in a heavenly cave; "Koyane" is praying and "Uzume" is dancing.
Joseph Eidelberg stated that this is a beautiful Hebrew expression, if it is supposed that there were some pronunciation changes throughout history. These words are spelled:
"Hifa mi yotsia ma na'ne ykakhena tavo."
This means: "The beautiful (Goddess). Who will bring her out? What should we call out (in chorus) to entice her to come?" This surprisingly fits the situation of the myth.
Moreover, we Japanese not only say, "Hi, hu, mi...," but also say with the same meaning:
"Hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu, yottsu, itsutsu, muttsu, nanatsu, yattsu, kokonotsu, towo."
Here, "totsu" or "tsu" is put to each of "Hi, hu, mi..." as the last part of the words. But the last "towo" (which means ten) remains the same. "Totsu" could be the Hebrew word "tetse," which means, "She comes out. " And "tsu" may be the Hebrew word "tse" which means "Come out."
Eidelberg believed that these words were said by the gods who surrounded the priest, "Koyane." That is, when "Koyane" first says, "Hi," the surrounding gods add, "totsu" (She comes out) in reply, and secondly, when "Koyane" says, "Fu," the gods add "totsu" (tatsu), and so on. In this way, it became "Hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu...."
However, the last word, "towo," the priest, "Koyane," and the surrounding gods said together. If this is the Hebrew word "tavo," it means, "(She) shall come." When they say this, the female god, "Amaterasu," came out.
"Hi, fu, mi..." and "Hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu..." later were used as the words to count numbers.
In addition, the name of the priest, "Koyane," sounds close to a Hebrew word, "kohen," which means, "a priest." Eidelberg showed many other examples of Japanese words (several thousand) which appeared to have a Hebrew origin. This does not appear to be accidental.
In ancient Japanese folk songs, many words appear that are not understandable as Japanese. Dr. Eiji Kawamorita considered that many of them are Hebrew. A Japanese folk song in Kumamoto prefecture is sung, "Hallelujah, haliya, haliya, tohse, Yahweh, Yahweh, yoitonnah...." This also sounds as if it is Hebrew.
Similarity Between the Biblical Genealogy and Japanese Mythology
There is a remarkable similarity between the Biblical article and Japanese mythology. A Japanese scholar points out that the stories around Ninigi in the Japanese mythology greatly resemble the stories around Jacob in the Bible.
In the Japanese mythology, the Imperial family of Japan and the nation of Yamato (the Japanese) are descendants from Ninigi, who came from heaven. Ninigi is the anscestor of the tribe of Yamato, or Japanese nation. While Jacob is the anscestor of the Israelites.
In the Japanese mythology, it was not Ninigi who was to come down from heaven, but the other. But when the other was preparing, Ninigi was born and in a result, instead of him, Ninigi came down from heaven and became the anscestor of the Japanese nation. In the same way, according to the Bible, it was Esau, Jacob's elder brother, who was to become God's nation but in a result, instead of Esau, God's blessing for the nation was given to Jacob, and Jacob became the anscestor of the Israelites.
And in the Japanese mythology, after Ninigi came from heaven, he fell in love with a beautiful woman named Konohana-sakuya-hime and tried to marry her. But her father asked him to marry not only her but also her elder sister. However the elder sister was ugly and Ninigi gave her back to her father. In the same way, according to the Bible,
Jacob fell in love with beautiful Rachal and tried to marry her (Genesis chapter 29). But her father says to Jacob that he cannot give the younger sister before the elder, so he asked Jacob to marry the elder sister (Leah) also. However the elder sister was not so beautiful, Jacob disliked her. Thus, there is a parallelism between Ninigi and Jacob.
And in the Japanese mythology, Ninigi and his wife Konohana-sakuya-hime bear a child named Yamasachi-hiko. But Yamasachi-hiko is bullied by his elder brother and has to go to the country of a sea god. There Yamasachi-hiko gets a mystic power and troubles the elder brother by giving him famine, but later forgives his sin. In the same way, according to the Bible, Jacob and his wife Rachal bear a child named Joseph. But Joseph is bullied by his elder brothers and had to go to Egypt. There Joseph became the prime minister of Egypt and gets power, and when the elder brothers came to Egypt because of famine, Joseph helped them and forgives their sin. Thus, there is a parallelism between Yamasachi-hiko and Joseph.
Similarity between the biblical genealogy and Japanese mythology
And in the Japanese mythology, Yamasachi-hiko married a daughter of the sea god, and bore a child named Ugaya-fukiaezu. Ugaya-fukiaezu had 4 sons. But his second and third sons were gone to other places. The forth son is emperor Jinmu who conquers the land of Yamato. On this line is the Imperial House of Japan.
While, what is it in the Bible? Joseph married a daughter of a priest in Egypt, and bore Manasseh and Ephraim. Ephraim resembles Ugaya-fukiaezu in the sense that Ephraim had 4 sons, but his second and third sons were killed and died early (1 Chronicles 7:20-27), and a descendant from the forth son was Joshua who conquered the land of Canaan (the land of Israel). On the line of Ephraim is the Royal House of the Ten Tribes of Israel.
Thus we find a remarkable similarity between the biblical genealogy and Japanese mythology - between Ninigi and Jacob, Yamasachi-hiko and Joseph, and the Imperial family of Japan and the tribe of Ephraim.
Furthermore, in the Japanese mythology, the heaven is called Hara of Takama (Takama-ga-hara or Takama-no-hara). Ninigi came from there and founded the Japanese nation. Concerning this Hara of Takama, Zen'ichirou Oyabe, a Japanase researcher, thought that this is the city Haran in the region of Togarmah where Jacob and his anscestors once lived; Jacob lived in Haran of Togarmah for a while, then came to Canaan and founded the Israeli nation.
Jacob once saw in a dream the angels of God ascending and descending between the heaven and the earth (Genesis 28:12), when Jacob was given a promise of God that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. This was different from Ninigi's descending from heaven, but resembles it in image.
Thus, except for details, the outline of the Japanese mythology greatly resembles the records of the Bible. It is possible to think that the myths of Kojiki and Nihon-shoki, the Japanese chronicles written in the 8th century, were originally based on Biblical stories but later added with various pagan elements. Even it might be possible to think that the Japanese mythology was originally a kind of genealogy which showed that the Japanese are descendants from Jacob, Joseph, and Ephraim.
The concept of uncleanness during menstruation and bearing child have existed in Japan since ancient times.
It has been a custom in Japan since old days that woman during menstruation should not attend holy events at shrine. She could not have sex with her husband and had to shut herself up in a hut (called Gekkei-goya in Japanese), which is built for collaboration use in village, during her menstruation and several days or about 7 days after the menstruation. This custom had been widely seen in Japan until Meiji era (about 100 years ago). After the period of shutting herself up ends, she had to clean herself by natural water as river, spring, or sea. It there is no natural water, it can be done in bathtub.
This resembles ancient Israeli custom very much. In ancient Israel, woman during menstruation could not attend holy events at the temple, had to be apart from her husband, and it was custom to shut herself up in a hut during her menstruation and 7 days after the menstruation (Leviticus 15:19, 28). This shutting herself up was said "to continue in the blood of her purification", and this was for purification and to make impurity apart from the house or the village.
Menstruation hut used by Falasha, Ethiopian Jews
This remains true even today. There are no sexual relations, for the days of menstruation and an additional 7 days. Then the woman goes to the Mikveh, ritual bath. The water of the Mikveh must be natural water. There are cases of gathering rainwater and putting it to the Mikveh bathtub. In case of not having enough natural water, water from faucet is added.
Modern people may feel irrational about this concept but women during menstruation or bearing child need rest physically and mentally. Woman herself says that she feels impure in her blood in the period. "To continue in the blood of her purification" refers to this need of rest of her blood.
Not only concerning menstruation, but also the concept concerning bearing child in Japanese Shinto resembles the one of ancient Israel. A mother who bore a child is regarded unclean in a certain period. This concept is weak among the Japanese today, but was very common in old days. The old Shinto book, Engishiki (the 10th century C.E.), set 7 days as a period that she cannot participate holy events after she bore a child. This resembles an ancient custom of Israel, for the Bible says that when a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be "unclean 7 days". She shall then "continue in the blood of her purification 33 days". In the case that she bears a female child, then she shall be "unclean two weeks", and she shall "continue in the blood of her purification 66 days'" (Leviticus 12:2-5).
In Japan it had been widely seen until Meiji era that woman during pregnancy and after bearing child shut herself up in a hut (called Ubu-goya in Japanese) and lived there. The period was usually during the pregnancy and 30 days or so after she bore a child (The longest case was nearly 100 days). This resembles the custom of ancient Israel.
In ancient Israel, after this period of purification the mother could come to the temple with her child for the first time. Also in the custom of Japanese Shinto, after this period of purification the mother can come to the shrine with her baby. In modern Japan it is generally 32 days (or 31 days) after she bore the baby in case of a male, and 33 days in case of a female.
But when they come to the shrine, it is not the mother who carries the baby. It is a traditional custom that the baby should be carried not by the mother, but usually by the husband's mother (mother-in-law). This is a remarkable similarity of purity and impurity of the mother, after childbirth, with ancient Israeli custom.
Japanese "Mizura" and Jewish Peyot
The photo below (left) is a statue of an ancient Japanese Samurai found in relics of the late 5th century C.E. in Nara, Japan. This statue shows realistically the ancient Japanese men's hair style called "mizura," which hair comes down under his cap and hangs in front of both ears with some curling. This hair style was widely seen among Japanese Samurais, and it was unique to Japan, not the one which came from the cultures of China or Korea.
Ancient Japanese Samurai's hair style "mizura" (left) and Jewish "peyot" (right)
Is it a mere coincidence that this resembles Jewish "peyot" very much, which is also a hair style of hanging the hair in front of the ears long with some curling (photo right)? "Peyot" is a unique hair style for Jews and the origin is very old. There is a statue from Syria, which is from the 8th or 9th century B.C.E.. It shows a Hebrew man with peyot and a fringed shawl.
Chapter 2: The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Myanmar, and China
What Are Israelites?
Around the time of 1900 B.C.E., there was a man named Jacob who was the ancestor of the people of Israel. Later Jacob's name was changed to Israel.
Israel had 12 sons, who were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zevulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin. The descendants of these sons formed 12 tribes of Israel. These 12 tribes are called "Israelites".
When they had territories in Canaan (Israel, Holy Land), the tribe of Levi did not have a territory for they were the tribe of priests. Instead, the tribe of Joseph was divided into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh and have their own territories. Thus the land of Canaan was divided into 12 territories.
Later, the 12 tribes of Israel experienced the height of prosperity in the time of King Solomon in the 10th century B.C.E.. But after Solomon died, the united kingdom of Israel was divided into two countries: One is the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the other the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom is also called Samaria, the Southern Kingdom is also called Judea.
The word "Jews" is used basically for the people and descendants of Judea, the Southern Kingdom, but sometimes used for the same meaning as Israelites.
The Ten tribes of Israel belonged to Samaria, the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They were Reuben, Gad, Ephraim, Issachar, Zevulun, Naphtali, Asher, Dan, Manasseh and (a part of) Benjamin. While the other tribes belonged to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
In the 8th century B.C.E., the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the army of Assyrian empire, and the Ten Tribes of Israel was led captive and compelled to march to the land of Assyria. They did not come back to the land of Israel. They are so called "the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel."
Josephus Wrote About the Lost Tribes of Israel
Where was the exact place of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel to be carried captive in Assyrian Empire? The Bible records:
"the king of Assyria carried Israel away captive to Assyria, and put them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes." (2 Kings 18:11)
These places are located in today's northern Iraq or Northwest Iran called Kurdistan. The Ten Tribes of Israel were firstly compelled to emigrate there, and this is also a starting point of our research.
There is a Jew named Josephus Flavius, a very reliable historian who lived in the first century C.E.. In his book of history, there is a description about whereabouts of the Ten Tribes:
"...the Ten Tribes who are beyond the Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, whose numbers cannot be estimated." (Antiquities 11:2)
Josephus wrote that in the first century C.E., the Ten Tribes of Israel lived as an immense multitude beyond Euphrates River. This may mean that some of of them lived in the close area east of Euphrates River and others moved to a place far beyond east of the Euphrates.
The Lost Tribes of Israel in Afghanistan
The Bible mentions the cities of Medes, today's Iraq and Iran, as the locations of the Assyrian exile of the Ten Tribes of Israel. It is an accepted tradition that the people of this area are from the Assyrian exile.
It seems that later, many of the Ten Tribes of Israel moved to the east along the Silk Road. We find the descendants of them in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Myanmar (Burma), China and other countries, which are along the Silk Road. I will have a brief explanation about them in this chapter. The information is mostly from the books which were written by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer and published in Japan, and "Beyond the Sambatyon, The Myth of The Lost Tribes" written by Simcha Shtull.
East of Iran is Afghanistan. There are so many tribes in Afghanistan with names that have Yusuf in the name as Yusufzai, Yusufuzi, Yusufzad, etc.. Yusuf means Joseph and Yusufzai means children of Joseph.
They claim their origin to be from the Lost Tribes of Israel, that is, from the tribes of Joseph, which are the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh and are a part of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. They also call themselves Bani-Israel meaning children of Israel. Their tradition is that they were carried away from their ancient homeland.
Formerly they were shepherds in search of pasture but they gave up their nomadic life and settled into village communities. The people of Yusufzai live separated from the rest of the world by mountains and difficult rivers and it is hard to find them. They marry among themselves.
Today they are devout Muslims but have Hebrew names, wear the fringes which only Jews and Japanese Shinto priests wear, light candles for the Sabbath on Friday night which only Jews do (The Sabbath is from the sunset of Friday until the night of Saturday). They also have the custom called peyot (side-curls) which is to have curled hair of about 10 centimeters long in front of both ears. This is a custom which only Jews have and which may very well be of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
Pathans As the Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, there also live people called Pathans numbering about 15 million. They live mainly in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as in Persia and India. Most of them are Muslims but they have a tradition of being of the Lost Tribes and have Israeli customs.
According to a book written by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, the Pathans have custom of circumcision on the 8th day. This is a known Jewish custom, and is the oldest Jewish tradition. Rabbi Tokayer once told me that he had witnessed and been present at a very joyous circumcision ceremony on the 8th day after birth among the Pathans. Muslims have custom of circumcision but it is not on the 8th day, usually at the age of 12.
The Pathans have a sort of small Tallit called Kafan. This is a 4 cornered garment which they tie strings similar to the fringes (Jews call them Tzitzit) and is one of the oldest Jewish traditions going back to the Torah and it is a sign of their Israeli origin.
The Pathans have custom of the Sabbath, Israeli tradition of the day of rest. On the Sabbath they do not labor, cook or bake. The Pathans prepare 12 Hallot (traditional Jewish bread, Leviticus 24:5) in honor of the Sabbath as was done in the ancient Israeli temple. One of the significant indicators proving the Israeli origins of the Pathans is the lighting of the candle to honor the Sabbath. After lighting, the candle is covered usually by a large basket. The candle is lit by a woman past her menopause. This is the same as Israeli custom.
Pathans have custom of Kosher, diatary laws same as Jews. Pathans do not eat horse or camel meat, which is most common in their area but forbidden to Jews. There is some evidence to their not eating meat and milk together which is also an ancient Israeli tradition. And they have a tradition regarding differentiating between pure and impure birds which means permitted and not permitted birds similar to the Torah.
Some still wear a small box which Jews call Tefillin (phylactery) containing a verse of the Bible. This box resemble Japanese Tokin of Yamabushi's forehead, too, which I will mention later. This is an ancient custom of Israel. In the Jewish box there is the verse of Shema Israel, that is, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!" (Deuteronomy 6:4) This custom of Tefillin came from a verse of the Scriptures, "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes" (Deuteronomy 6:8).
It is interesting to note that the Pathans retain family names of the Lost Tribes such as Asher, Gad, Naphtali, Reuben and Manasseh and Ephraim. Among them there are people who are called by these names, which are of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. There are also people who are called Israel, Samuel, and so on, which are never found among the Muslims.
The Pathans were mostly called "Bani-Israel" meaning children of Israel even though they live today as devout Muslims.
