Happy New Year 2018! Happy Perihelion!


Earth and sun via ISS Expedition 13/ NASA

Greetings of the New Year to All!

We on Earth have only a few weeks ago observed our December Solstice, when days are shortest in the Northern Hemisphere and longest in the Southern. It was the time of the New Year for indigenous people around the world. Now, we are celebrating the conventional New Year for our times at the beginning of the Western calendar in January.

Did you know that, on January 2 and 3, Earth will be closest to the Sun in our orbit around the Sun? This is always true around this time in our history. EarthSky writes:

On January 3, 2018, Earth at its closest point swings to within 91,401,983 miles (147,097,233 km) of the sun. That’s in contrast to six months from now, when the Earth reaches aphelion – its most distant point – on July 6, 2018. Then we’ll be 94,507,803 miles (152,095,566 km) from the sun.

In other words, Earth is about 3 million miles (5 million km) closer to the sun in early January than it is in early July. That’s always the case. Earth is closest to the sun every year in early January, when it’s winter for the Northern Hemisphere.

Do you wonder if the solstice and the perihelion, the closest approach of Earth to Sun, are related? This is not always true, because the dates change in the course of centuries. In fact, in the year 1246, both occurred on the same day. We are living in very interesting times…

Here’s the explanation from EarthSky.

Earth comes closest to the sun on January 3, 2018 at around 5:35 UTC; translate to your time zone. This event is called Earth’s perihelion. Meanwhile, the December solstice took place on December 21, 2017. At perihelion in January, Earth swings to within about 91 million miles (147 million km) of the sun. That’s in contrast to six months from now, when we’ll be about 94 million miles (152 million km) from the sun. At the December solstice, Earth’s Southern Hemisphere is tilted most toward the sun; it’s the height of summer in that hemisphere. Are the December solstice and January perihelion related? No. It’s just a coincidence that they come so close together.

The date of Earth’s perihelion drifts as the centuries pass. These two astronomical events are separated by about two weeks for us. But they were closer a few centuries ago – and in fact happened at the same time in 1246 AD.

As the centuries continue to pass, these events will drift even farther apart. On the average, one revolution of the Earth relative to perihelion is about 25 minutes longer than one revolution relative to the December solstice. Perihelion advances one full calendar date every 60 or so years.


December Solstice Greetings


Megalith for viewing winter solstice sunrise (photo by S. Tokuda)


One Earth, One Sun, One People

In ancient cultures, winter solstice day was the beginning of the new year. On this shortest day of the year, people knew that the next day would start to be slightly longer, and spring would be coming. Winter solstice is a symbol of rebirth and regeneration.

December 21 and 22 mark the days of the solstice which we call the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Iwakage has posted an article entitled, Winter Solstice 2017. It gives some of the dates and times in various time zones around the world. At the instant of time that is astronomical solstice, it is already early Friday morning of the 22nd in Japan, where Iwakage is located. One of the “earliest” times is in Hawaii when the solstice occurs at 6:28 a.m. on the 21st.

To our readers around the world, thank you for visiting us:

U.S., Japan, France, Italy, U.K., Australia, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Morocco, Russia, Netherlands, Spain, India, Philippines, Hungary, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Belgium, Mexico, Switzerland, Estonia, Chile, Thailand, New Zealand, Serbia, Bulgaria, Portugal, Austria, S. Korea, Ukraine, Argentina, Finland, Romania, Poland, Taiwan, Switzerland, Slovenia, S. Africa, Israel, Greece, E.U., Norway, Cape Verde, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Peru, Denmark, United Arab Emirates, Colombia, Turkey, China, Iceland, Belarus, Croatia, Pakistan, Latvia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Lithuania, Puerto Rico, Slovakia, Venezuela, Panama, and eighty other countries.

Seeing the names of these 150 countries truly impresses upon us that we are all One People living on this Earth under our Sun. Solstices, equinoxes, and all the days of the year come to all of us. Although the times on our clocks may differ, these astronomical times are the exact same moment for all of us.

Okunomichi wishes every one of you a Happy New Year!





Yamanomoya – Mountains and Shrines of Mystery

As part of the research program on Ancient Japan, Okunomichi has paid a lot of attention to the jinja shrines and their kami that played a role in Hinomoto which led to modern Japan. Many shrines have been mentioned in ancient texts and by other researchers. For that reason, Okunomichi has been actually going to the mountains and visiting these historical jinja.

Now, Okunomichi is moving its posts on jinja and pyramid mountains to https://yamanomiya.wordpress.com/. So we would like to introduce you to Yamanomiya.


