Japan, as we know, is one of the world’s strongest economies in this modern era. It is considered to be successful to develop its finance and stature. Many people from different countries all around the world seem to like and respect Japan and its people. Needless to say, tourists visit Japan everyday and are easily hooked up to their interesting cultures. However, there is something that most of them do not have the knowledge of—and it is certainly as interesting as their daily cultures that the Japanese are most likely related to and influenced by the Israelites. How could it be? Did they come from the same origins? Were the Japanese the descendants of the Israelites? To help you understand things better, I will guide you throughout this short essay. Here we will focus on the similarities of the two cultures. We are going to talk about the shrines and the customs of the Japanese and Israelites as our examples provided that the differences are much more obvious in this modern world.
Let us take a look at the first aspect on the spotlight: the shrines. Shrines, as Wikipedia would describe it, are worshipping places to specific figures of bigger power and respect that are considered holy or sacred. Based on that description, churches, mosques, Buddist temples, or any worshipping places of any religions can be classified as shrines. Now, in Japan, we have the Shinto shrine, and in Israel we have what people call God’s Tabernacle. Shinto shrines are easily found in many areas in Japan, and they have a very long history with Shinto being one of the long-lasting belief or traditional religion of many Japanese. The same thing can be said about the Israelites’ God’s Tabernacle. First built in the ancient times of King Salomon, it is now a rare thing to be found in modern Israel though. These two shrines, albeit being somehow “forgotten” in this era, are sometimes still used. And what is more interesting is the fact that they share similar structure. A Shinto shrine in Japan would have what they call “temizuya”. “Temizuya” is a place for people to wash their hands and mouth before praying and worshipping. The tabernacle temple of Israel also has a place for prayers to wash and sanctify themselves. Both of the purifying places are located near to the entrances of both shrines. Another thing that both a Shinto shrine and Israel temple would share is the statue of lions standing in front of the entrance of both the buildings. The statue of lions here act as “guardians” of the temple.
And that is not all, either. While temples/shrines are strongly connected to the ancient history, there are some things that the Jewish people of Israel and Japanese share in their daily modern customs. For example, when Japanese people pray in front of the holy place of a Shinto shrine (which they still do nowadays, even if some of them practice a different religion than Shinto), they will clap their hands twice. This is also a custom of the Jews in the Israel. Whenever they pray, they clap their hands two times. This is thought to hold the meaning of keeping our promises in our prayers in the hope that the deities keep their promises as well. Another present custom would be the salt sowing thing that both the Japanese and the Jewish people do. When Jewish people move to a new house, they sow salt to sanctify and purify it. This is usually done at the entrance of the house. In Japan, it is also a common thing to be found these days, where people would sprinkle salt on their body after coming from a funeral. The same principal underlies this: in Japanese’s Shinto religion, anyone who goes to a funeral will always come home bringing bad luck—therefore, it is needed to sow salt to clearance oneself.
With all similarities being shared above, we can now come to the conclusion that maybe, somehow, the Japanese are related to the Israelites. A further research would need to be done on this, but one final fact remains. While Japanese and Israel are two distant countries with a lot of different cultures nowadays, there are still some similarities that they share that date back to the ancient times of the world. The terms given being their shrines and daily customs. (Yoshua Yasmin Sugandhi, a student of English Department, Atmajaya Catholic University, Jakarta)