The legal system which is known as Pashtunwali, the law of the Pashtu, is very similar to the Torah, which is the holiest Jewish book and the book of ancient Jewish way of life. There are pages and even complete books among the pathans and they honor greatly what is called Tavrad El Sharif (the Torah of Moses), and they rise at the mention of the name of Moses even though it is not important in Islam.
Besides the oral tradition related by the elders of the tribe, there are also interesting testimonies of keeping of scrolls of genealogy among the tribes, reaching back to the Fathers of the Jewish nation. These scrolls are well preserved and some are written in gold on the skins of a doe.
No less interesting and significant are the names of the tribes which bear close resemblance to the Tribes of Israel. The Rabbani Tribe is really Reuben, the Shinware Tribe is Simeon, the Lewani Tribe is Levi, The Daftani Tribe is Naphtali, and the Jaji Tribe is Gad, and the Ashuri Tribe is Asher, The Yusefsai Tribe is children of Joseph, and the Afridi Tribe is really Ephraim. These are the names of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
The Pathans themselves point out the differences between the original names of the tribes and their present names are because of the different dialects of the languages so that, for instance, Jaji was actually called Gaji for the tribe of Gad.
Women of the Pathans keep laws similar to the Jewish laws regarding menstruation. During this time and for 7 days after, no contact is allowed with the husband. After this period, the woman immerses in a river or spring or in a bathhouse if a natural spring is not available. This is exactly the same as the Israeli tradition going back to the days of the Bible.
The Lost Tribes of Israel Who Came to Kashmir
Leaving Afghanistan and Pakistan where the Pathans live, when one goes east, it is the State of Kashmir in northern part of India which is west of Nepal.
There are 5 to 7 million people there. Generally speaking, they have clearer complexions and are different from the other citizens of India. An Interesting tradition is passed down among the Kashmiri people regarding their ancestry from the Lost Tribes of Israel.
The people in Kashmir perform a feast called Pasca in Spring, when they adjust the difference of days between the lunar calendar and solar calendar and the way of this adjustment is the same as Jewish. Several books are published on this. The Udu language which is used in Kashmir includes many words of Hebrew.
In Kashmir, various places are called with Israeli names, like Har Nevo, Beit Peor, Pisga, Heshubon. These are all the names in the land of the Ten Tribes of Israel.
The same thing is true in the names of people, male names, female names, and names of village. For example, one of the tribes of Kashmir is called Asheriya which is Asher, the tribe of Dand is Dan, Gadha is Gad, Lavi is Levi. The Tribe of Shaul is the Hebrew name of King Saul. Musa is Moses, Suliamanish is Solomon. And you also have the tribe of Israel, the tribe of Abri which is the tribe of Hebrew, and the tribe of Kahana which is the word for Jewish priest.
There are also 50-75 names of places in Kashmir which are in fact the Hebrew names that ancient Israelites were very familiar with. There is a place called Samaryah which is Samaria. Mamre is Mamre, Pishgah is Pisgah, Nabudaal is Mt. Nevo, Bushan is Bashan, Gilgit is Gilgal, Heshba is Heshbon, Amunah is Amon, Gochan is Goshen, Median-pura is Midian, and Guzana is Gozan which is a place name in Assyria and the very place where the Ten Tribes of Israel were deported.
The name Israel is very common among them as it is among the Pathans, and this name is never used among the Muslims.
The history of the Kashmiris is shrouded in mystery as is the history of other people in that region. Most Kashmir researchers are of the opinion that many inhabitants of Kashmir are descendants of the Lost Tribes who were exiled in 722 B.C.E.. They wandered along the Silk Road into the countries of the East, Persia and Afghanistan until they reached the Kashmir valley and settled there.
The priest Kitro in his book, the General History of the Mughal Empire, said that the Kashmir people are the descendants of the Israelites. The priest Monstrat said that in the time of Vasco da Gama in the 15th century, "all the inhabitants of this area who have been living here since ancient times can trace their ancestry, according to their race and customs, to the ancient Israelites. their features, their general physical appearance, their clothing, their ways of conducting business, all show that they are similar to the ancient Israelites."
Among Kashmiri people there are customs to light a candle for the Sabbath, have sidelocks, beards, and emblem or design of the Shield of David (Star of David) just like Jews do.
In an area which is on the border of Pakistan, called Yusmarg (Handwara), there lives a group which to this very day calls itself B'nei Israel meaning children of Israel. Many of the inhabitants of Kashmir say that this is the ancient name of all the people of Kashmir. The two primary historians of Kashmir, Mulla Nadiri, who wrote The History of Kashmir and Mulla Ahmad who wrote Events of Kashmir have established without a trace of doubt that the origins of the Kashmiri people are to be found in the people of Israel.
In Kashmir there is a strange legend which says that Jesus did not die on the cross but in his search for the Ten Tribes reached the Kashmir valley and lived there until his death. They even point to his grave in Kashmir.
This is very much like a legend which exists in Japan (Herai village, present Shingou village in Aomori prefecture), where they also have the legend that Jesus came to Japan and died there. They even point to his grave. It seems that sometimes the legend of coming of Jesus and his tomb is born where the Ten Tribes are said to come.
In Kashmir, there is another strange tradition of a small community next to the Wallar Link who point out the grave of Moses. There is yet another tradition in connection with King Solomon according to which even King Solomon reached the Kashmir Valley and through his wisdom aided the people of Kashmir by successfully regulating the Jalum river.
This tradition is also connected to a place called Solomon's throne which is situated above the capital of Kashmir, Srinagar. Isn't it strange and fascinating that there are historical and even folkloristic tales of ancient Israeli heroes in these strange and exotic places?
These also strangely resemble the legends of Japan. There is so called the grave of Moses on Mt. Houdatsu in Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, and also a legend says that many secret treasures of Solomon are kept in Mt. Tsurugi in Shikoku, Japan. What is this phenomenon?
The Lost Tribes of Israel Who Came to India and Myanmar,
In the mountainous region which lies on both sides of the border between India and Myanmar (former Burma), lives the Menashe (Shinlung) tribe which numbers between 1-2 million people. They intermarried with the Chinese and look Chinese-Burmas, but the entire tribe is conscious of their Israeli ancestry.
Recently, Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, who is the president of Amishav, an organization in Jerusalem for the search of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, went to Myanmar and investigated the Menashe tribe.
Menashe people with Rabbi Avichail (right)
The word Menashe appears often in their poetry and prayer. It is the name of their ancestor and they call themselves children of Menashe (Beni Menashe). When they pray, they say, "Oh, God of Menashe," which is from the name Manasseh, a tribe of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
According to the history which Menashe people say, they were exiled to Assyria in 722 B.C.E. with other Tribes of Israel. Assyria was later conquered by Babylon (607 B.C.E.), which was later conquered by Persia (457 B.C.E.), which was later conquered by Greece of Alexander the Great (331 B.C.E.), when the people of Menashe were deported from Persia to Afghanistan and other places.
There Menashe tribe became shepherds and Idol worshipers. They were later conquered by Islam and forced to convert to Islam. Because of their speaking Hebrew they were called the Semitic speakers. Throughout this entire period they possessed a Hebrew Torah scroll which they guarded with their elders and their priest.
Among them there were those who left Afghanistan and migrated eastward until they reached the area of the Tibetan-Chinese border. From there they continued into China following the Wei River until they reach the central China, near Kaifeng. They settled there at about 231 B.C.E..
But the Chinese were cruel to them and made them as slaves. Some of them escaped and lived in caves in the mountainous areas called Shinlung, which became another name for the tribe of Menashe. They are also called the cave people or the mountain people.
Menashe people lived in caves in poverty for about two generations but they still kept the Torah scroll with them. But they started to assimilate and have Chinese influences. Later they were banished from their cave area and went west through Thailand and eventually reached the area in Myanmar.
There they wandered along the river until they reached Mandaley. From there they reached the Chin Mountains. In the 18th century a part of them migrated to Manipur and Mizoram which are in northeastern India. Generally, they maintained the tradition about their wandering and they realized that they were not Chinese even though they spoke the local language.
They call them themselves Lusi which means the Ten Tribe ("Lu" means tribes, and "si" means ten).
According to the history which Menashe people state, when they were banished from their cave area they lost their Torah scroll when or perhaps it was stolen or burnt by the Chinese. But the priests of the tribe of Menashe continued to hand down their tradition orally including their ritual observances until the 19th century.
They had kept the custom of circumcision, which when it became difficult was no longer practiced but they blessed the child in a special ceremony on the 8th day. They also had holy days which were very similar to the Jewish days.
The following poem accompanied them throughout their migrations. It is a traditional song about the crossing of the Red Sea which was written by their ancestors. This is the English translation:
We must keep the Passover feast
Because we crossed the Red Sea by dry land
At night we crossed with a fire
And By day with a cloud
Enemies pursued us with chariots
And the sea swallowed them up
And used them as food for the fish
And when we were thirsty
We received water from the rock
This content is similar to the experience of Israelites written in Exodus. The people of Menashe call their God Y'wa, which is the same as Biblical God's name Yah, or Yahweh.
In every village they had a priest whose name was always Aaron, the brother of Moses and the first Jewish priest. One of his duties was to watch over the village.
The priest wore a tunic and a breastplate and an embroidered coat fastened with a belt and a crown on his head. And they always sang about Menashe at the beginning of each gathering.
Rabbi Tokayer says that he met this group in the jungles of Burma in 1963 or 1964 and he can describe their offerings and sacrifices as exactly the same as was offered in the Bible.
Recently a return to Judaism began. Several thousand people of Menashe decided to observe the laws of the Torah and returned to Judaism. They have synagogues in Manipur, Assam, and Mizoram. There are also those who emigrated to Israel. Thousands long for returning to Israel.
The Lost Tribes of Israel Who Came to China
In the mountainous area of northwest China, west of the Min River, near the border of Tibet, in Szechuan lives an ancient people called by the Chinese, Chiang or Chiang-Min, who numbers about 250 thousand people.
In 1937, a book was published entitled, China's First Missionaries, subtitled, Ancient Israelites, by Rev. Thomas Torrance, who was a missionary in this area of China and was the first to write about this tribe and what he believed to be their ancient roots of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
According to the reports by Torrance, he believed that the customs, rituals, modes of thought, domestic and religious practices of the Israelites who were the contemporaries of Amos, Hosea and Elijah, were found within the Chiang people of northwestern China. Torrance was basically very impressed with the simple monotheism of this people in China in an area where the term God was not even known.
The language of the Chiang tribe had been forgotten and they had also lost their ancient script. Today they speak Chinese.
They themselves see themselves as immigrants from the west who reached this area after a journey of three years three months. The Chinese treated them as Barbarians, while Chiang people related to the Chinese as idol worshipers.
Chiang Min people (Photo: Thomas Torrance in 1920's)
Hate and enmity existed between the Chinese and this tribe for a long time. They lived independently until the middle of the 18th century when they became part of the general population to earn more freedom. The religious pressure from the Chinese, the spread of Christianity, and the influence of intermarriage caused the Chiang tribe to generally and greatly give up their special monotheistic way of life.
However it is still possible even today to learn about the past traditions of the Chiang tribe through their customs and their faith which they still keep. This tribe had been living a special Israeli way of life since the time of B.C.E..
According to their tradition, the Chiang tribe is the descendant of Abraham and their forefather had 12 sons. Those among them who did not take Chinese wives after their victory in war still look Semitic.
They believe in one God whom they call Abachi meaning the father of heaven, or Mabichu, the spirit of heaven, or also Tian, heaven. As a result of Chinese influences they all call Him God of the mountains as the mountains are the central place for worship of God.
Their concept of God is that of an all powerful God who watches over the entire world, judges the world fairly, rewards the righteous, and punishes the wicked. This God gives them the opportunity to do repentance and to gain atonement for their actions. In times of trouble, they call God in the name of "Yawei", the same as Yahweh.
They also believe in spirits and demons and they are forbidden to worship them, but this is probably a Chinese influence. In the past they had written scrolls of parchment and also books but today they only have oral traditions. They themselves do not understand the prayers that they recite every week.
The Chiang tribe lives a very special way of life based on the offering of animal sacrifices which seems to have been seen among the Ten Tribes of Israel. It is forbidden to worship statues or foreign gods and anyone who offers a sacrifice to another god faces the death penalty.
These priests wear clean white clothes and perform the sacrifices in a state of purity as the priests in ancient Israel did (1 Samuel 15:27). I recall that Japanese Shinto priests also wear clean white clothes at holy events.
A priest of Chiang Min tribe (Photo: Torrance in 1920's)
The priest of the Chiang tribe wears a special head turban. The priest is ordained in a special ceremony in which sacrifices are also offered. Unmarried men may not be a priest, which was the same in ancient Israel (Leviticus 21:7, 13).
The altar itself is built of earth which is molded into stones which are then laid one on top of the other without being cut of fashioned by any tool of metal. It is important to remember that in the Torah, the ancient altar could not be made of cut stones (Exodus 20:25), since the sword or whatever tool to be used to cut the stone was also an instrument of war and harm.
The main part of the service is performed at night perhaps to conceal it from other Chinese or because of the special effect of the silence and the tranquility of night. This was also ancient Israeli tradition. It is interesting that the important rituals of Japanese Shinto religion are also performed at night.
Before the offering of sacrifices, one is required to wash one's self and one's clothing and to dress in clean garments. Sacrificial animals themselves must be washed and purified. There is a special place for purification and washing. The elders and priest place their hands on the head of the sacrifice which is to be slaughtered then offer their prayers.
Circumcision is not performed. It seems to have obsoleted. But after the 7th day or at the eve of the 40th day of the child's life, a white rooster is slaughtered in the child's honor and he is given a name.
Ancient Jewish Communities in Kaifeng, China
As I mentioned before, Menashe people once went to the region near Kaifeng, China. The Jewish community in Kaifeng is most famous as the very ancient one which had existed since the time of B.C.E..
Kaifeng was the former capital for several dynasties in China. The Jews there did not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, which is a custom of Israelites, and their religion was called by the name meaning this.
There are still a few thousand Jews in Kaifeng. They had maintained some Jewish tradition. In Kaifeng they had a synagogue. They intermarried with the Chinese and look Chinese.
We can trace the history of Israelites in China to very ancient times. According to a stone monument in Kaifeng, Israelites already came to Kaifeng in 231 B.C.E.. Many Israelites or Jews lived in parts of China even before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E..
The Lost Tribes of Israel Went East Along the Silk Road
I have mentioned above about the people of the Yusufzai and the Pathans in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the people of Kashmir, the Menashe tribe in India and Myanmar, and the Chiang (Chiang-Min) tribe in China. These places are all along the Silk Road. Are these all where they went?
Otherwise, were there any other people who went further east along the Silk Road?
Where is the destination of the Silk Road? Japan. Did the Ten Tribes of Israel come to Japan?
If the Ten Tribes came to China, we must say that there is a strong possibility that they came to Japan also, for next to China is Japan. But someone may think, "There is a sea between China and Japan, which makes it difficult to get to Japan."
However, it was not a big problem for the Israelites. Scholars say that Israelites already traded in the time of King Solomon (the 10th century B.C.E.) with India and other countries of the Mediterranean Sea with a fleet of ships (see 1 Kings 10:22, Some of the words are from Sanskrit). Israelites knew well about ships even in the times before the country of Japan started.
The Silk Road was actually Silk Roads because there were several roads on the land and the sea already in the time of B.C.E. The Israelites were experienced people for getting across the ocean.
Chapter 3: Did the Lost Tribes of Israel Come To Ancient Japan?
(The infomation of this Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 is mainly from what I learned from Rabbi Marvin Tokayer's book published in Japan, plus my study.)
The Land of Far End
There is a book called the Forth Book of Ezra, which was written in the end of the first century C.E.. Although this is not the Bible but just one of the ancient Hebrew documents, an interesting thing is written:
"They are the Ten Tribes which were off into exile in the time of King Hosea, whom Shalmaneser king of Assyria took prisoner. He deported them beyond the River and they were taken away into a strange country. But then they resolved to leave the country populated by Gentiles and go to a distant land never yet inhabited by man, and there at last to be obedient to their laws, which in their own country they had failed to keep. As they passed through the narrow passages of the Euphrates, the Most High performed miracles for them, stopping up the channels of the river until they had crossed over. Their journey through that region, which is called ARZARETH, was long, and took a year and a half. They have lived there ever since, until this final age. Now they are on their way back, and once more the Most High will stop the channels of the river to let them cross." (13:39-47)
This article was mentioned in the form of a vision and we cannot immediately think that this is a historical fact. But it is possible to think that there was some fact which became the background for this article. There might be the news or oral tradition that the Ten Tribe of Israel started their journey to the east and settled to a land of a year and a half distance away.
