Tag Archives: Japan

Hiromasa’s Flute

Devil Flute - ebayPrince Hiromasa and the Devil’s flute
By Doc, 2013

FlutesThere’s an old legend from Japan concerning Prince Hiromasa (918-980), which is reminiscent of the European and American South stories about meeting Satan at a lonely crossroads.

Prince Hiromasa was walking one moonlit night at Suzaku Gate in Kyoto. He was playing the flute while he walked. Then he heard another flute harmonizing with his. The Prince searched out the player and found him in the upper story of the gate. Having exchanged flutes, the two played music together right through the night.

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Jigoku – Japanese Hell

kyosai_4_Kawanabe Kysai PTJigoku

Jigoku,  in Japanese Buddhism, hell, a region popularly believed to be composed of a number of hot and cold regions located under the Earth.

Jigoku is ruled over by Emma-ō, the Japanese lord of death, corresponds to the Indian deity Yama. He judges the dead by consulting a register in which are entered all of their sins. The sinner is sent to one of the 16 regions of fire or ice assigned him by Emma-ō for a fixed period of time until the next rebirth, unless Continue reading

Senmin – Burakumin

BurakuminReligious origin of the Japanese caste system
By Thomas Paine, Robert G. Ingersoll, Sam Ayache

The caste system may have developed as early as the eighth century AD. The Japanese population was divided into two groups according to Shinto concepts of purity. Shinto concepts equated goodness and godliness with purity and cleanliness. Shinto held that impurities could cling to people, making them evil or sinful.

Komin (“acceptable citizens”) or ryomin (“good citizens”) were engaged in agriculture. They belonged to the state and had a duty to pay tax in labour and in kind. The other group was called shiyumin (privately owned people) or senmin (“despised citizens”) because of their non-agricultural and unproductive occupations. Continue reading

Soroban – Japanese Suanpan

Soroban and Suanpan-Science_museumSoroban

The soroban (算盤, counting tray) is an abacus developed in Japan. It is derived from the Chinese suanpan, imported to Japan around 1600. Like the suanpan, the soroban is still used today, despite the proliferation of practical and affordable pocket electronic calculators.

The soroban is composed of an odd number of columns or rods, each having beads: one bead having a value of five, called go-dama (五玉, “five-bead”) and four beads each having a value of one, called ichi-dama (一玉, “one-bead”). Each set of beads of each rod is divided by a bar known as a reckoning bar. The number and size of beads in each rod make a standard-sized 13-rod soroban much less bulky than a standard-sized suanpan of similar expressive power. Continue reading

Burakumin – The Untouchables In the Japanese Caste System

Burakumin 2Burakumin in ( Japanese: “hamlet people”) also called eta (“an abundance of defilement”), or “untouchable,” is an outcaste Japanese minority group at the bottom of the traditional Japanese social system. The Japanese term eta is highly pejorative, but prejudice has tended even to tarnish the otherwise neutral term burakumin itself.

No physical characteristics distinguish burakumin, unlike other main minority groups, from the majority population. They were originally members of outcast communities in the Shinto and Buddhist era, composed of those with occupations considered impure or tainted by death (such as executioners, undertakers, workers in slaughterhouses, butchers or tanners), which have severe social stigmas of kegare (“defilement”) attached to them. Other outcast groups from whom buraku may have been descended included the hinin (“non-human”). The definition of hinin, as well as their social status and typical occupations varied over time, but typically included ex-convicts and vagrants who worked as town guards, street cleaners or entertainers. Continue reading

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