Israelites Came To Ancient Japan
Various Other Similarities Between Ancient Israel
and Ancient 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 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).
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
Another interesting similarity exists between the King Saul (the first king
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"
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
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 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
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
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
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
are all in the shape of 6 pointed star, and resemble the Shield of David very
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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 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
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
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
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 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.