Where is ARZARETH which the Ten Tribes are said to have gone to? We cannot find the same name in the world by looking at the map.
Dr. Schiller Szinessy suggests that this is nothing else but the Hebrew words "eretz ahereth" (ARZ AHRTh) which means the other land. Otherwise, if we interpret this as the Hebrew words "eretz aherith" (ARZ AHRITh), they mean the end of land, or most far away land. Not a few people thought that Japan might be the land.
Japan Which Kaempfer Saw
Engelbert Kaempfer was a German medical doctor who stayed at Dejima, Nagasaki Japan during 1690-1693 C.E.. He came to Japan after he traveled and saw various countries of the world. He was an erudite man and published a book about Japan after he went back to Europe.
In the book Kaempher states that the Japanese language, customs and religion are much different from the ones of the Chinese or the Koreans, and that the main race of the Japanese are not derived from the Chinese or Koreans but rather a tribe from the area of Babylon came to Japan and became the main race of the Japanese. He wrote:
"The Japanese must be of a tribe who immigrated directly from the area of Babylon."
The area of Babylon is the Middle East where there was the Assyrian Empire which the Ten Tribes of Israel were exiled to. Kaempher also states:
"The appearance of the Japanese is so different according to regions in Japan that we can clearly distinguish. This proves that the Japanese are formed through the process that several tribes were added to a basic nation. The most noble, old lineage family and "daimyo", feudal lords, and high officials are generally intelligent, elegant in appearance than others, full of dignity, having higher nose and somewhat look European. The people in the region of Satsuma, Oosumi, and Hyuga are middle in the height, but strong and manly in language and ability...."
And he states that there are differences in appearance and nature according to the peoples of various parts of Japan. He also states:
"As for the roots of the Japanese and their origin, it seems that we should admit the Japanese are independent from others and did not derived from the Chinese."
Rabbi Tokayer's Experience
Rabbi Marvin Tokayer tells a story about what he saw in Japan. He lived in Tokyo, and on the first Sunday in Japan he visited Meiji-jingu, a grand shrine of Shinto which is the religion unique to Japan. There he saw a Shinto priest wearing a white robe, putting a unique cap, and on the corners of his robe were fringes which were cords of 20 - 30 centimeters long.
The Shinto priest was waving a branch of Sakaki tree to right and to left and upward and downward. He was purifying a baby of one month old who was brought to him by the parents but never carried by the mother. When seeing this scene, he says he thought:
"Did I come to my home land?"
Because all of these he saw were the customs of ancient Israel. The way of waving the branch by the Shinto priest resembled Jewish custom. And in ancient days of Israel, the mother was considered impure, after birth, and would not carry the baby for the ceremony in the temple. Today, Jews no longer observe this ritual, but how fascinated he was to see everyone except the mother holding the baby. He said, "Cute." to the family and asked why the mother was not carrying the baby, and his wife and he were stunned into silence, when told that the mother was still impure, just as the Bible.
He asked a Shinto priest, "Why do you put on fringes on your robe?" The priest answered, "This is just a tradition from ancient times." But this is originally the custom of Israel. There is a description about the fringes in the Bible (Deuteronomy 22:12).
Fringes were actually a trademark that he was an Israelite. Today, Jews wear prayer shawl called Tallit which is a large white cloth with fringes (called Tzitzit) on the corners. These are the same as the ones of the Japanese Shinto priest.
The Three Holy Objects in Israel and Japan
Like the ancient Israelites had three holy objects, the Japanese have three holy objests, which are a mirror (called Yata-no-kagami), a bead (Yasaka-no-magatama), and a sword (Kusanagi-no-tsurugi). These have been believed very holy as the tokens of authority of the emperors and as the holy Yorishiro since very ancient times. Today these three are kept separately in different places.
There are several differences between the holy objects of ancient Israel and the ones of Japan, but are common in having three things and thinking them holy. Though in fact the three holy objects of Israel were lost in the time of Babylonian Empire, so it was impossible to have the same objects in Japan.
An orthodox Shinto believer, a Japanese scholar and a professor of Kyuusyuu Imperial University, Dr. Chikao Fujisawa, believed that the three holy objects of Japan originated from the three holy objects of ancient Israel. And there are not a few Shinto scholars who think the same. Some suggest a parallelism between the mirror and the tablets, the bead and the manna, the sword and the rod.
Some point out that mirrors were also used in the temple of King Solomon (1 Kings 7:28). Others point out that the shape of the Japanese bead is the same as a Hebrew letter yod which is also the first letter of the holy name Yahweh.
To Shinto shrine people bring rice, Mochi (Japanese Matzah), Japanese liquor (Sake), cereals, vegetables, fruits, confectioneries, salt, water, fish (sea bream, etc.), and bird (pheasant meat, etc.) as their offerings to god and place them in the Holy Place of the Shrine. These must be the best ones, and the fire for cooking them must be a holy one lit by flint or heat of rubbing.
The offerings are displayed beautifully on a table of wood and the priest prays to god in front of it. After the ceremony the priest and participants are to eat the offerings. In that, modern Shintoists find significance that man eats with god or dines with god.
In the Holy Place of the Israeli tabernacle or temple, there was also a table of wood on which the bread made of cereals of the land, liquor (wine), and incense were offered (Exodus 25:29-30). These offerings to God had to be the best ones. The priest prayed to God and after the ceremony the offerings, which had been offered to God, were eaten by the priest and his family (Numbers 18:11). And in the Bible there is an article that Moses and the leaders of Israel "ate and drank" in front of God on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:11).
The Bible does not mention the concept of "dining with God" though, later, Jews in Talmudic times find significance of dining with God.
With a few exceptions, meat of four legged animals is generally not offered in Shinto religion. The most common offerings are firstfruits, salt, fish as bonito, Mochi (Japanese Matzah), rice, liquor (Sake), seaweeds, etc. Usually most of them are Kosher, or permitted foods in the Jewish diatary laws. But in modern Shinto, shellfish is sometimes offerred (Abalone is offered at Ise grand shrine). This is non-Kosher and the Jews not only never eat it, but also never offer to God. How was it in the start of Japanese Shinto?
In the Holy Place of the Israeli tabernacle or temple, there were also lamps which were never extinguished (Exodus 27:20-21), since they were holy fire. There is also an eternal light burning in every synagogue to this very day. In the same way, in the Holy Place of Japanese shrine, there is holy fire as lamps lit by divine means. Placing fire as lamps and the table with offerings on it in the Holy Place of the Shinto shrine resemble the Holy Place of ancient Israeli tabernacle. Thus the functions of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies of the Japanese shrine are very similar to the ones of ancient Israel.
It is noteworthy that the liquor is indispensable for both Israeli and Japanese shrines. Like the liquor was offered in the Israeli temple, the liquor is offered in the Japanese shrine. The Bible says that the drink offering shall be of "wine, one-fourth of a hin" (Leviticus 23:13). "A hin" is about 6 liters, and I hear that its one-fourth is about the quantity of the liquor which is offered in grand shrines of Shinto.
Surprise of Chief Rabbi of Israel
Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, who used to live in Japan, tells a story about when the chief rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Goren, once visited Japan.
Chief rabbi Goren was very curious and fascinated with Japan and enjoyed his stay very much. He said that he wanted to learn the essence of Japanese Shinto religion, and he attended for a while a lecture at Kokugakuin University which is a Shinto university in Tokyo.
At the lecture, the chief rabbi asked the lecturer a question about how to guard Shinto grand shrine, that is, where the guards stand, how they patrol, in what turn they patrol the places, and how to shift the guards. Hearing the answer, Rabbi Goren was very surprised and said, "Unbelievable." Turning his face pale, he said to Rabbi Tokayer who was young in those days, "Do you understand the importance of what the Shinto lecturer said?" Then he added, "Read the Mishnah, and you will know why I was so surprised to hear it."
The Mishnah, the teachings of ancient Jewish scholars, has an explanation on how the ancient temple of Jerusalem had been guarded. As a matter of fact, Shinto's way of guarding, patrolling, and shifting guards at shrine are just the same as the one which had been done at the ancient temple of Jerusalem. The temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E. and not yet rebuilt. How cound the way of guarding at Japanese Shinto shrine be the same as the one at the temple of ancient Israel? Chief rabbi's word "Unbelievable" is a natural response.
Uncovered Dancing of David
In old Shinto shrines men often wear white robes to carry the Omikoshi ark, while in other shrines men wear short and colored garments with headbands and carry the Omikoshi very cheerfully shouting "Wasshoi, Wasshoi". Around them people in the same wear are dancing and sometimes we find half naked ones. This reminds us of the scene of the dancing of David.
David undressed the usual gorgeous robe for king, clothed in a simple white linen robe and danced before the ark of God. His wife Michal saw him and despised him in her heart. Later she said an irony to David, "How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants!" (2 Samuel 6:20)
David did not become totally naked but he who usually wore gorgeous robe danced wearing a simple white robe, which looked almost uncovered or half naked to the eyes of Michal. She would feel the same if she looked at the Japanese people dancing.
Using Water and Salt for Sanctification
In Japanese Shinto they have a custom to use water or salt for sanctification.
Most of the Japanese shrines are built near clean river, pond, lake, or the sea. This is to do sanctification there. In Shinto, water is to purify man. In ancient Israel they had this custom, for the Bible says that before priest serves at holy events or at the temple, he has to "wash his clothes" and "bathe in water" (Numbers 19:7).
So, it was also an ideal in ancient Israel that they have clean water near a worship place. Japanese Shinto priests also wash their clothes and bathe in water before they serve at the shrine. Buddhist priests generally do not have this custom.
In the Shinto religion they also use salt for purification. Japanese Sumo wreslers sow the Sumo ring with salt several times before they fight. The Western people wonder why they sow salt, but the Jews get the meaning immediately that it is to purify the ring. In Japan, salt is used to purify the holy place of shrine, or to purify Omikoshi.
And when you go to a Japanese-style restaurant, you will sometimes find some salt put near the entrance. The Western people wonder why, but the Jews get the meaning immediately that this is for purification. Even today, the Jews have a tradition of welcoming a new neighbor or distinguished guest with salt. If a world leader were to visit Jerusalem, the chief rabbi would welcome him at the entrance to the city with Hallah (Jewish bread) and salt.
Jews start each meal by salting bread, this makes every meal table an altar. Meat is "Koshered" by putting salt on the meat to remove all the blood.
In Japan they offer salt every time they perform a religious offering. So is the offering at Japanese feasts. Salt is not offered in Buddhism. Offering salt is again the same custom used by the Israelites, for it is written in the Bible that one has to offer salt with all his offerings (Leviticus 2:13).
In Judaism, salt is very essential. Talmud (the wisdom of Judaism) confirms that all sacrifices must have salt. Salt is preservative. While, honey and leaven were prohibited with sacrifices since they symbolize fermentation, decay and decomposition, the opposite of salt. There is the words "the everlasting covenant of salt" in the Bible (Numbers 18:19). Salt has meaning of anti-decay and permanence, and symbolizes the everlasting holy covenant of God. The Temple of Jerusalem had a special salt chamber, and Joshephus, a Jewish historian in the first century C.E., records a Greek king making a donation of 375 baskets of salt to the temple.
According to Zen'ichiro Oyabe, Japanese people before Meiji-era had the custom to put some salt into baby's bath. The ancient people of Israel washed a new born baby with water after rubbing the baby softly with salt; there is a description about "rubbing baby with salt" in the Bible (Ezekiel 16:4). Salt has cleansing and hygienic power and newborn babies were rubbed with salt.
Thus, there was the common custom of sanctification in both ancient Israel and Japan, and for this sanctification water and salt were used in both countries.
Uncleanness of the Dead
In Japan, salt in a pouch is distributed to participants of a funeral. After the funeral, when the participants come back and enter their houses, they have to be sprinkled on themselves with the salt for purification. Ancient Israelites who touched a dead body or went to a funeral also had to be purified in a specific way; the Bible says that a clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water, sprinkle it on the persons who were at funeral , or on the one who touched a bone, the slain, the dead, or a grave (Numbers 19:18). Thus in Israel the person who touched the dead had to be purified himself.
Even today, you find water outside a Jewish cemetery and outside the home, so people who are returning from a cemetery or funeral can wash their hands before entering the house. Before one goes to a funeral, one prepares water outside the home, so you can wash before reentering your home. Also in Japanese mythology, it is written that deity Izanagi went to the world of the dead (called Yomi in Japanese) to take his dead wife back, and when he came back from Yomi, he bathed in water of a river and purified himself from the impurity of the dead. In addition this Yomi, Japanese Shinto's world of the dead, is very much like Sheol which is the world of the dead mentioned in the Bible.
The very important feature of Japanese Shinto is that it has the concept of uncleanness or impurity of the dead. A house which has the dead, or a person who went to a funeral is said to have touched the uncleanness. The Western people do not have this concept. This uncleanness is not material but religious or ritual. This Shinto concept is the same as was in ancient Israel, for the Bible says that the one who touches the dead body of anyone shall be "unclean seven days" (Numbers 19:11).
In Shinto religion, a person with his/her family dead or relative dead is regarded unclean for a certain period. In the period, the person cannot come to a shrine, which was also a custom of ancient Israel.
Buddhist funeral is held inside temple, but Shinto funeral is held always outside shrine not to bring impurity into it. And the Shinto priest who participated the funeral does not bring things he used at the funeral into the shrine. Even when he has to bring in, he purifies them and then brings. He has to purify himself, too. Also in ancient Israel, funeral is never held at the temple.
The Bible records that the Israelites wept and mourned for "30 days" at the death of Moses and at the death of Aaron (Deuteronomy 34:8, Numbers 20:29). While a Japanese ancient Shinto book called Engishiki, which was written in 10th century C.E., set a period of 30 days for the uncleanness that a person cannot participate holy events, and set a period of 7 days for uncleanness of death of a fetus of within three months and death of a person lacking a part of the body. Thus, the Shinto concept of uncleanness of the dead resembles the custom of ancient Israel.
Salt to Offensive Person
In old days, the Japanese had a custom to sow offensive person with salt. When watching Japanese TV drama of Samurai times, we sometimes see the scene of sowing offensive person with salt.
This can be understood by Jews, since the Bible has an article that an Israelite, Abimelech, caputured and destroyed an enemy city and "sowed it with salt" (Judges 9:45). Salt is also a symbol of barren, death, and curse.
In Israel, there is a lake named Dead Sea, which is called in Hebrew Salt Sea (Yam Ha-melech) since it has very high density of salt (5 times as the ocean). No fish. The surroundings are also covered with salt or rock salt. This place is also the ruin of ancient cities called Sodom and Gomorah.
The Westerns use soap inside bathtub and enter the tub with their bodies still unclean. But Jews never do this. They wash their bodies and make themselves clean and then enter ritual bath. Every Jewish community has a Mikveh, ritual bath. Jews follow ritual of washing before entering the Mikveh. Everyone from the Western is surprised to see the washing before bath.
But this is the same as the Japanese custom of bathing.
When you get to a public bath in Japan, there you will see that Japanese people wash their bodies and make themselves clean before they enter the bathtub. This is the same in their homes. European and American people do not have this custom except for Jews.
The Japanese like cleanness very much. Many of them have a bath everyday, make their clothes clean, and wash their hands very often. This is a tradition from ancient times
In the 14th century of Europe, there was a big fatality of plaque called Black Death and many people died, although only a few Jews died. So, the people of Europe douted the Jews and spreaded the groundless rumor that the fatality was due to that the Jews sowed with poison. But the fact was that the Jews liked cleanness very much, made their cloths and houses always clean, have a bath, and washed their hands very often. While most of the people except for Jews in Europe had never experienced bathing even once in their whole lives. The reason why perfume was developed in Europe was the smell of their bodies.
But the Jews washed hands after going to restroom, after going outside, and before every meal. That was why they rarely became sick. The Japanese have had this same custom since ancient times.
