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The Ten Lost Tribes: Japan (2)

Japanese "Omikoshi" Resembles the Ark of the Covenant.

In the Torah (Divrei Hayamim I ch. 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 L-rd 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 L-rd with shouts, with the sounding of rams' horns and trumpets, and of cymbals, and the playing of lyres and harps." (15:25-28)


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 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 L-rd." (Divrei Hayamim I 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 kruvim on its top. Kruvim 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.

Many Things Concerning the Ark Resemble Japanese Customs.

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 G-d of Israel." (Divrei Hayamim I 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" (Divrei Hayamim I 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 Robe of Japanese Priests Resembles the Robe of Israeli Priests.

The Bible says that when David brought up the ark into Jerusalem, "David was clothed in a robe of fine linen" (Divrei Hayamim I 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 (Shmos 3:5, Yehoshua 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. Devorim 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.

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." (Divrei Hayamim I 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 (Shmuel I 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 (Shmos 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.

Waving the Sheaf of Harvest Is Also the Custom of Japan.

The Jews wave a sheaf of their first fruits of grain seven weeks before Shavuot (Pentecost, Vayikra 23:10-11), They also wave a sheaf of plants at Sukkot (the Feast of Booths, Vayikra 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" [Tehilim 51:7(9)]. This is also a traditional Japanese custom.

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 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 Structure of the Japanese Shinto Shrine is Similar to G-d's Tabernacle of Ancient Israel.

The inside of G-d'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.

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 G-d's temple in Israel and in the palace of Solomon, there were statues or relieves of lions (Melachim I 7:36, 10:19).

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 (Melachim I 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" (Shmos 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 Devarim, 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.

Many Japanese Customs Resemble Those of Ancient Israel.

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 (Shmos 28:33-35).

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" (Yechezkel 17:18, Shir Hashirim 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 (Breishis 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" (Shoftim 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" 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." (Vayikra 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 (Yechezkel 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.

Similar to Judaism, in Japanese Shinto Religion, There Are No Idols

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 G-d'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 G-d comes down. The same thing can be said concerning the objects in Japanese shrines.

Ancient Japanese Possibly Had a Belief in Yah-weh

A major difference between the Shinto religion and Judaism is the Shinto believe many gods and the Judaic believe in one true God.

However, unlike modern Judaism, the ancient religion of Israel, especially of the Ten Northern Tribes, inclined to idol worship and polytheistic belief (belief in many gods). They not only believed in G-d Yah-weh, they also believed in other gods such as Baal, Asytaroth, Molech. Shinto's polytheistic belief system appears to have been derived from the polytheistic inclination of ancient Northern Israel. Shinto scholars state that the Shinto god, "Susanoh," resembles Baal in several aspects, and the Shinto female god, "Amaterasu," resembles Asytaroth.

Until 40 decades ago, at Mt. Inomure in Ooita prefecture, Japan, people had a ceremony to beg for rainfall. They put wood together in the shape of a Star of David for making the foundation. On it, they constructed a tower made of tree branches, and on its top, they put a bamboo pole tangled with a slough of snake. They burned the tower and prayed for rainfall. This is reminiscent of the story of the ancient Israelites burning incense to the bronze serpent (made by Moses) on the pole until the reign of the King Hezekiah (Melachim II 18:4).

Although Shinto is a polytheistic religion, I think there is the possibility that ancient Shinto had once believed in Yahweh as well.

The first born among the Shinto gods is called "Amenominakanushi-no-kami." This god is said to have appeared first, live in the midst of the universe, had no shape, did not die, was the invisible master of the universe, and was the absolute god. He resembles the Biblical God as the Master of the Universe.

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 G-d 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 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.

Festivals of Japan Resemble Those of Ancient Israel

Currently the Japanese celebrate the new year on January 1st, but historically the lunar calendar was used, when January 15th was the official date for the new year's celebration. It is a Japanese custom during the celebration to eat "mochi" (rice cakes) throughout the seven days. This is similar to Judaism, for the Bible states:

"And on the fifteenth day of the same month (first month) is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread." (Vayikra 23:6)

The recipe for "unleavened bread" is the same for Japanese "mochi," because if you use rice as the ingredient instead of wheat flour, it would become Japanese "mochi." The Hebrew word for unleavened bread" is "matzah." Most likely it is not accidental that these two words sound alike.

Furthermore, the Japanese people eat porridge with seven kinds of bitter herbs during celebration. In historical times people ate the herbs on January 15th. The ancient Israelites also ate "with bitter herbs" on the 15th of the first month (Shmos 12:8).

In Japan, the "Gion" festivals take place at many locations during the summer. The most important is the one held at the "Yasaka-jinja" Shinto shrine in Kyoto. The festival in Kyoto continues throughout July each year. However, the most important part of the festival is held from July 17th to 25th (We Japanese call it "the seventh month"). July 1st and 10th are also important. This has been a tradition since ancient times. But the 17th of the seventh month is the day that Noah's ark drifted to Ararat:

"Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat." (Breishis 8:4)

It is likely that the ancient Israelites had a thanksgiving feast on this day. However after Moses, it was replaced by the Feast of Booths (harvest festival), which is held on the 1st, 10th day of the seventh month, and during 8 days from the 15th of the seventh month (Bamidbar 29:1, 7, 12, 35).

The "Gion" festival in Kyoto started with the wish that no pestilence would occur among people. This is similar to what King Solomon stated, in the wish that no pestilence would occur in the country. The Israeli feast continued for 8 days (including the last meeting day) from the 15th of the seventh month (Divrei Hayamim II 7:8-10).

Over 120 years ago, a business man from Scotland, N. Mcleod, came to Japan to investigate the customs. He wrote a book entitled "Epitome of Japanese Ancient History." In the book, he wrote that the "Gion" festival in Kyoto greatly resembled Jewish festivals.

Rabbi Tokayer made a similar comment. He said that the name "Gion" reminds him of "Zion" which is another name for Jerusalem. In fact, Kyoto used to be called "Heian-kyo," which means "city of peace." Jerusalem in Hebrew also means "city of peace". "Heian-kyo" might be Japanese for "Jerusalem."

At the "Gion" festival in Kyoto, the people start the festival with a shout of "en-yara-yah." Japanese do not understand the meaning of this word. But, Eiji Kawamorita, a Japanese scholar who mastered Hebrew, wrote in his book that the word seemed to be a Hebrew expression "eni ahalel yah" which means "I praise Yah-weh (the L-rd)."

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 of 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 G-d's nation but in a result, instead of Esau, G-d'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 (Breishis 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 (Divrei Hayamim II 7:20-27), and a descendant of 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 (breishis 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 of Jacob, Joseph, and Ephraim.

Impurity During Menstruation and Bearing Child

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 shed (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 shed during her menstruation and 7 days after the menstruation (Vayikra 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.

This remains true even today. There are no marital 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'" (Vayikra 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 shed (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.

A Possible Remnant of the 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 had been performed within the Imperial family of Japan, I have not been able to confirm yet whether or not there has been such a custom.

Currently, we cannot see the custom of circumcision among Japanese citizens, but a traditional Japanese custom exists known as "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, the 8th day from the day the baby was born, because it is from the sunset that the next day starts in the Jewish calendar. This is reminiscent of the Jewish custom of circumcision on the 8th day. The Israelites gathered on the 8th day, that was usually 7th night from the day a boy was born. The parents introduced the baby to relatives and friends, circumcised him, introduced his name and rejoiced his birth together. During the 7 days he has no name, just like in the Japanese custom.

From the Study of Blood Types

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. I expect that further research will be done by many individuals.

The Ten Tribes in Japan - Part 3

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