Continued from Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3

Israelites Came To Ancient Japan

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 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 grateful 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 Ryukyu, Japan. As mentioned earlier, Juji Nakada said that in Ryukyu, 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 reined 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 interesting 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 Jusan-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 disciple 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 among 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.
Archaeologist 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 was 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 tattoo. Shinto priests do not tattoo 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 disrespectfully; 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 over 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. Japanese "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, which 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 traditional 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 symbols 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 pointed 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 significance 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.

Gion Festival

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 ancestors 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 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.

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Arimasa Kubo

Remnant Publishing
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