Pillars of Stone
It is also interesting to note that as the Japanese say "one man, two men, three men..." when counting the number of men, ancient Japanese people said when counting the number of gods "one pillar of god, two pillars of gods, three pillars of gods..." This way of counting gods is understandable to the Jews, because the ancient Israelites set up pillars of stone for their worshipping, and the pillars were associated with gods.
In many places of Japan even today, there are religious pillars of stone. For instance, in Kazuno city, Akita prefecture, there is a big long natural stone standing at the center of the surrounding stones. The pillar-like natural stone which is placed in the back of Kashima shrine, Ibaraki prefecture, is also regarded as a holy stone.
Pillar of stone in Kazuno city, Japan (left), and pillars of stone in the land of Israel (right)
The way of setting up these pillars of stone is almost the same as the pillars of stone discovered in Israel. This was a custom which the ancient Israelites had. Jacob, the ancestor of the Israelites, set up "a pillar of stone" to worship God and "poured a drink offering on it" (Genesis 35:14).
As Jacob poured a drink offering on the pillar of stone, Shinto priest pours a drink offering (Sake) on the pillar of stone. Moses also set up "12 pillars of stone" near the altar according to the 12 tribes of Israel (Exodus 24:4). Thus, the pillars of stone were an element of worshiping God Yahweh.
But in the latter days when idolworship came into Israel, people inclined to use the pillars of stone as an element of their idolworship. So, later, prophets of Israel blamed the pillars of stone and rejected them. The Bible says concerning when the people of the southern kingdom of Judah degraded to idolworship that they built for themselves "high places" and "sacred pillars" (pillars of stone, 1 Kings 14:23). The pillars of stone were used as pagan sacred pillars. Many of these are discovered in Israel and look similar to the Japanese pillars of stone.
In Japan, not only the pillars of stone, there are many shrines with big holy natural stones or rocks. These stones are thought to be objects where the spirit of god comes down and sits. They are connected to worship.
This kind of stone was also seen in ancient Israel. The Bible records that the first Israeli king Saul rolled a great stone and made it an altar (1 Samuel 7:33). He brought a big natural stone and made it a worship place. He used natural stone because it was forbidden to use hewn stone for an altar. The Bible says that when one makes an altar of stone for God, he "shall not build it of hewn stones." (Exodus 20:25)
Also in Japanese Shinto, the stone for worshiping is always natural stone.
Altar of Earth
While, insead of stone, earth is sometimes used for religious worship. Nihon-shoki records that the first Japanese emperor Jinmu took earth from Mt. Ameno-kagu-yama, made many bricks from it and made an altar for worshiping gods. It seems that ancient Israelites also made altar from earth, for the Bible says, "An altar of earth you shall make for me (God)" (Exodus 20:24)
Altar could also be made of earth. In case of the altar made of earth, it meant that it was made of bricks. The history of brick is very old; in the Near East many bricks were already used even in the time of the Tower of Babel, about 4000 and several hundred years ago (Genesis 11:3).
It seems that the Israelites sometimes made bricks from earth and made altar of bricks. But compared with stone, brick is weak and easily decomposed by time, so archaeologists have not yet found altar of bricks in Israel, but found in other Near East countries.
When the Israelites were wandering the desert after their exodus from Egypt, they met a flock of serpents and many people were bit and died. The poison were very strong like a fire. To save the people, Moses made "a bronze statue of serpent" according to the commandment of God and set it on a pole so that the people could look at it, and when one who had been bitten by serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived (Numbers 21:9).
After this incident ended, this bronze serpent had been in the safekeeping among the Israelites. The exsistence of this statue was never bad as long as the faith of the Israelites were sound. But when the Israelites degraded later, they began to worship the bronze serpent as their idol rather than to worship true God. As a result Hezekiah, a king of the southern kingdom of Judah in the 8th century B.C.E., broke the stature to stop the idolworship. The Bible records that he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the Israelites "burned incense to it" (2 Kings 18:4).
It was before this when the Ten Tribes of Israel were exiled to Assyria (722 B.C.E.). So it seems that the Ten Tribes had the custom of worshiping the bronze serpent when exiled.
At a Shinto shrine on Mt. Inomure, Ooita prefecture, until about 40 years ago, there had been a unique feast for begging rainfall, in which they firstly make a foundation by constructing 6 trunks of tree into the shape of the Shield of David, then on it they pile up a lot of branches and make it a tower, and on top of it they put a vertical pole with a slough of snake twining round it. People burn the branches and the tower and pray for rainfall. They burn incense to the snake expecting a supernatural power from it.
Pole with a slough of snake in fire on Mt. Inomure
I saw the scene on a video and this reminds us of the custom of ancient Israel to worship the bronze serpent. Besides, gods which are worshiped in Japanese Shinto shrines are sometimes snakes. This might have some connection to ancient Israel.
Remnant of Celebration of Circumcision?
If the ancient Israelites came to Japan, do the Japanese have the custom of circumcision? Although I have heard a rumor that circumcision is performed among the Imperial family of Japan, I have not been able to confirm yet whether or not there was the custom of circumcision in Japan.
Today we cannot see the custom of circumcision among Japanese citizens, but they have a traditional Japanese custom called O-shichi-ya which means 7th night. On the 7th night from the day a baby was born, the Japanese parents have a celebration to introduce the baby to relatives and friends and let them know the name of the baby.
The 7th night is, according to the Jewish way of counting days, 8th day from the day the baby was born, for from the sunset the next day starts in the Jewish calendar. Is this a remnant of the Jewish custom of circumcision on the 8th day? The Israelites gathered together on the 8th day from the day a (male) baby was born, and the parents introduced the baby to relatives and friends, circumcised him, introduced his name and rejoiced his birth together (In case of a female, it was done on the first Sabbath). This is the same in modern Judaism. For the seven days, the baby has no name. This is the same custom as the Japanese.
Customs of the First Month
The Japanese traditionally celebrate a new year magnificently. They also do Obon feast on July 15 or August 15 every year as a national event. They have a saying, "It is as if Obon and a new year came together" which means very very busy. These two events are the most magnificent ones throughout a year in Japan.
Looking at the new year first, on January 1 many Japanese people begin to gather together at shrines even before dawn. And on January 1 they sit a happy circle with family and eat Mochi (Japanese Matzah). They eat Mochi for 7 days and on the 7th day they eat porridge with 7 kinds of bitter herbs.
Today, the Japanese use the solar calendar; the New Year's Day is January 1 and the day of eating porridge with 7 herbs is January 7. But historically the Japanese used the lunar calendar, when the New Year's day was the 15th of the first month because on that day was the first full moon. It is a remnant of this that today January 15 is called Small New Year's Day (Koshougatsu in Japanese). This day was also called "New Year's Day of Mochi". New Year's celebration was a feast of Mochi. And the night of January 14 is called New Year's Eve of the 14th Day. In the time of the lunar calendar, the 15th day of the first month was a national holiday.
According to Zen'ichiro Oyabe, the Japanese before the 12th century C.E. had eaten porridge with 7 bitter herbs on the 15th day of the first month, and on the following days they performed events to pray for good harvest of the new year. This is similar to the custom in ancient Israel. They celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread throughout the "7 days" "from the 15th day of the first month", when they ate the unleavened bread (Leviticus 23:6).
The unleavened bread, which is "matzah" in Hebrew, is a very thin bread prepared by kneading and baking without using yeast or leaven. The way of preparing Japanese Mochi is similar to this except for using rice instead of flour. Israeli "matzah" and Japanese Mochi are very similar each other in pronunciation as well as in meaning, recipe and purpose.
And the Israelites ate with "bitter herbs" on the 15th day of the first month (Exodus 12:8). Thus, just as the ancient Japanese ate with 7 bitter herbs on the 15th of the first month, the Israelites ate with bitter herbs on the 15th of the first month.
In the Jewish calendar, the 15th day of the first month, that is the first day of the feast, is full moon and the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:7). On the next day of this Sabbath, the Israelites offered firstfruits and prayed for a good harvest of the year (Leviticus 23:11).
The Japanese clean their houses thoroughly before the coming of New Year's Day. When the Jews look at it, they think, "This is the same custom as ours!" for they also had to clean their houses thoroughly before the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for the Bible says, "you shall remove leaven from your houses" (Exodus 12:15). So they had to purge all the houses and remove leaven from them. Passover among the Jews in India is called Holiday of Cleaning the House and they remove all leaven and clean the house.
Next, let us look at the Obon feast. In Japan they have an event called Obon on July 15 or August 15. In the time they used the lunar calendar it was held on the 15th day of the 7th month.
Today Obon is regarded as one of the events of Buddhism, but since the time long before Buddhism was imported to Japan, there had been a feast called Tama-matsuri which was the original of Obon. When Buddhism was imported to Japan, this Tama-matsuri was took in the events of Buddhism and became Obon. In ancient Israel on the 15th day of the 7th month was a big feast called the Feast of Booths (harvest feast, Leviticus 23:39).
Today the Japanese use the solar calendar and in many cases they now hold the Obon feast on the 15th day of the 8th month. Strangely this was the day when the harvest feast was held in the northern kingdom of Israel of the Ten Tribes. The Bible records that Jeroboam, the king of the northern kingdom, ordained a feast "on the 15th day of the 8th month" like the feast which was in the southern kingdom of Judah (1 Kings 12:32).
It was an Israeli tradition since ancient times to have the harvest feast on the 15th day of the 7th month, but King Jeroboam rejected this tradition and ordained a new day for the harvest feast on the 15th day of the 8th month.
In Israel, the Feast of Unleavened Bread (New Year) and the Feast of Booths (harvest feast) on the 15th day of the 7th month (or 8th month) were the most magnificent events throughout a year. Similar to this, the Japanese have been performing magnificent feasts at the same times as these. In Japan today, the 15th day of the 8th month is also the memorial day of the end of the last war.
Dancing at Obon
There is an interesting point in the Obon feast. The Japanese dance at the feast and this is not a dance of Buddhism but a traditional dance called Utagaki which has existed since ancient times.
The Utagaki dance has been held since the time before the 5th century C.E. and became very popular in the 8th century. Men and women gathered for dance and they sang, danced, met with a view to marriage and promised to marry. Their way to dance was that men and women joined alternately to a circle of dancing, danced in the rhythm of song by a singer, and when the number of people increased, they made the dancing circle double or threefold.
The ancient Israelites also had this kind of custom. They had a time of dancing during the harvest feast from the 15th day of the 7th month (8th month in the northern kingdom), and single men and women looked forward the time of dancing and meeting to come.
I heard that in Japan there used to be a custom of plunder marriage during the Obon feast. In Oita, Kyusyu Japan, there was a custom that during many people are fanatical in dancing, men took women they like and brought to forest. The same custom was among the ancient Israelites.
The Bible records that there was an incedent that all of the women of Benjamin tribe of Israel were killed, when the elders of Israel talked each other how they can let Benjamin tribe continue to exist. "There is a yearly feast in Shiloh (a city in the northern kingdom of Israel)", the elders said, and instructed the men of Benjamin, "Go, lie in wait in the vineyards, and watch; and just when the daughters of Shiloh come out to perform their dances, then come out from the vineyards, and every man catch a wife for himself from the daughters of Shiloh". The men did so. They "took enough wives for their number from those who danced, whom they caught" (Judges 21:16-23). Israel in those days was in such a period of confusion.
Full Moon On the 15th Day
In Japan there is also a custom called Juugo-ya, which means 15th night, on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Japanese old lunar calendar. This is during September-October in today's solar calendar. This corresponds to the 15th day of the 7th month (Tishri) in the Jewish calendar, which is the day of the Feast of Booths. When the Japanese are celebrating Juugo-ya, the Jews are celebrating the Feast of Booths.
On this day, the Japanese often build a booth, gather together there with family, put Japanese pampas grass to a vase, offer harvest of the season like dumpling, taro, pear, etc., and enjoy the beauty of the full moon in Autumn. In Israel, on the 15th day of the 8th month in the northern kingdom of Israel, or on the 15th day of the 7th month in the southern kingdom of Judah, they built a booth, gathered together there with family, offered harvest of the season, rejoiced the harvest looking the beauty of the full moon in Autumn (Leviticus 23:39-42).
In Japan they have an elegant custom to offer firstfruits of harvest to god. They offer the firstfruits of cereals and fruits or a part of what they first get from their production.
Kanname-sai is a feast in October at Ise grand shrine to offer firstfruits to god. The ancient Israelites also had the custom of offering first fruits, for the Bible says that the first of the firstfruits of the land shall be brought to the temple (Exodus 34:26).
It is interesting to note that in Ise grand shrine in the time of Kanname-sai feast, the clothes, tables, and tools which are used in the service are all renewed. They do this in the sense of coming into a new year. In Judaism also, the month of the harvest feast (Tishri, September-October) is the time of a new year.
About a month after the Kanname-sai feast of Ise grand shrine, a feast called Niiname-sai is held at the Imperial House of Japan. Although the name is different, this is also the feast of offering a part of harvest.
Niiname-sai feast is held as follows; the feast begins at 6 p.m. and ends at around 1 a.m.. It is held at night. The emperor offers the harvest to god and after that, he eats them in front of god. By this ceremony the emperor is given from god the role as the leader of the nation. In ancient Israel, the leaders of Israel - Moses, Aaron, 70 elders, etc. - also ate in front of God (Exodus 24:11).
And the Niiname-sai feast which the emperor performs for the first time after he ascended to the throne is especially called Daijou-sai feast which is a larger Niiname-sai feast, when special booths are built for offering harvest. In the Daijou-sai feast of today's emperor Akihito, there were also simple but large booths built, and after the ceremony they broke the booths and burned them.
Booth built for Daijou-sai feast in 1687
Daijou-sai feast is also held at night. Akihito's Daijou-si was held from 6:30 p.m. to the next morning. The emperor offered the harvest and ate in front of god. In ancient Israel and also today, the Jewish Feast of Booths begins at sunset. The Israelites came into the booths, decorated with harvest products, ate in front of God and rejoiced together.
I find several similarities between the Japanese Shinto way of wedding and the Jewish way of wedding.
In Shinto wedding, the bridegroom and bride drink from the same cup of liquor (Japanese Sake). In the same way in the Jewish wedding the bridegroom and bride drink from the same cup of wine, although this is not Biblical but Talmudic (the 3-6th century C.E.). Christian wedding does not have this custom.
In the Jewish wedding today, after drinking wine, the bridegroom break a wine glass. This is to remember that the Temple of Jerusalem is destroyed. This custom started after the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E., and the Israelites before that did not have this custom of breaking the glass.
In Shinto wedding the bride has a shawl on her head and hides half of her face. The shawl is to the hight of her eyes today, but in old days, this was to hide all of her face (called Kazuki in Japanese). In old days, this shawl was also put when a Japanese woman attended a shrine.This custom of shawl was also seen among the ancient Israelites. In the Bible, Jacob, the ancestor of the Israelites, thought that he had married Rachal though, the bride was in fact not Rachal, but her sister Lear. It was due to darkness and the shawl on her face that he could not distinguish her. Even today, Jewish bride puts a veil on her face in wedding . Ancient Israeli woman had the custom to put a shawl and hide her face when she comes out. Every time she comes to a synagogue, she had to put a shawl on her head.
It is also an important feature of Shinto that every Shinto priest is married. There is no rule in Shinto to make priest single. In modern Japan, most of Buddhist monks are married but this is a custom since Meiji-era. Before then, it was the custom of Buddhist monks to be single. Every Buddhist monk outside Japan is single. Catholic father is single. But Shinto priest is married. This is a tradition from the time immemorial. So was the ancient priest of Israel. So is rabbi of modern Judaism.
Concerning Japanese marriage, a Japanese woman told her memory. One day, her mother told her about the marriage of her aunt. After the aunt's husband was killed in a war, the aunt, who did not have any children then, married her husband's brother who had been at that time unmarried. About this marriage, the mother told her, "This is a traditional custom of Japan," but then she thought that today is the age of free love and it is consequential to marry whom one loves, and she could not understand what the mother said. However she told that later she was surprised knowing that this is the same as a Jewish custom.
It is true that that this is the same as a Jewish custom, for the Bible says that if brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead shall not be married outside the family to a stranger; her husband's brother shall go in to her, and take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her (Deuteronomy 25:5)
In Japan today, we cannot see this custom anymore usually, but it seems that this custom had been performed widely in Japan until recent time.
Chapter 4: Various Other Similarities Between Ancient Israel and Ancient Japan
In Japan they have a traditional thought of atonement similar to the one of ancient Israel.
