Sakuya’s dialogue here is actually really interesting because she uses a specifically Buddhist term, utsushiyo (present world; transient world), even though she is a god drawn from Shinto lore. Shinto and Buddhism have coexisted for centuries in Japan, and various Buddhist sects usually did not exclude Shinto but actually worked to explain the how it fit in. Although the Shinto folklore in Okami is the most prevalent, and the easiest for us to see, combined with the presence of temples and priests, karma, and vocabulary like this, it seems to me that Okami is actually set within an ultimately Buddhist universe.
The Myths, Legends, Art, and History Behind the Brilliant Game "Ôkami".Ask Submit   Archive
I used to think that Samurai Dandy was simply the remnant of the “Westerner’s Peninsula” that had been cut out of Sei-an. (Western flair: why not?) Turns out that trendy Christian samurai really did enjoy Elizabethan fashion, though, and really did wear those ruff collars, and sometimes other aspects of English clothing design.
I learned this in my Japanese Literature class yesterday, after which my professor showed us this picture, and I had a minor freak-out.
And the winner of the giveaway is princessbraus! Enjoy :D
In other news, between the end of the semester and doing NaNoWriMo, I am SUPER SWAMPED and so I won’t be posting for a while. (シ_ _)シ Sorry!
P.S. I hope to do another giveaway someday…
To celebrate 700 followers on this blog, and also because I just finished Okami again, I’m going to give away some Okami tea blends! Whether you’re fresh in the world of tea, a loose-leaf veteran, or anywhere in between, this could be a great chance to try something new. Anyway, what could be better than Okami and free stuff?
On November 10, I will pick one random winner. Likes and reblogs both count. I will ship to anywhere in the world! If the winner is within the contiguous US, you may choose any two 3-ounce pouches of tea you like. However, due to the cost of international shipping, a winner outside that zone may choose one. (This stipulation is subject to change depending on my funds when this ends, though!)
Good luck! c:
The legend of Kaguya-hime, known as the Tale of the Bamboo-Cutter, dates back to the 10th century, and is the earliest surviving Japanese narrative. Her story is largely simplified, but kept mostly intact compared to other stories in Okami, except for the iron bamboo shoot. This tale is considered proto-science fiction, so it seems all the more fitting that Okami took it a step further into modern sci-fi.
The story, briefly, is as follows:
One day, an old bamboo cutter happened across a strange, glowing bamboo stalk within a grove. He cut it open to find a baby girl the size of his thumb. He and his wife had no children, so he was overjoyed to find her, and brought her home where the old couple raised her lovingly. They named her Nayotake-no-Kaguya-hime, the Princess of the Bending Bamboo that Scatters Light. After that, whenever the old man cut down a stalk of bamboo, he would find a gold nugget inside, and he became rick.
Kaguya-hime, meanwhile, grew to an ordinary size and became an extremely beautiful young woman. Hearing of her beauty, five princes came to ask for her hand in marriage. The man didn’t want her to marry them, but the princes convinced him to let her choose among them. Kaguya-hime told each of them to bring to her an item that would be impossible to find, such as the Buddha’s begging bowl or a jewel from the neck of a dragon. Three of them tried to bring her fakes, one gave up, and one was killed or severely wounded on his quest, depending on the story. All of them failed.
After that, the Emperor himself asked for her hand in marriage, but she again refused, arguing that she was not of this country.
Kaguya-hime started to act more erratic, and her parents grew worried. That summer, when she gazed at the full moon, she began to cry. She revealed that she was from the Moon and must return to her people there.
When the time came for her to return, the Emperor himself set guards all around the house to keep the people of the Moon from getting to her, but it was all in vain. The beings from the Moon blinded the guards with light, and Kaguya announced that though she loved all her family and friends on Earth, she had to leave. She wrote letters of apology to her parents and the Emperor, giving her parents her robe as a momento, and the Emperor a small vial with an elixir of immortality. As she handed the note to an Imperial guard, she was adorned with a feather robe that allows heavenly beings to fly between the heavens and the Earth. Her parents watching with tears in their eyes, the lunar entourage brought her home to the capital of the moon, Tsuki-no-Miyako.
The story doesn’t quite end there; her parents, wrought with sadness, became sick and bedridden. When the Emperor received Kaguya-hime’s letter, he asked which mountain reached closest to Heaven. So he sent his men to burn the letter at the summit of the great mountain of Suruga Province, along with the elixir, for he couldn’t bear to live forever without her. He hoped that the smoke would reach her and bear her his message.
Legend holds that the name of the mountain, Mt. Fuji, came from the word for “immortality” (fushi or fuji). The name’s kanji mean “mountain abounding with warriors”, which were perhaps inspired by the image of the Emperor’s army rising up the mountain to burn the letter. Finally, since this story arose during a time when the volcano was still active, it was said that the smoke from the letter still burns to this day.