In Old Shintoism, there is a ceremony of atonement called Ooharai, which is a ritual to expel all the sins and impurity of the nation.
In the ceremony of Ooharai, the emperor comes there wearing a white linen clothes, which means a shabby figure. After the ritual, the clothes are placed on a small boat and let flow the river. People look at it flowing and vanishing from their sight, when a prayer is chanted that the Imperial Family of Japan came from heaven (Takama-no-hara or Takama-ga-hara) and started to reign the country of abundant nature, the archipelago of Japan, but there are many sins raise up among the nation and we have to dispose them, however these sins are strong and it is hard to dispose, so we have to have specific days for atonement and the emperor do a ritual of atonement and purification for the nation. That is why the emperor performs a ritual of letting his white linen clothes bear all the sins of the nation and letting them flow the river to abandon.
And among the citizens, priests of shrines give all the people's sins to white papers which are cut in the shape of a man and let them flow the river. Ancient Japanese people thought that they could not come into a new year without the atonement of their sins. Ooharai atonement is held twice a year on June 30 and December 31 every year at shrines and the Imperial House of Japan.The Jews have actually two New Year's Days in their Jewish calendar: One is the first day of the seventh month, and another the first day of the first month (the former is based on the creation of the world, and the latter on the Exodus).
The thought of Ooharai is similar to the thought of the Hebrew Scriptures. This Japanese custom resembles the Israeli custom of the scapegoat, which was a ritual held by the high priest of Israel at the temple of Jerusalem. The high priest prayed laying his hands on the head of the goat, let the goat bear all the sins of the people of Israel, took the goat to a solitary land, and looked at the goat vanish beyond the horizon, when the people were gratefull for that their sins were took away with the scapegoat to a land which cannot be seen and that God would not also look at their sins anymore. This ceremony was held every year (Leviticus chapter 16).
In Japan they also have a custom called Nagashi-bina, which is an atonement ceremony to let dolls with sins attached flow the river. Basically the concept of Japanese Ooharai and Nagashi-bina seem to be similar to the concept of Jewish scapegoat.
Furthermore, one Japanese Shintoist points out that the kinds of sin mentioned in the prayer of Ooharai atonement are very similar to the kinds of sin mentioned in the book of Leviticus. In the prayer of Ooharai, the kinds of sin mentioned are, "injuring a living person, injuring a dead body, leprosy, hunchback, fornication with mother, rape of one's own child, rape of mother and child, fornication with animal, magic, etc.."
These are very similar to the kinds of sin mentioned in Leviticus, which forbids the sins of injuring other person's body or one's own body (19:28), and profaning the dead body. The persons with leprosy (13:10-11), hunchback (21:20), or other deformity could not serve at the temple of God (21:17-23). Rape or fornication with mother, with one's own daughter, or with animal are of course forbidden (18:6-23). So is the sin of magic (Deuteronomy 18:11). Thus, the sins mentioned in the prayer of Japanese Ooharai are very similar to the ones mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Custom of Kanka and Jewish Passover
Jews have traditional custom called Passover. This originates from the Book of Exodus in the Bible, and reminds that more than 3000 years ago, the Israelites, who had been slaves in Egypt, went out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. There was an incident called Passover at the night just before they went out from Egypt. When occurred a disaster of death upon the first son of every house in Egypt, the disaster passed over all the houses of the Israelites.
The Israelites killed lamb under the commandment of God and put the blood to their gates. They soaked a bunch of hyssop with the blood and applied it to the gates. The houses with the blood were passed over by the angel of death. The Israelites grilled and ate the lamb at the night.
The similar custom is seen in the area of Ryuukyuu, Japan. As mentioned earlier, Juuji Nakada said that in Ryuukyuu, there was a custom to drive all bad things away by killing cattle and putting the blood to the gates of houses. This custom is called Kanka. Nakada thought that the reason why they used not sheep but cattle in Kanka custom was that there were no sheep in Japan.
I called and asked the school board of Okinawa about this custom. The answer was that they have in fact the custom called Kanka or Shimakusarashi (meaning driving away). They kill cattle, soak the blood with plant as Japanese pampas grass or leaves of mulberry, and apply the blood to their gates, four corners of their houses, and the entrance of the village not to let bad things come in. They grilled and ate the cattle on the day.
This reminds us of the custom of Passover in ancient Israel. And I hear that the Japanese word Kanka means passover.
We can see the Kanka custom even today, but today in many towns the cattle is replaced by pig. I asked "Why, pig?" The answer was that in the past, they were prohibited to kill cattle, so they changed to pig (There is an article in Okinawa Daihyakka Jiten (Okinawa encyclopedia) published by Okinawa Times).
Kanka custom is held mainly in the second month and eighth month in the Japanese old lunar calendar (2-3 times a year). The second month in the Japanese lunar calendar corresponds with Spring - March or April in the solar calendar, and it is interesting that this is about the same season as Jewish Passover feast. According to the Bible, the lamb for the Passover was killed on the 14th day of Nisan (Abib) in the Jewish calendar, and this corresponds with March or April in the solar calendar.
Putting off Shoes and Washing Feet
The Japanese emperor performs the Daijou-sai (the big harvest feast) after his accession to the throne, when he changes his clothes to white ones and come forward to god with his feet naked. There he receives oracle of god and becomes true emperor and leader of the nation.
This is similar to a thought in the Bible. When Moses came forward to God, he put off his shoes and became barefoot (Exodus 3:5). So did Joshua (Joshua 5:15). There they received oracle of God and became true leaders of the nation.
When the Japanese come into their house, they put off their shoes, too. The Western and the Chinese come into their house with their shoes on, but the Japanese do not. According to Zen'ichiro Oyabe, until the beginning of Meiji-era (about 100 years ago), there was a custom in Japan to prepare a washtub with water or hot water for a person who walked outside to wash his/her feet before entering the house. Oyabe says that this is a traditional custom peculiar to Japan and not the one they learned from other Asian countries.
The ancient Israelites had the custom of washing their feet; there are several descriptions about washing feet in the Bible (Judges 19:21, etc.). Washing feet before entering a house was a daily custom of the ancient Israelites.
Horses Dedicated to the Sun
In Japanese Shinto religion, the sun goddess Amaterasu is worshiped as the ancestor deity of the Imperial House of Japan and as the supreme deity for the nation of Japan. Ise grand shrine is built for Amaterasu.
If you look at the inside of Ise grand shrine, near the entrance you will find horses dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu. These horses are not just ordinary ones but are the horses which the Imperial House of Japan dedicated to the sun goddess. The horses are to be put beautiful clothes on, brought to a holy place of the shrine three times a month and bow their heads to the sun goddess.
Horse dedicated to the sun goddess at Ise grand shrine
This is a tradition since ancient times in Japan, and also in Israel, for the Bible records that King Josiah, of the southern kingdom of Judah, removed the "horses" that the kings of Judah had "dedicated to the sun" "at the entrance to the house of the Lord", and he also burned "the chariots of the sun with fire" (2 Kings 23:11). This horse dedication is mentioned only once in the Bible, and it is amazing that this ceremony also existed in Israel.
King Josiah, who reigned 639-608 B.C.E., did a religious reformation and removed the custom to dedicate horses to the sun. Until that time, such a pagan custom had been performed throughout generations by kings. This was after the Ten Tribes of Israel were exiled to Assyria. It seems that this custom to dedicate horses to the sun had also been performed in the northern kingdom of Israel, because pagan customs in the southern kingdom were almost without exceptions performed also in the northern kingdom. The custom of dedicating the horses to the sun in Ise grand shrine might originate from this.
And in many other shrines in Japan, you will find a place where many plates of wood are hung, on which painted are horses. Words of people's prayer are also written on them and these plates are called Ema in Japanese meaning horse painting. A priest of a shrine taught me that in old days people dedicated a living horse but later it became difficult to keep and was substituted by the custom to dedicate the plates of horse painting.
Dedicating of horses was very common in Mesopotamia and this could show a connection to Israel or its neighbors.
Celebration of Adulthood
In Judaism, when a boy becomes 13 years old, people have a ceremony called Bar Mitzvah for his attainment of adulthood. He receives much blessing from parents and relatives, and at the same time starts to owe a responsibility as an adult and religious duties. This ceremony is a great joy for both the parents and him.
Bar Mitzvah is relatively a modern ceremony. The Bible does not mention about this. The source is the Talmud (established in 3-6 century C.E.) which states a boy of 13 is responsible to observe the commandments.
But it is interesing that also in Japan there has been a custom of celebration of adulthood when 13 years old since old days. In Japan, when a boy becomes 13 years old, there was a custom (called Juusan-mairi) to attend a shrine or a temple with his parents, brothers and sisters. It was a general custom to celebrate his attainment of adulthood when he becomes around 13 years old. In this ceremony (called Genpuku-shiki), the boy comes in wearing an adult clothes and be blessed as an adult. Sometimes the name for his childhood is abolished and a new name for his adulthood is given to him.
In an old Japanese book of life stories written in the 12th century C.E., Soga-monogatari, it is written, "the brother was celebrated his attainment of adulthood when he was 13 years old in the 10th month, became an adult, was given his stepfather's name partly, and got called Sukenari Soga-juurou." And Genta, a boy of the pedigree of Genji clan, was celebrated his attainment of adulthood when 13 years old and got a new name of Yoshiie Hachiman-tarou.
Similarity Between Japanese Mythology and Religion of Baal
Japanese Shinto religion is polytheistic (belief in many gods), while the religion of the Bible is monotheistic. You may think that there is a definite difference between the two. But different from the modern Judaism, religion in which the ancient Israelites believed was not always monotheistic.
They should have believed in one true God but sometimes they adored idol-gods and became polytheistic. The ancient Israelites believed not only in one true God Yahweh, but also Baal, Ashtaroth, Molech and other pagan idol-gods. This was true especially among the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
Shinto scholars say that a Shinto god Susanou (Susanou-no-mikoto) in the Japanese mythology resembles Baal in several aspects, and a goddess Amaterasu (Amaterasu-oomikami) resembles Ashtaroth.
While in the Japanese mythology, the god which appeared first is named Ameno-minaka-nusino-kami, who is the master god living in the center of the universe, ruling the heaven and the earth. He is invisible, has no shape, no dying, individual, and the most central god of all. This god somewhat resembles the God of the Bible. In fact, a Shintoist Ikarimaru Watanabe (1837-1915), who is a desciple of a great Shinto philosopher Atsutane Hirata, thought that this god equals Yahweh, the God of the Bible.
In the Japanese mythology, after the first Shinto god Ameno-minaka-nusino-kami, gods were born one after another and one of them were Amaterasu and Susanou. The ancient pagan religion of Baal, which the Israelites often inclined to, resembled this. In the religion of Baal, for the master god El, first invented was his "wife" Ashtaroth (Asherah) , and then the myth became that a son Baal was born to them. Later people worshiped Baal who is a god of richness, and Ashtaroth who is a goddess of productiveness and pleasure rather than worshipping the master god El.
Thus the scheme that gods were born to the master god is the same as the scheme of the Shinto mythology. It is possible to think that the Japanese mythology includes a remnant of the ancient religion of Baal.
Archaeologists state that the religions of Babylon and Egypt had originally believed in one god called "the god of sky," who seemed to have a connection to the Biblical "God of heaven." Later, their religions degraded to the polytheism. I think that we can safely say the same thing happened to the Shinto religion. I suppose that the ancient Shinto religion had the belief in God Yahweh, but later degenerated into polytheism. I believe that the Japanese people should come back to believe in one true God whom the Bible teaches.
A Christian friend of mine, Mr. Tsujii, told me the following incident. A friend of Mr. Tsujii's, who was a passionate Shinto believer, came to him. The Shinto believer had read the Torah and said excitingly:
"I read the Torah. I was very surprised to learn about the religious ceremonies of ancient Israel. They are the same as Shinto's. The festivals, the Temple, the value of cleanness, all of those are the same as Shinto's!"
Then, Mr. Tsujii said to him:
"Yes, that is what I have also noticed. If you have discovered it, why don't you believe in God whom the Bible teaches? I believe that is the way to establish and recover the true Shinto religion in which you believe."
Hearing this, the Shinto believer was too surprised to say anything else for a while. Mr. Tsujii's words echo my own belief. I pray that all Japanese people may return to the belief in God of the Bible, because He is also the Father of the Japanese nation.
The Renewal of Taika
In ancient Japan there was an awful conflict concerning the reign of Japan between the Shintoists and Buddhists; so called the conflict between Mononobe clan (Shintoists) and Soga clan (Buddhists). Once the Buddhists had the power to reign but later in the time of the Renewal of Taika (645 C.E.), the Shintoists recovered the power to reign. In the Renewal of Taika we find appearance and disappearance of the relation with ancient Israel because it was the time of recover of the Shintoists.
For instance, the declaration of the start of a new age of the Renewal of Taika by the new government was in the beginning of the 7th month. The Japanese ancient chronicles, Nihon-syoki, records that on the second day of the 7th month they set a new princess and it seems that the first day of the 7th month was actually the beginning of the Taika era. The first day of the 7th month is the New Year's Day for the Jews. They celebrate it (the first day of Tishri) as the New Year's Day but it is the Sabbath, so they cannot work except for religious things. It was the first day of the 7th month that the priest Ezra let people listen to the Torah and started his religious reformation among them in the 5th century B.C.E. (Nehemiah 8:2). But except for this kind of religious events, the official events must be from the second of the 7th month.
And Nihon-shoki records that the new government sent messengers "on the 14th day of the 7th month" to offer their traditional religious offerings for Shinto gods. This is the day, in the Jewish custom, to prepare for God the religious offerings for a Jewish big feast, the Feast of Booths. This coincidence is amazing.
This is not everything. In the Renewal of Taika, a new law started for distributing lands to people. This law, which continued until about 900 C.E., was that the government were to redistribute lands to citizens every 6 years. The model for this was a Chinese law but in the Chinese law the redistribution was when a farmer became 60 years old or when he died, and was not every 6 years. Then, why did the Japanese government redistributed the lands every 6 years?
In ancient Israel, there was a law to use lands 6 years and during the 7th year the lands had a rest (Leviticus 25:3-4). This was to avoid continual farming and weakening of the lands and it seems that this Hebrew law became a model for the law of redistributing at the Renewal of Taika. Someone guesses that the Japanese might used the 7th year for the redistribution of the lands.
And in this redistributing, the size of the land was determined according to the number of people of the family. This was the same in ancient Israel, where the size of the land of inheritance was determined according to the size of the number of people of the tribe (Numbers 26:54).
The Imperial Edict of the Renewal of Taika Resembled the Laws of Moses
Besides, among the laws which started at the Renewal of Taika there are many which make us feel an association with the laws of the Torah. For instance, in the Laws of Men and Women of the Renewal of Taika, it is written that:
"Give the child who was born between a male slave and a female slave to the mother, female slave."
This was the same in ancient Israel. The master gave the child who was born between a male slave and a female slave to the mother, female slave, and the male slave had to go out alone (Exodus 21:4). And in the page of the Messenger at the Renewal of Taika, it is written:
"Collect double from the one who got unjustly."
This means to collect double of the amount of money from the one if he got something which is not his by lying that it is his unjustly. This is the same as a law of the Torah, for the Torah says that penalty for stealing is to pay double (Exodus 22:9).
In the page of the Abolition of Old Customs at the Renewal of Taika, it is written:
"Abolish the custom that a living person cuts his hair or spears his thigh for the dead."
Among many nations are the custom that a living person injures himself for the dead. In Taiwan, they have a festival in which people injure themselves and shed blood. It was true also in Japan but the Renewal of Taika forbad it. This was the same as a law of the Torah, for the Torah says that one shall not make "any cuttings in his flesh for the dead", nor "tattoo" any marks on him (Leviticus 19:28).
Jews are forbidden by the Bible to cut the body and to tatoo. Shinto priests do not tatoo nor cut the body. Also in the laws of the Torah it was forbidden that a priest or a citizen shaved the hair of the head (Leviticus 21:5, 19:27). Buddhist monks shave their heads, but Shinto priests do not.
It is interesting to note that in the same page of the Abolition of Old Customs, it is written about justice:
"Even if there are three definite witnesses, all should state facts and then bring the case to the officer. Do not sue recklessly."
Here why does it say "three definite witnesses"? It seems that in this background is a thought that there should be at least two or three witnesses, but even if in the case there are three witnesses they should not sue recklessly; they should state detailed facts before suing. This is associated with a law of Moses, for the Bible says that one witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of "two or three witnesses" the matter shall be established (Deuteronomy 19:15).
This is because the word of one witness could be a lie to entrap the suspect.
Also in the page of Abolition of Old Customs, it is written:
"Until now there has been a trend that, for instance, during a man entrusts a horse to a person, the horse dies accidentally because of the person's fault, the man requires too much compensation from him."
And the law of the Renewal of Taika forbad this kind of requirement for compensation. This is the same spirit as mentioned in a law of Moses, for the Bible says that if a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies, is hurt, or driven away, no one seeing it, then an oath of the Lord shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor's goods; and the owner of it shall accept that, and "he shall not make it good" (Exodus 22:10-11).
Thus the laws promulgated at the Renewal of Taika are very similar to the laws of Moses.
The Study By Eiji Kawamorita
Dr. Eiji Kawamorita, who was a Christian pastor at a Japanese church in San Francisco, paid attention to Japanese traditional folk songs. He published several books about his study on folk songs and insisted that many of the words in Japanese traditional folk songs especially words of musical accompaniment are Hebrew.
I have a letter of his hand writing, which shows how he was eager with this issue.
For instance, what is the meaning of "Yah-ren so-ran" said in a Japanese traditional So-ran folk song? What is "Yosah-koi" said in Yosahkoi folk song? What is the meaning of "Nanyado yara" said in a folk song in Tohoku area, Japan? If we read them as Japanese, they have no meaning. But Kawamorita insisted that if we read them as Hebrew, they would be very meaningful.
Sometimes we find farfetched interpretation in his explanation, but it is not easy to deny his insistence that many Hebrew words are included in Japanese traditional folk songs. To study this, scholars who are familiar with Hebrew, ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Japanese need to do a precise study. I am pleased to learn that students are now studying seriously the relationship of Hebrew words in Japanese.
The problem is that pronunciation of the folksongs has changed during these several thousand years and we do not know if today's pronunciation was the same in ancient times. So When a Jew listens to Japanese traditional folksongs, it is usually hard for him to recognize it as Hebrew. However the theory of Kawamorita is interesting.
It is noteworthy that Kawamorita says that in the Japanese folksongs the holy name of God (Yahweh) is used many times. One of the differences between the Jews of the southern kingdom of Judah and the Ten Tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel is that the Jews of the southern kingdom started to read God's holy name as the Lord (in Hebrew "adonai") after the Babylonian exile (in the 6th century B.C.E.). This was not to pronounce God's holy name unrespectfully; they recited His name only in the temple, but since the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E., they actually quit pronouncing His name. While the people of the Ten Tribes continued pronouncing His name. So, if it is true that God's holy name is used and pronounced many times in the Japanese folksongs, it would be possible to know that it was due to the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
Did the Ancient Japanese Speak Hebrew?
Not only it seems that there was Torah in ancient Japan, but also there are some reasons to think that there were people who spoke Hebrew in ancient Japan.
As "Hi, fu, mi..." mentioned earlier, in Kojiki, Nihon-shoki and other ancient documents, we find many words similar to Hebrew in both meaning and pronunciation.
For instance, the first Japanese emperor Jinmu gave leaders of area the title "Agata-nushi"; "Agata" means area and "nushi" means leader. Also in Hebrew "agudah" means group and "nasi" means leader (In modern Hebrew it is nasi-agudah).
In Japanese an emperor is called with a title "mikado", which sounds like Hebrew words "migadol" meaning the noble. Every Japanese emperor is called with a title "mikoto", which sounds close to a Hebrew word "malhut" meaning kingdom or king. Every Japanese emperor is also called with a title "sumera-mikoto", which has no specific meaning as a Japanese word, but if we interpret it as a Hebrew phrase "shomron malhuto", it means Samaria his kingdom or king of Samaria. The ancient name for a Japanese Shinto priest is "negi", while a Hebrew word "nagid" means leader.
The ancient Japanese name for a tomb of emperor or empress is "misasagi", while a Hebrew word "mut sagar" means to close the dead.
A researcher interpreted the Hebrew word for Canaan (ancient word for the land of Israel) as a combination of "qanah nah" which means field of reed, while the ancient Japanese called their country "Ashihara" which means field of reed in Japanese.
In the Japanese ancient books Kojiki and Nihon-shoki, we find many other words which remind us of Israel. The ancient name for an area in Nara prefecture is "Iware" which reminds me of a Hebrew word "Ivri" meaning Hebrew. The ancient name of a land in Nara prefecture "Asuka" resembles a Hebrew word "ha-sukkah" which means the tabernacle. In Asuka was built the ancient house of emperor. A Japanese scholar says that "a" is a prefix and "suka" means tabernacle or dwelling. Also in Hebrew "ha" is a prefix which means the, and "sukkah" means tabernacle or booth.
Similarity Between the Stories of the Bible and the Old Japanese Documents
We find several similarities between the stories of the Bible and the stories of the old Japanese documents. For instance, there is a similarity between Israeli King David (the second king of Israel) and Japanese Emperor Sujin (the 10th emperor, 148-30 B.C.E.).
The Bible mentions that in the reign of King David, there was a famine for three years (2 Samuel 21:1) and in the following pestilence about seventy thousand people died (24:15). While according to Nihon-shoki, in the reign of Emperor Sujin there was a pestilence for three years and about half of the people died. Both kings felt responsible for these terrible sights, and required punishment from God. David asked it through a prophet and Sujin asked through divining.
Kojiki also records that Emperor Sujin did his fight in the land of "Idomi", while the Bible records that King David did his fight in the land of "Edom" (2 Samuel 8:14). Here we find not only the similarity of pronunciations but also the similarity of stories.
David's son was King Solomon, who built the first temple for the heavenly God. While Sujin's son, Emperor Suinin, built the first Shinto shrine named Ise grand shrine. There are also some other similarities between the two kings.
Another interesting similarity exists between the King Saul (the first king of Israel), and Japanese Emperor Chuuai (the 14th emperor).
The Bible records that King Saul was "a handsome man... and taller than any of the people" (1 Samuel 9:2). While Nihon-shoki records that Emperor Chuuai was "a handsome man and about three meters tall." Both men were very tall and handsome.
King Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin. In the land of Benjamin there is a famous town called "Anathoth". While according to Kojiki, Emperor Chuuai reigned the country at "Anato", which sounds close to Anathoth. King Saul fought Moab, whose another name was Chemosh, in Hebrew "kemosh". This sounds close to "Kumaso" tribe which Emperor Chuuai fought. Saul died early because he committed a sin of disobeying the word of God, while it is written that Emperor Chuuai also died early because he disobeyed the word of god.
In addition, concerning the similarity between tribal names in the Bible and Japanese mythology, one of the tribes which ancient Japanese Yamato tribe fought is called the tribe of "Emisi" or "Ebusu", which sounds close to the tribe name of Jebusites, in Hebrew "yebus" (Joshua 15:63).
Similarity Between Japanese and Hebrew
Joseph Eidelberg points out that there are many Japanese words which are very similar to Hebrew in both meaning and pronunciation.
A Japanese word "anata" which means you is also said "anta", and in the dialect of Kyushu is said "atah". In Hebrew this is also "atah" or "anta". "Aruku" in Japanese meaning to walk is in Hebrew "halak."
Japanese "hakaru" means to measure and Hebrew "haqar" means to investigate or measure. Japanese "horobu" means to perish and Hebrew "horeb" means to become ruined or perish. Japanese "teru" means to shine and Hebrew "teurah" means illumination.
Japanese "meguru" means to circle and "magaru" means to turn, while Hebrew "magal" means circle. Japanese "toru" meaning to take is "tol" in Hebrew. Japanese "kamau" means to mind or care and Hebrew "kamal" means to sympathize.
Japanese "damaru" which means to become silent is "damam" in Hebrew. Japanese "hashiru" means to run and Hebrew "hush" means to hurry. Japanese "nemuru" means to sleep and Hebrew "num" means to doze.
Japanese "ito" which means thread is "hut" in Hebrew. The stick with white papers of zigzag pattern put on its upper part which the Shinto priest waves is called "nusa" in Japanese, while a Hebrew word "nes" means flag. Japanese "ude" means arm and Hebrew "yad" means hand.
Japanese "kata" which means shoulder is "qatheph" in Hebrew. Japanese "owari" which means end or finish is "aharith" in Hebrew.
Japanese "kyou" which means today is "qayom" in Hebrew. Japanese "tsurai" means painful and Hebrew "tzarah" means trouble or misfortune.
apanese "karui" which means light in weight is "qal" in Hebrew. Hebrew "qor" means coldness and reminds of a Japanese word "kooru" which means freeze or "koori" which means ice.
Japanese "samurau" means to serve or guard (for the noble) and Hebrew "shamar" means to guard (Genesis 2:15). In Japanese, from "samurau" came a word "samurai" which means Japanese ancient warrior or guard. Also in Hebrew, if we attach a Hebrew suffix "ai" meaning profession to "shamar", it would be "shamarai" which sounds close to the Japanese guard "samurai". [This is the same case as "banai" which is a Hebrew word for builder and is a combination of "banah" (to build) and "ai" (suffix meaning profession) . Modern Hebrew does not have the word "Shamurai" but it fully satisfies the grammar of Hebrew.]
Hebrew in Japanese
Researchers point out many other similarities between Japanese and Hebrew. A researcher points out more than 500 similarities of words. Among them, there may be several examples of similarity only by chance, even in those I listed here, but can we think all of these are by chance? There could be, by mere chance between two languages, several words which resemble each other in pronunciation and meaning, but when there are many words similar between the two, we may have to think that there is etymologic relationship between the two. Japanese includes many words which seem to have Hebrew origin.
A person mentions about the Sea of Galilee in Israel and the Sea of Biwa near Japan, which is the largest lake in Japan. Biwa is the name of a musical instrument, lute or violin in Japanese. While in Israel, there is a lake called the Sea of Galilee which is almost the same in size and shape as the Sea of Biwa. In the time of the Ten Tribes of Israel the Sea of Galilee was called the Sea of Kinneret which is connected to a Hebrew word "kinor" meaning lute or violin. So, if we translate the Sea of Kinneret into Japanese, it would be the Sea of Biwa (Biwa-ko).
There are some other popular etymologies, although not scientific studies of linguistics. Nevertheless, many Jews say when they come to Japan, it is a pleasant experience for them to find familiar names in Japan.
The Japanese Who Used Hebrew
I have read an article written in English on a Jewish newspaper published in 1913 before. The article was that, when a Jew came to Kobe, Japan, he went in a curio shop and was looking at the price of a vase. He found Hebrew letters on the label of the bottom of the vase.
The Jews use Hebrew letters as numbers, too. For instance, the first Hebrew letter aleph is 1, the second letter bet is 2, and so on. All other alphabets also correspond to numbers. The Jew asked, "What are these letters?" The master of the store said, "These are marks for a salesperson to know the price. " The Jews asked, "Then, how much is this vase?" The master answered, "5 dollars." "But why do you say 5 dollars, because it is written that this is 32 cents", said the Jew. The master was surprised and said, "How did you know that?" "It is written so in Hebrew here. Every Jew can read it", said the Jew.
But the master looked that he did not understand what Hebrew was nor the Jews nor Israel nor Judaism. He just told that these letters were the numbers which had been passed from generation to generation, from father to son since very old days. The Jew asked him, "Do you have any other things which have been passed from your ancestors?" The master showed him some conical bells of silver, whick the Jew identified as the ones to be placed on top of the Torah Scrolls.
The Kagome Crest at Ise Grand Shrine
While, you can see the same design as the Shield of David (Star of David), the symbol of the Jews, in various places in Japan.
In Mie prefecture, Japan, is located Ise grand shrine which was built for the Imperial House of Japan, and a symbol which looks very much like the Shield of David is carved on all the lamps along the approaches to the shrine.
The Japanese call it Kagome crest, which means basket reticulation in Japanese. This was named because the crest looks like the reticulation of Japanese traditinal bamboo basket.
The lamps at Ise grand shrine were built and offered from the donators to the shrine after the World War 2. The Kagome crest is also carved at a monument of Manai shrine, the former (original) Ise grand shrine located in Kyoto. This monument is also offered to the shrine.
In Japan, people have been using crests which look like the Shield of David since very old days. For instance, Asa-no-ha crest, which also resembles the Shield of David, has been used widely as symbles for clothes since about Kamakura-era (the 12-14th century C.E.). And Kagome crest was used by Komiya clan and Magaribuchi clan, etc., who are descendants of emperor Seiwa (the 9th century C.E.).
We can also see the symbols which resemble the Shield of David as regalias of several cities of Japan. The city regalias of Nishi-no-miya city (Hyogo prefecture), Oomuta city (Fukuoka), Otaru city (Hokkaido), Wakkanai city (Hokkaido), and Fukuchiyama city (Kyoto) are all in the shape of 6 edged star, and resemble the Shield of David very much.
But did they really originated from Jewish Shield of David? Or, did they only happen to resemble?
You can recall the badge of American sheriff to be the same design as the Jewish Shield of David, but it does not mean that he is a Jew. The same thing could be said concerning the crests in Japan. The design of six pointed star was used widely in various countries from old days because of its geometrical beauty.
In Israel, this symbol is discovered as a design without national sygnificance in old remains; for instance, Shield of David is discovered in a synagogue in Capernaum, Israel, built in about second century C.E.. But it was only a design and was not unique to the Jews. Even among other nations than the Jews, this design It was since the 17th century C.E. when this design started to be used generally as the formal symbol for the Jews.
So, it is difficult to judge whether or not the Japanese design of six pointed star originated from the Jewish Shield of David.
In 794 C.E., the government of Japan moved from Nara to Kyoto. Just after the move of the government to the City of Heian, a festival called Gion festival (Gion-matsuri) began to be performed in Kyoto.
Even today the Japanese perform Gion festivals in various places of Japan on July 17 or around that time. The center of the festivals is Gion festival of Yasaka shrine in Kyoto. The central event of Gion festival of Kyoto has been performed always on July 17, or the 17th day of the 7th month, since old days.
The important part of the festival is during 8 days from July 17, and they also have important events on July 1 and 10. The 17th day of the 7th month mysteriously matches the day when Noah's ark drifted ashore mountains of Ararat; the Bible records, "the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat" (Genesis 8:4).
Since then, ancient Israelites might have had a thanksgiving feast on this day every year, although there is no Biblical record. Since Moses, it was replaced by the Feast of Booths (Sukkot) which is performed on the 1st day, 10th day and during 8 days from the 15th day of the 7th month. Nevertheless, the Israelites knew well of the 17th day of the 7th month to be the day when Noah's ark rested, because it is written in the Bible.
Gion festival in Kyoto began in the wish that no pestilence might occur among people. This resembles the circumstances that when the temple of Jerusalem was established by King Solomon, he had a festival in the wish that no pestilence might occur among people. Solomon had the festival during 8 days (including the last day of solemn assembly) since the 15th day of the 7th month (2 Chronicles 7:8-10). There is a difference of two days between Solomon's festival and Gion festival but both were performed during 8 days in almost same time of the year and in the same wish.
A Scottish businessman, N. McLeod, came to Japan in Meiji era and saw Gion festival in Kyoto. He wrote that various things in Gion festival reminded him of Jewish festivals.
At Gion festival, carpets, which were imported from Persia and India via the Silk Road in the 16th century, are used as the decoration for the festival cars even today. And Japanese historians say that even in the times before it, and since very early times, many naturalized foreigners lived in Kyoto, which was indeed a big international city of the world. Not a few Jews, who came via the Silk Road, seem to have participated or enjoyed looking at the Gion festival.
Gion festival always starts with a voice of "En yalah yah". Even when we ask a Japanese person, "What does it mean?" he only says, "I don't know." But to Jews this may sound like a Hebrew expression "eni ahalel yah" meaning "I praise Yahweh."
Sabato-yori and the Sabbath
In old days of Japan, there had been a remarkable custom called "Sabato-yori" in Nagasaki.
"Sabato-yori" means "gathering of Sabato" and is a gathering which the Christians gather together on every Saturday to pray, eat, and talk together.