[From a linguistic standpoint, since one of my professors mentioned this once, the name “Fuji” did not quite fit Japanese phonemes at the time it seems to have been given; it is thought to have come from the language of the people who lived in Japan before the ethnic Japanese. The Ainu are descended from these people.]
In different versions of the story, there are various reasons for why Kaguya-hime was sent to Earth. Some say it was a punishment for a crime; some say it was to protect her from a celestial war. Some also say that the gold the bamboo cutter found was compensation sent for the cost of raising her.
The Moon Tribe is depicted as a technologically advanced race, but not a divine one. Thus Kaguya rides a bamboo rocket, and is equipped with a helmet like an astronaut’s and what appears to be a jet pack, instead of a feathered hagoromo. She wears a junihitoe-styled robe with five layers (instead of the customary twelve), and a pleated train (mo, which were commonly white) with a rocket/moon motif. The bamboo leaves on her head resemble rabbit ears, furthering the moon motif, as the Japanese see a rabbit in the moon instead of a man. (The rabbit is also seen as pounding mochi, hence Yumigami’s design and the reason for the moon god being a rabbit.)
All female nobility and ladies in waiting wore robes like junihitoe, but the color combinations one chose spoke of one’s rank and character. Specific combinations would suggest personality traits or a sensitivity to the season, and some colors were restricted to certain ranks. The outer color of Kaguya’s robe may be a medium shade of kurenai, a color that was reserved for royalty, referring to her status as a princess.
More on Heian female court wear
Some color combinations
Story/image source: [x]
Namahage reside in the forests of Tohoku (northeastern Japan), and come out to scare lazy and misbehaving children so that they act properly. They are famously celebrated in a New Year’s festival in Oga.
There is a legend that over two thousand years ago, the Han Emperor came to Japan with five of these demons, and they began to terrorize the area, stealing young women and crops from the villages. The villagers tricked them by making a deal: if the namahage could build a 1000-stone staircase, the villagers promised to give up all of their young women. Otherwise, they had to leave, never to return.
The namahage went to work quickly, but as they finished the 999th stair, a villager imitated a rooster to signal dawn, and the namahage quickly ran away.
Now, every year, young men of Oga dress up as namahage, wearing large, vicious masks with long hair and straw coats, and wielding a wooden bucket and a knife (which we see with the Bucket and Blade Namahage) and run around the villages bursting into people’s homes in search of children, new wives, and other new members of the community. In a practiced throaty yell they seek to ensure that the newcomers work hard and obey their parents or in-laws. The other members of the house are supposed to come protect the victims, assuring the namahage that these are good people, and sating them with a little food and sake.
Oga also celebrates a Sedo Matsuri, or Demon Mask Festival, in mid-February. The festival begins at Shinzan Shrine, where dozens of men are given masks purified by Shinto priests, and then “become” namahage, and climb up the mountain. Dances and performances are held at the shrine, and the festival finishes with the spectacular descent of the namahage horde bearing torches down the snowy trail. They walk among the visitors and receive mochi roasted by priests on the Sedo fire, and return to the mountain.
Of Okami’s namahage, only the Cannon Namahage embodies traditional namahage, as it seeks to scare the lazy and cowardly into action and courage. Physically, they act and make guttural cries like namahage, but otherwise their behavior has nothing to do with the kind known to Japan. In fact, the regular Namahage regards the lazy as allies. Even though they are not endemic to Hokkaido, as they are to Kamui, their relationship to northern Honshu and the snowy winter mountains (not to mention their warm, protective straw coats) makes them a suitable demon for the location.
(P.S. the Sedo festival is supposed to be very visitor-friendly. I really want to go…)
Okamiden brought in the main character from one of the most famous novels of all time—in fact, the oldest novel of all time, Genji Monogatari or “The Tale of Genji”. The book is a classic of Heian-period literature and offers a valuable window into the culture of the time.
When Shikibu—shortened from Murasaki Shikibu, the author of the Tale—laments that she “shouldn’t have written that romance novel!”, she is referring to the Tale of Genji. Prince Hikaru Genji is the main character. He is described as beautiful to the point of being mistakable for a girl, especially when he is young, and his face is almost radiant. The first part of the book focuses on the romance in the early years of his life. He is involved with many women, sometimes when he shouldn’t be. He is not without his faults, but by Heian standards he is rather thoughtful, cultured and gentlemanly. However, in modern-day reinterpretations of the story, it seems common to depict it as a tale of beautiful romance and drama, with Genji as the dreamy protagonist. Looking at the novel, though, especially by today’s standards (even in Japan), Genji is kind of a jerk, and today affairs and rape are not acceptable as they were then. (That is to say, they weren’t exactly seen as good, but they were commonplace and expected, and if you weren’t having affairs, people would think something was wrong.)
Which is why the way Okamiden presents Genji is pretty hilarious, in my opinion. He’s still super creepy, of course, but the idea that he was intended to be the perfect man and then something went wrong makes for a great parody (for lack of a better word) of the character. Then, of course, he was brought to life by a demonic power, and kidnaps Nanami.
Genji also kidnaps a girl in the Tale. He means well—the girl, the famed Murasaki, is not in an ideal position, and Genji has the means to bring her up as a fine, educated lady. (The first picture above shows when he “meets” her. He spies through the fence and glimpses her. Merely seeing a woman’s face was extremely rare and felt so intimate that love at first sight was entirely real, and only partially accidental.) After his request to take her and raise her himself is denied, however, he feels that he do so anyway, and takes her (and her nurse) away in the dead of night. Genji waits patiently for her to grow old enough to become his wife, and she grows up well and impresses those around her. Eventually, though, their relationship falls apart.
When Genji falls in love, he can’t stand to stay away, so his kidnapping of Nanami in Okamiden probably comes from this and probably also the kidnapping of Murasaki. As for his design, much of the Heian-ness of the character (poems, subtlety, etc.) was replaced with bluntness and sparkles, not to mention a fabulously ludicrous design. (Nanami subsequently beating him up was a welcome turn of events.) The symbolism of the hearts is obvious, but also echoes the heart shape of sakura petals. He wears an aristocrat’s eboshi hat (although, rather than solemn black, his is still garish) and an ornate carriage wheel on his chest. Fans were a common prop for all nobles, and were sometimes used to pass letters (which always included poems) to and from women, who were always hidden behind blinds and curtains.
[A Heian-style ox-drawn carriage in Kyoto’s Aoi Matsuri. This festival’s processions show off the splendor of Murasaki Shikibu’s world. x]
Tengu are a kind of yokai that appear in several forms in Japanese folklore. In Okami, we also have a few different kinds of tengu: the Crow Tengu and the Great Tengu. Waka’s design is also heavily based on tengu.
Tengu originated from the Chinese tiangou, a deity depicted as either a black dog or a meteor that ate the sun during an eclipse. Even though tengu have nothing to do with dogs, the name still means “sky dog” or “heavenly dog”. How these changes occurred is unknown, but their image continued to change once they appeared in Japanese folklore. Tengu did used to be seen as destructive, but their image weakened over time. They were still considered powerful and dangerous, but sometimes even comic.
In appearance, tengu are a mix of human and avian. They typically have wings, and may have either a bird-like beaked face or a goblin-like face with a long nose. The former used to be more common, but it transitioned to the latter over time. (Smaller beaked tengu are often called karasu tengu, or crow tengu, which are still popular. Karasu tengu now typically resemble crows or ravens.) Now the tengu’s nose has become iconic, and is an important part of some stories. They often lord over mountains. In some stories, tengu are angered when humans trespass on their mountains. Mount Kurama is a mountain northwest of Kyoto that is famous for its tengu; it is said to be the birthplace of Sōjōbō, the king of the tengu, and the mentor of swordsmanship to Minamoto no Yoshitsune (i.e. Ushiwaka).
Eventually, tengu came to be associated with yamabushi, Buddhist hermits who lived in the mountains, and now tengu are usually seen wearing clothing like a Buddhist priest’s. They also wield feathered fans which have the power to create great winds; infamously they may also have the power to change the length of one’s nose.
[Yamabushi costumes. source]
In Okami, the Great Tengu most closely resembles the tengu you find in art and tales. It has monk’s clothes, a red face, long nose, and even longer mask-nose that doubles as its feathered fan, bushy hair, wings, and bird feet. This is the kind of powerful tengu that would rule over mountain domains. Interestingly, the bestiary describes that the Great Tengu used to be a human who cloistered himself in the mountains, and trained until he achieved great powers. This is somewhat ironic considering that tengu usually disliked humans, it but gives reason to the monk’s clothes. The Great Tengu’s giant mask is based on actual tengu masks, which might be worn for a play or a festival.
The Crow Tengu also has fans and monk’s clothes, but is considerably more demonic, being a combination of a crow and a dead swordsman. With a bird’s face, four eyes, and wings, its only human characteristics are its swordfighting and its clothes. The white robe with red is typical of Shinto rather than Buddhist priests, though the hat and beads are Buddhist.
I won’t write about tengu stories or else this post will be miles long, but here are some links to tales and mischief.
nimrodgirl1 answered: YES! Well, depending on where it ships.
I’m hoping to give two 3oz pouches of the winner’s choice. I would like to offer it internationally, but since shipping outside the US is kind of expensive, I might have to compensate by only giving one pouch to an international winner. Which is unfortunate, but at least it’s still free tea, right?
Otherwise, I can ship anywhere in the US.