In Japan there was a long period of strong persecution against Christians in Edo era and also in the beginning of Meiji era. The custom of gathering of Sabato had been kept continuously among the Christians who survived the persecution. They gathered on every Saturday, as well as Sunday which is the day for their mass.
About one hundred years ago in Meiji era, Christians who survived were continuing this custom, and even old Catholic believers in Uragami area of Nagasaki today have this memory (there is an article about it in December 1963 issue of monthly magazine "Taiyo"). According to them, this custom had been widely seen in Japan before. It seems that the origin is very old.
It may have some connection with the custom of the Sabbath which Prof. Yoshiro Saeki mentioned was seen among the Eta people in Nagasaki. I also recall that a Jewish traveler, S. Levi from Tel Aviv in Israel reported in 1930' on an Israeli news paper, Ha Aretz, that he saw in Japan the custom of the Sabbath in a group.
The same custom of the Sabbath was seen among the Christians in Nagasaki. In Hebrew the Sabbath is pronounced "shabbath" and "Sabato" may be a slight corruption of it. The issue is why they Christians have the custom of the Sabbath. Catholic believers usually have no such a custom and this is a Jewish custom. Nevertheless, how did they Christians begin to have the custom of the Sabbath?
The Existence of Emperor
To think about the relation between Japan the Ten Tribes of Israel, it is important to consider of the existence of Japanese emperor. The Japanese emperor is not just a king, but he is also a high priest. He is a priestly king. The emperor is in a deep relation with Shinto and sits on the central position of Shinto.
During the chapter 1-4, we saw about the Ten Tribes of Israel in Afghanistan, India, Kashmir, Myanmar, and China, but they did not have such a priestly king as the Japanese emperor. How did Japan begin to have such emperor system of single family line from generation to generation? . A researcher thought that it was due to that the royal line of Israelites came to Japan.
The ancient king of Israel was not just a king but also a priestly king. Although there was a person called a high priest as well as him, but the king of Israel often participated in religious affairs. He was not just a political king, but he often played a central role of religious rituals. The king of Israel was, in a sense, similar to the emperor of Japan.
After King Solomon died, in ancient Israel the royal line was divided into two; one is took over by the southern kingdom of Judah, and another by the northern kingdom of Israel. In the southern kingdom, the royal line reigned the country but lost its power after the Babylonian exile. Then, how was it in the northern kingdom?
The first king of the northern kingdom was Jeroboam who was from the tribe of Ephraim, and the last king of the northern kingdom just before the Assyrian exile was Hoshea. According to the Bible, all the kings of the northern kingdom disobeyed the teachings of God, but among them Hoshea was a better one, for the Bible records that he did evil but not as the kings of Israel who were before him (2 Kings 17:2). Hoshea and his staff members were exiled to Assyria in 722 B.C.E..
The royal line of the northern kingdom of Israel was originally born in the rebellion against the royal line of Judah. So it was very possible that after the exile they thought to go to a distant land, rather than to go back to Israel, and planned to make a country there and redo what they could not do.
While, when did the Japanese emperor start to exist? It is generally said that it was 660 B.C.E when the first Japanese emperor Jinmu ascended the throne. The Imperial House of Japan had already existed even before Hata clan first came to Japan. Is the Imperial House of Japan in the lineage of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, especially of its royal line?
The Formal Name for Emperor Jinmu
Concerning this, interesting is the similarity between Ninigi and Jacob, between Yamasachi-hiko and Joseph, and between Ugaya-hukiaezu and Ephraim as mentioned earlier (chapter 8). This is a remarkable similarity in mythology between the Imperial House of Japan and the royal line of the Ten Tribes of Israel.
It is also interesting to note that the formal name for the Japanese first Emperor Jinmu is called in Kojiki or in Nihon-shoki:
Kanji letters are adopted in Kojiki and Nihon-shoki to this, but this pronunciation had existed even before Kanji letters were imported from China. So the Kanji letters have no connection with the meaning.
This "kamu-yamato-...." has no satisfactory meaning if we interpret it as Japanese, but Joseph Eidelberg interpreted it as Hebrew. If we think of slight corruption and interpret it as Hebrew, it would be:
"The founder of the Hebrew nation of Yahweh, the noble (first born) of Samaria his kingdom."
This is not necessarily to mean that Jinmu himself was really the founder of the Hebrew nation, but rather, it may mean that the memory of the royal line of the Hebrew nation coming to Japan was included in the legend of the Japanese first Emperor Jinmu. Did the royal line of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel came to Japan? It is a grand mystery.
The Imperial Library Burnt Down
In Japan in 645 C.E., there was a very regrettable thing that the Imperial library, which had kept very important old documents and books, was all burnt down.
There was a fight between the pro-Shinto and the pro-Buddhism and as the result, the pro-Buddhism, Soga clan, set fire to the library, and all the important records and books in it were burnt down.
The oldest book existing now among all the Japanese books is Kojiki, but even this Kojiki was written in 712 C.E. which was 67 years after the burnt down of the Imperial library. That is, before Kojiki there had existed many ancient books, records, and documents in Japan. In that library there was a mountain of books older than Kojiki. They were all burnt and lost. That is why the Japanese do not have any reliable history before 8th century C.E..
Someone guesses that in the burnt library there was also the Torah Scroll. We cannot deny the possibility if we think, as we saw above, it seems that the laws of the Renewal of Taika had a help from the knowledge of the teachings of the Torah.
If the ancient Japanese had the Torah, it must have been no doubt kept in the Imperial library, which was unfortunately burnt down. There must have been many other important materials concerning the origin of the Japanese in the library. The genealogy from their anscestors might also be there. When the library was burnt down, the Japanese lost their past.
In the 7th century B.C.E. in the southern kingdom of Judah, a Torah Scroll was accidentally found in the temple when an officer was searching gold in the temple (2 Chronicles 34:15). King Josiah at that time let a priest read the Torah, when the king wailed and tore his clothes, for he clearly understood that the people in the country were not obeying the teachings of God.
We can know from this that the ancient people did not read the Torah usually; the Torah Scroll was often kept in an important place and no one looked at it. If the Torah Scroll was in Japan, I wish it were found before it was burnt.
But even if the Japanese lost their past, we do not need to say that now there is no way to know the past or origin of the Japanese. I hear that the insides of many of the tombs of the Japanese emperors are not yet researched or exhibited. When they are researched, I believe we can know more about the roots of the Japanese. The insides of tombs of Egyptian kings are well researched and exhibited. If the tombs of the Japanese emperors are researched scholarly, it may be possible that the Japanese take their past back.
Even the day may come when a definite evidence would be found in a tomb. Someone guesses the Israeli Menorah would be found. Other person guesses the emblems of the Lost Tribes of Israel would be found. Would such a day come?
Arinori Mori Who Saw the Holy Mirror
Lastly, let us look at the people around the mirror of Yata (Yata-no-kagami) which is the holy treasure of Shinto and one of the three holy treasures of the Imperial House of Japan.
Arinori Mori (1847-1889) was the Minister of Education, Culture and Science of Japan in the Meiji-era. He insisted he saw that on the mirror of Yata in Ise grand shrine was written in Hebrew "eheyeh asher eheyeh" which is God's name written in Exodus 3:14 of the Bible and means "I AM THAT I AM."
The mirror of Yata is the treasure which has been handed down in the Imperial House of Japan since very ancient times. The real one is kept at Ise grand shrine and a replica at Kashiko-dokoro in the Imperial Palace. General people cannot look at it because it is regarded very holy. But we know the approximate size, for in an old record is written the size of the case which has caliber of 49 centimeters. So, the mirror of Yata is imagined to be about that size.
But the mirror of Yata is said that even the emperor is not permitted to see. So must be the priests of Ise grand shrine. Nevertheless, how could he look at it? We do not know the details. But anyway the rumor that "I AM THAT I AM" is written in Hebrew on the mirror of Yata spread at once among people.
Another rumor is that just after Japan was defeated at the World War 2, a general of GHQ forced and looked at the mirror of Yata. One more is that Prof. Sakon from Aoyama-gakuin University looked at the replica of the mirror in the Imperial Palace and confirmed it.
In 1952, a group for friendship between the Japanese and the Jews was organized under the leadership of a former navy colonel, Koreshige Inuzuka. This was to study the relation between Japan and Israel and to aim at the friendship between the two. The meeting of the group on January 25, 1953, was held at the house of a Jew, Michael Kogan, in Tokyo, and in the meeting was also Highness Mikasa, a member of the Imperial family. The topic of the Hebrew words on the mirror of Yata was raised in the meeting and Mikasa told that he would check the truth.
But it was a start of the latter sensation, for a chief of the branch office of Tokyo Evening News was at the meeting and published an article about it on the next day's newspaper titled "Mikasa Will Check the Hebrew Words on the Holy Mirror!" This article became a topic among people in those days and spread even abroad.
Yuutarou Yano Who Copied the Pattern of the Mirror of Yata
However, the truth concerning the Hebrew words on the mirror of Yata did not become clear.
Soon, one more person who insisted saw the mirror of Yata appeared. He was Yuutarou Yano who was an elite officer and a passionate Shintoist. He thought that the key to know the truth about the emperor of Japan exists in the mirror of Yata. Yano asked a priest at Ise-jingu again and again if he could look at the mirror sincerely. He says that the priest moved by Yano's passion, secretly permitted him to look at the mirror, and Yano carefully copied the pattern of the back of the mirror.
This copy has been maintained for years in a Shinto group named Shinsei-Ryujinkai which is run by Yano's daughter. It had been held in secret by the group. But later they say that there was "god's revelation" to show the copy to the world.
Even I could get a xeroxed copy of the pattern because a friend of mine brought it to me. I saw the letters on it which looked ancient and mysterious, especially the letters inside the central circle looked somewhat Hebrew, for instance, which means Light of Yahweh.
While, Yano himself did not think of these letters Hebrew, but thought that these were a kind of ancient Japanese characters called Jindai-moji. But there is a contradiction in his interpretation to think of these as Jindai-moji, because same letters appear in several places and he interpreted them as different letters. And I have never seen any Jindai-moji written horizontally.
Then, can we read them as Hebrew? Some resemble Hebrew but others do not. How about Aramaic, especially ancient Aramaic in Assyria? If someone knows well, please let me know.
We do not know for sure also if this copy is really the pattern of the mirror of Yata. After all, the secret of the mirror of Yata remains as a mystery. We need a photo of the mirror to elucidate the mystery but it would be impossible as far as people think this is taboo.
Anyway, the country called Japan is filled with interesting topics concerning the relation with ancient Israel.
From the Study of Blood Types and DNA.
Professor Tanemoto Furuhata, who is the authority on forensic medicine at Tokyo University wrote in his book that surprisingly, the blood types of the Japanese and the Jews are very similar. I also heard that a professor at Paris University had discovered that the "Y" chromosome of the Japanese is the same size as that of the Jews. Recently Prof. Satoshi Hourai, DNA scientist, investigated the DNAs of the Chinese, the Koreans and the Japanese, and claimed that the characteristics of about 26 percent DNA of the Japanese are rarely seen among the Chinese or the Koreans and unique to the Japanese. He says it shows that the Japanese consist of various nations who came from the Silk Road other than the Chinese or the Koreans.
I expect that further research will be done by many individuals.
I have studied the Bible and Daoism, though not an expert in either by any stretch, there were some similarities between those two belief systems to make one curious. Anyway what this author presents on the Shinto religion does seem to relate to the Mosiac laws.
Hope you enjoy this, N
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All of this is so current for the times!
I first have to have my lawyer go over all of your Discussion Guidelines and my post to make sure that I am in complete compliance.
No lawyers are required. :-) Perhaps a little rewording is necessary. Just experimenting in ways to make religious dicussions inviting to God and not offensive to Him. Perhaps you could catch the spirit of what I am trying to express and reword it even better for me. :-). Here is my second revision.
Recommended Guidelines for This Thread
The purpose of this thread is to contribute to the mutual understanding of the information covered in this article. As such, all participants are kindly requested to abide by the spirit of the following guidelines:
By Bella Lerner
Special to The Jewish Star
During this past summer, my husband and I and our friends Eleanor and Stanley Webber traveled to the Orient with a Jewish tour group led by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer. We've traveled through several European countries, but were never hit with the cultural differences that exist between America and the Far East. And yet, what we saw of many of the countries', in particular Japan's, religious practices were so similar to many of ours that I found myself, wondering, "Where did these people come from? How did they learn what they now practice?"
Japanese religious practices have many similarities to Judaism. The native Japanese religion is Shinto. There are 400 Shinto shrines in Japan. Side by side with Shintoism is Buddhism which has its roots in Hinduism, the primary religion of India. Buddhism became successful out of India, especially in Tibet, China, and Japan. Shinto Priests administer to all life cycle events except death, which is in the Buddhist domain. The Shinto Priest wears a white linen robe. Over the robe, he wears a shawl having a fringe with eight strings and five knots. Imagine the Jewish High Priest in his white linen robe and tallit! Shinto Shrines are imageless. The courtyard is like that of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Yamabushi (Yama means mountain), the mountain worshippers, wear a black box on their foreheads all day and never ascend their holy mountain. "No one shall ascend the mountain on penalty of death," as G-d cautioned the Jews. The Shinto priest blows a horn (as in shofar) while wearing the "tallit." One must remember the Mount Sinai story. Rice and fish are brought as shrine offerings. Fish must have fins and scales. When asked the derivation of these customs, the answer was, "We don't know, but we've been practicing them for a long, long time."
The Japanese developed the theory that they aren't from Japan. There were white, hairy Caucasians that inhabited the area and were killed by the Japanese. They searched their culture--- dances and songs---and said they were different from their neighbors. (One morning, upon awakening, I turned on the TV and began to get dressed. All of a sudden, I heard what I thought were Israeli folk songs. I rushed to the TV only to find that Japanese singers were singing their own folk songs. The similarity was amazing. Both the music and the words sounded Israeli.) Some Japanese believe that their ancestry came from ancient Jews because they had many of the same customs. 700 BCE was about when the 10 Jewish tribes disappeared. Recorded Japanese history began about 660 BCE. Coincidence?
In Kyoto we visited the Well of Isurai; some translate it as the Well of Israel. On the doors of the homes in the vicinity, up until the 19th century, there were hung masks of bearded men with round eyes and Semitic noses. Once a year, 10 days after the New Moon, in the fall, (Yom Kippur?) the mask was removed. The community would take two goats and go through the following ceremony. The goats would rush down two narrow lanes. The people, wearing their masks, would follow them. One goat would go off into the wilderness and one towards the temple. "Choose life," they would say. The Japanese said that they have followed this ritual for over 1,900 years. The neighborhood has since been rebuilt after it was burnt down and everything was gone including the masks and this tradition.
Some speculate that the Japanese people descended from one of the Lost Tribes. Most think it nonsense. However, certainly there was a strong intermingling of races and many customs had to be learned from the Jews living in Yokohama, Nagasaki, Tokyo and Kobe. But what about the practices from ancient times? A puzzlement!
The most famous teacher of the art of calligraphy, Master Kampo Harada, recently deceased, claimed that he had Jewish ancestry. In his parents' home he discovered fringes, and Kampo's father told him that he was from the Middle East. We visited his home in Kyoto, in which a room was set aside as a sanctuary. He constructed the synagogue which houses an ark for the Sefer Torahs and a large library of all types of seforim (which he couldn't read).
There is a choir of the Japanese Christian Friends of Israel who sing a compilation of Israeli and Chasidic songs in Hebrew. The church building is called Bet Shalom. We visited with them in Kyoto and saw and heard their lovely choir. The women were dressed in kimonos and the men in suits. Among the songs they sang were the Hatikvah, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, Ani Ma'amin and Al Hamayim. What was really impressive was when members of our group asked them to sing various songs and, without hesitation, they obliged! (Their professional choir will be touring the United States sometime in November.)
The Bet Shalom sanctuary has an altar with a golden menorah. The ceiling has 12 lights for the 12 tribes of Israel. In attendance, besides our group, were many Japanese men and women who waved Israeli and Japanese flags. After the melodic concert, the group treated us with kosher snacks and warm, but difficult conversation. The members' bright smiles conveyed the warmth and friendship in their hearts.
The group was established in 1946 by a Father Otsuki. He told us that in 1938 he received a message from G-d who told him to pray for the Jewish people. Father Otsuki, a Christian minister in Manchuko at that time, is now 91 years old. He quoted Genesis, ch. 12, "I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you." He believes that by caring for the Jewish people and by the Jews following the dictates of the Torah, salvation will come to all people. "It's a great honor to have the chosen people with us tonight," he said.
The sect maintains a guest house named the Anne Frank House. It is a residence only for Jews who want to visit Japan. Jewish visitors are given three free nights accommodations and a refrigerator filled with kosher food. Recently this Christian group established a new chair in the Department of Bible at Hebrew University in honor of Father Otsuki. Father Otsuki told us that the chair was established to help bring about the Moshiach. He stated there are three stages in the learning of Torah. The first is that Torah is outside of man. It is there to teach him. The second is when the Torah is in his mouth, when he can recite it and learn it day and night. The last is when the Torah comes into his heart. It penetrates and changes his being. Thus it becomes a living Torah. It fills man with love. When the Torah controls man then we can expect peace in the world. I must reiterate, Father Otsuki is Christian! He wore a yarmulka and spoke in Japanese peppered with Hebrew. A member of his group translated his message into English. Many group members study in Israel and speak fluent Hebrew. The sect observes Pesach, not Easter. They bake challah for Friday night and mostly study the Old Testament.
Bet Shalom built a Holocaust museum and education center in Hiroshima. Japanese children visit it and learn about the atomic bomb and the Holocaust at the same time. The group has 10,000 members and 109 churches.
After leaving the Kyoto area, we visited the port city, known as Kobe. Kobe is the sixth largest city in Japan with 1.5 million people. During WWII Kobe was destroyed, but the Jews that remained were settled in the mountains around Kobe (to make sure that they were not involved in espionage against the Japanese) so most weren't killed during the bombings.
Japan saved 50,000 Jews in the 1940s when it gave permission for Jews to enter its realm. Most came through Russia by ship and were housed in Kobe while seeking entry to other parts of the world. A member of our tour, who had escaped Poland, was in Kobe at that time. He told us that it was one of the happiest times of his life. The Japanese were very good to all of the Jews living there. After Pearl Harbor, most of the Jews that remained in Kobe were relocated to Shanghai.
Kobe has a Sephardic Jewish community. Still today, many Jews meet for lunch at the Jewish Club, called The Kobe Club. The area between the shul (housed in the Jewish Community Center where we ate lunch) and the Kobe Club was where most refugee activities took place. During the 1995 earthquake, the community center was badly damaged. The World Jewish Congress and B'nai B'rith helped raise money to reinforce the foundation of the building. However, most Jewish business people moved away. There is a Shabbat minyan about 80 percent of the time. There still are about 300-400 Jews living in Kobe, but only 70 are affiliated with the Jewish community.
One funny anecdote that Rabbi Tokayer related was that in 1972, when he was rabbi in Tokyo, he received a call from the police department in Kobe. They told him to come to Kobe because they arrested one of his people. When he arrived at the jail, he was ushered in to see the "culprit." He turned out to be a Satmar Chasid from Brooklyn whose father-in-law sent him to Japan to purchase pearls for his jewelry business. Since he knew that he couldn't purchase reliable kosher food in Japan, he brought suitcases filled with cans of food. Upon arriving in the area, he purchased new dishes and took them to the harbor to immerse them in the water. The guards waved to him that he was in a prohibited area, but he pushed his way through. Rather than confront him at that time, they watched as he took "something" out of his suitcase and dipped it in the water. At that point they arrested him thinking that he was a smuggler. When the police looked at his American passport, they obtained an interpreter who could speak English. Since the Chasid spoke Yiddish and couldn't communicate in English they were sure that he had a forged passport too. It was only after the rabbi explained that this man spoke a special language for Jews and he was performing a ritual of purification of dishes that the police let him go. Because the Buddhists have the same ritual, the police accepted the explanation. Needless to say, however, this Chasid has yet to be seen again roaming the port area of Kobe!
From Kobe we took the bullet train to Tokyo to learn about the religious aspects of Sumo wrestling, experience a "Japanese Pidyon Haben", visit the Makuya Choir, learn about Jacob Schiff and the Russian-Japanese War, learn about rites before entering a Buddhist Temple and about our Shabbat in Tokyo.
In fact, the similarity of these traditions allowed Dr. Cohen to argue that Japanese culture and religion bear a marked resemblance to Judaism. Maybe the Japanese had Jewish blood. It was this argument that may have saved the Jews of Shanghai from extermination by the Japanese. The head of the Japanese in Shanghai sent word back to Tokyo that they couldn't kill the Jews because they may be related to the Japanese people.
As the bullet train sped towards Tokyo, I reflected on what I had heard and seen during the past few days: the Shinto priests with their fringed shawls that had eight strings and five knots, the Yamabushi, Buddhist priests who wore black boxes on their foreheads all day, the neighborhood where the Well of Isrui was located, where 10 days after the new moon in the fall the inhabitants followed two goats, sending one to the wilderness and the other to their temple. How could so many of our customs and practices have seeped into the Far East?
I thought about the Japanese in Kobe. As the Jews arrived from Russia, escaping the holocaust at home, the Japanese held out their hands in friendship. Henry Shapiro, a member of our tour group, had shared many of his reminiscences with us. Before WW II he attended a yeshiva in Lublin. When the Polish army confiscated the yeshiva to use as a hospital, the 100 students left. Mr. Shapiro made his way across Russia to Kobe, Japan. He told us that the Japanese gave the new emigrees 20 yen every day with which they could buy bread, tuna, and some tea. In fact, many refugees sent the tea back to Europe where they hoped that their families could sell it for much needed funds. If a Jew walked into a store in Kobe looking hungry, the Japanese would always give him something to eat despite the fact that they, too, were subject to rations.
As we were passing the area of Mount Fuji, the Japanese holy mountain, the rain fell heavily and we could only conjecture that the distant outline was indeed that of a mountain. In fact, Mt. Fuji is over 10,000 ft. high and is snowcapped except for two weeks during the year. Tens of thousands of Japanese and foreigners make the climb every year on pilgrimage. One year the members of the Jewish community in Tokyo wanted to experience the excitement of the ascent. Since it was easy to lose each other in the mass of humanity, the members had to devise a means to easily spot each other. The number 43 is 4x10+3 but the Japanese say 4 10 3. Ju, in Japanese is the number 10 and Go is the number 5, so the Jewish group decided to wear hats with the words for 5-10-5 or Go Ju Go.
Jews first started coming to Japan between 1870 and 1900. Most settled in Nagasaki, Kobi, and Yokohama. Many were exporters and importers. One clever businessman advertised himself as "Export, Import, Rappaport."
Emperor Kohito, the current emperor, is 63 years old. The only foreign ambassador to whom the Emperor speaks, when presenting his credentials, is the Israeli Ambassador. At the ceremony, which lasts for about one minute, the emperor whispers to the Israeli ambassador, "We will never forget what Jacob Shiff did for us!" And therein lies the tale! The story goes back to the early 1900s, to the Russo-Japanese War.
The world thought that the Russians would wave their hats and the Japanese would go running. The Emperor sent Yakahashi to London to borrow money to finance the war. The bankers refused to lend Japan money because they were certain that Japan would lose. The war was indeed going downhill. By chance, Yakahashi met Jacob Shiff of the New York banking firm of Kuhn Loeb. Shiff, who was irate over the pogroms in Russia, agreed to sponsor half the funds and give him a letter to take to other banks to attest to his loan offer. The banks still refused to supplement the loan. Jacob Shiff financed the entire $140 million and told Yakahashi that he was giving him the money as a Jew. He said that G-d uses nations to beat down corruption and told Yakahashi to "Beat the hell out of the Russians!" Japan won the war and humiliated Russia.
Years later, Shiff was invited to lunch at the Imperial Palace. To invite a commoner was unheard of, but when Jacob Shiff specified his kosher need, the Imperial staff catered to it. The Emperor said that Japan could never have achieved a successful conclusion to the war if not for Shiff. "We [Japan] will never forget what you did for us. Maybe there will be a time when we can help you."
Prophetically the time did come, when Japan saved thousands of Jews from Hitler's gas chambers. Incidentally, Japan repaid the loan to Shiff with 4% interest. Jacob Shiff published a diary entitled, Our Journey to Japan, about his experiences during this time.
There is a tradition in Japan that the youngest in the Imperial family is an academic. Prince Mikasa, the present emperor's younger brother, studied Ancient Israel. Mikasa frequently visited the Tokyo Jewish Community Center and was a guest at Rabbi Tokayer's house, who became his friend and teacher.
On Shabbat we attended services at the Jewish Community Center in Tokyo. The new rabbi from Columbus, Ohio had just arrived the day before we came.
During our Friday night Shabbat meal, we were all introduced to the wife of Mitsugi Shibata. Mr. Shibata was a Japanese vice-consul, stationed in Shanghai in 1943. When he heard of the plans to murder the Jews (who were relocated from Kobe to Shanghai during WW II), he warned Elias Hayim.
The plan was to find the Jews in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, strip them, load them on boats, and tow them out to sea to starve to death. The plot, concocted by three Germans and a Japanese naval officer by the name of Kubota, director of refugee affairs, did not need approval by the Japanese government.
That night there was a small gathering of Jewish leaders to discuss how they could deal with the threat. One of those men was Bori Topas, who was later tortured by the Japanese for his part in the story, and was buried in the foreign cemetery in Yokohama. They approached Dr. Abraham Cohn, a Jew who had grown up in Nagasaki and had attended Japanese schools from kindergarten through medical school. He won an award from the emperor for his haiku poetry and was a triple black belt karate expert. As a practicing physician in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation, he was well placed in Shanghai society to meet with Kubota and to convince him that the Jews and Japanese may have had common ancestry and there should be no pogrom.
In any case, word about the intended plot was out and the Japanese government directed that nothing should be done to the Jews.
Shabbat morning, we attended services at the synagogue. Men sat in front, there was mixed seating in the center, and only women in the rear. We witnessed a group of young men learning gemarrah in a side room. Attendees at the service were a very diverse group, with many Asian-Jewish couples present as well as business people and students.
During Shabbat lunch we had the pleasure of greeting the daughter of Prof. Setsuzo (Abraham) Kotsuji, a Hebrew speaking Christian minister, who at the age of sixty formally converted to Judaism and took the name Abraham. Kotsuji was instrumental in extending the transit visas in Japan for Eastern European Jews who would otherwise have been returned to Europe to face probable death at the hands of the Nazis. In 1973, just after the Yom Kippur War, Kotsuji was buried in Jerusalem with great honor.
We met many others at lunch, including Neil, an American who has spent 27 years in Tokyo studying fish (especially goldfish), and a woman, also an American Jew, married to a Japanese man whose 15- and 12- year-old sons traveled an hour away to study for their b'nai mitzvah.
The next day we visited the Meiji Shrine, the largest Shinto shrine in Japan. One washes mouth, face, and hands before entering the shrine for prayer. Here there exists no scripture, no gods. The prayer at the shrine begins with the words, "Here I am loyal to my ancestors and to nature." Life cycle occasions are overseen by the Shinto while death is in the Buddhist arena.
At the shrine we witnessed a wedding. The priest wore a hat, white linen robe, and a fringed shawl having tszitszit (8 strings and 5 knots) hanging on both sides! A 30-day-old baby was brought to the shrine to be redeemed by the priest. The father hands the baby to the priest, and the priest asks if the father wants him to raise the baby. The father says no. The priest then anoints the baby, an offering is made, and the priest returns the baby to the father.
It's interesting to note that the Imperial family members are like prisoners in their palace. The princess was a commoner who met her husband on the tennis court. The princess can't call her mother except twice a year. There are three holy items in the palace --- a sword, a jewel, and a mirror. The brass mirror has Hebrew etched on the back that reads in Hebrew: "I shall be as I shall be." taken from Exodus, chapter 3, verse 14.
In Yokohama there is another Christian sect, similar to the Beth Shalom group in Kyoto, called the Makuya or Tabernacle. Makuya has 50,000 members throughout Japan who observe Chanukah, Pesach, and Easter. Their symbol is a menorah. They are also called Samurai Hasidim. They seem more Jewish than Christian. All of them have Hebrew names and 7,000 of them visited Israel during the past year.
When we arrived at their meeting house, we were surprised to find all the women seated on one side of the room and the men on the other. It was explained to us that the Hebrew songs we would all sing are considered prayers and, therefore, the sexes had to be separated.
Professor lkiru Toshima, the founder of the sect, was a school teacher in Southern Japan. He searched for religious identity after the war and founded this bible group. In fact, the members toyed with the idea of becoming Jews but some say that the idea of circumcision was a drawback. Prof. Toshima is deceased; however, his wife maintains the spirit and is keeping the sect alive. Prof. Toshima's son, Yaakov, is a graduate of Hebrew University and has a Ph.D. from the JTS on Chasidism. Yaakov Toshima is reputed to be the best writer on Judaism in Japan today. Unfortunately he is alienated from his father's sect. We sang and danced with the group and were treated to their Japanese-Hebrew song books.
Also in Yokahama we saw the storefront of the Rising Sun Oil Company that was founded in the early 1900s. The story of Rising Sun Oil Company begins with the Samuel family of London.
The Samuels had many children and one pushcart. The next-to-youngest child was a bum who was always in trouble in school, flunked everything, summa cum tsoroth, as Rabbi Tokayer related. At graduation, his father (Mordechai) said, "Marcus, go out and try to make a living." He gave him a one way ticket to the Far East and 20 pounds sterling. The ship traveled to India, Manila, etc. Finally he came to the last stop, Yokohama. (Japan had just opened up its doors to the rest of the world.) Marcus slept in a shack on the beach. The next morning, he saw some people cleaning the beach and digging for seashells. He discovered that they would make buttons, nameplates, and toys with the shells. They took a box, lacquered it, and covered it with shells. Young Marcus Samuel crafted his own shell covered box and sent samples to Victorian England. In England, they became the rage as nice decorative pieces. Marcus Samuel became the first to buy in Japan and sell in England!
Marcus now had some money. He took $10,000 to search for oil in the Far East. He tried Indonesia and found oil. He was going to heat Indonesia, but it's on the equator, so he had to get the oil from Indonesia to other parts of the world. He started moving oil in tin cans, then in 55 gal. oil drums, then in cargo ships. The problem was that the crude oil ruined the cargo ships. So he sat down with engineers in Yokohama and devised a plan to put a tank in the ship (world's first tanker). He named it Murex (seashell).
The first seven oil tankers were each named after a different seashell found off the coast of Japan. Marcus Samuel, with his tankers, developed an international oil business and even began deliveries to England. Many resented the Jew making so much money. He sold the company, Rising Sun Petroleum company, to a consortium of businessmen. One condition in the sales contract required the new owners to retain the logo, a picture of a shell. This, believe it or not, was the origin of Shell Oil Company!
With this story, we have reached the final hours of our tour in Japan and wait eagerly to board our plane, destination Hong Kong.
gion called as sion
Freemason's badge looks aiming at Japan
sion(dialect of Jew's landname)
Uzumasa(name of place)
Isurai(name of well)
Gado(race's name) and Mi(honorific)
Zehon(name of first son of head of Gado races)
ephod(clothes of festival worn by Hebrew)
Takamagahara(literally "High Celestial Heaven")
Hara of old city in Tagaumo
miyatsuko(old official ranking)
Nara(where the first central government of Japan arose)
Nara(sacred name of Mu Continent)
In Africa, there are many similarities between Bantu customs and Jewish ones also.
We always think that prior to airplanes no one traveled. And we think prior to TV and radio ideas did not spread.
DNA studies can detect if there is a genetic link (a recent study showed a genetic link in all cohens, a name used for the priestly hereditary class). However, an alternative is that Jewish settlers or travelers intermarried but kept their faith and customs, and that the good ideas and customs were copied by others in the area. After hundreds of years, the customs evolved, and some of the original knowledge was lost, but a core was kept alive because it spoke to people's hearts.
So although I am leery of the "lost tribe" scenerio, I am open to the possibility that there is indeed a link between Jewish settlers and these customs.
It truely is endearing- there should so be courses taught given on this, so people can see how much they have in common and, a bond also a place in the scheme of things!
Was all of the results of the Tower of Babble?
Blast from the Past (2003). Just adding to the catalog.
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