The shrines described by Yamanomiya are connected historically to ancient documents in the Woshite literature (namely, the Hotsuma Tsutae). And to the kami that are prominent in that literature: Toyoke/Toyouke O-kami, Isanami-O-kami, Isanagi O-kami, Amateru-kami, Seoritsuhime, Shirayamahime, and others.

At Yamanomiya, there are a series of posts on the Moto-Ise shrines. These are the shrines where the kami of the current Ise Jingu Naiku and Geku — Amateru and Toyouke, respectively — were honored that were located, in Tamba no Kuni (in current Kyoto-fu), previous to Ise in the Kii peninsula. Legend says that it was Yamatohime who traveled from place to place until finally settling the enshrinements of Amateru Amakami and his grandfather Toyoke-Okami in Ise. This was long before the Ise shrines were adopted by the Imperial Family, even before there was even such a family.

Pyramid mountains

Yamanomiya also reports on the many pyramid mountains in Japan. In particular, you will find lists of pyramid mountains claimed by researchers Sakai, Kosaka, and Suzuki, Pyramid mountains were built thousands of years ago out of natural hills by human hands. They were made for ritual and societal purposes. They were usually flattened on top so that sacred ceremonies could be held, and today there are still shrines there.

Pyramids stabilized the land during earthquakes. They sent energy down to the land below to improve the productivity of farming. Pyramids and shrines were situated in very special geometrical and astronomical layouts. Frequently the lines connecting them pointed to the summer or winter solstice sunrises and sunsets.

And of course, the mountains of interest are considered especially sacred to kami, whether they are man-made or natural.

Let’s explore mountains and shrines with Yamanomiya!



Genetic Origins of Jomon and Japanese



Journal Publications on Genetic Origins of Jomon and Japanese

We have been very interested in the Jomon culture of Japan. There seem to be pockets here and there with significant Jomon components in current society, for example in Hida and in Tohoku. Anecdotally people have mentioned “Jomon DNA” and we wondered what is it? We have surveyed the literature on the genetics of the Jomon indigenous people of the Japanese archipelago and we present a brief summary of our findings.

1.  Hammer et al, 1995, Y chromosomal DNA variation and the Peopling of Japan, 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1801189/pdf/ajhg00030-0136.pdf. Note paternal ancestry.

Discussion.  YAP element is present in 42% of Japanese and absent in Taiwanese. YAP is absent in non-Japanese Asians inc. Taiwanese, Chinese, and Koreans. YAP is a marker of Jomon male lineages. Y-chromosome of modern Japanese is 39% Yayoi, 61% Jomon. YAP+ entered Japan with (only) Jomon, YAP- with both Jomon and Yayoi.

A broad picture of gene flow to Japan:

30K YA — Jomon enter on land bridges

20K YA — YAP+ and YAP- occur in Jomon

10K YA — Isolation of Jomon due to end of ice age

2.3 K YA — Yayoi enter and bring more YAP-

2.  Tanaka et al, 2004, Mitochondrial genome variation in eastern Asia and the peopling of Japan,  http://genome.cshlp.org/content/14/10a/1832. A long and important paper on the peopling of Japan based on maternal ancestry.

Abstract of Abstract:  New clades and subclades emerged. Confirmed present-day Japanese have closest genetic affiity to northern Asian populations, esp. Koreans. Revealed a high degee of differentiation in Paleolithic Japanese. Detected ancient southern and northern migrations (Ryukyu, Ainu). Found direct connections with Tibet, like that of Y-chromosomes. Suggests that “Japan could be included in an area of migratory expansion to Continental Asia. All the theories that have been proposed up to now to explain the peopling of Japan seem insufficient to accommodate fully this complex picture.”

Archaeological record:  attests that humans reached Japan 30,000 YA when still connected to Continent by two land bridges, north and south. Neolithic period in Japan is known as the Jomon period. Later, Continental people arrived, initiating the Yayoi period.

Results for Macrohaplogroup M  (D, …) :

M12 is a rare haplogroup, only in mainland Japanese, Koreans, and Tibetans (Tibetans having highest frequency 8% and diversity 50%). p. 1847 says that it is the mitochondrial counterpart of the Y-chromosome marker YAP+, a marker from C. Asia to mainland Japan.

Results for Macrohaplogroup N:  (A, Y, N9a, N9b, F, B) :

F is a subgroup of R9. Six mutations define F1. Only subhaplogroup F1b is well represented in the Japanese inc. Ainu and Ryukyuan. Highest diversities are in eastern China including Taiwan (100%).

Lineage Sorting and Population Pooling

Japanese, inc Ainu and Ryukyuans, part of a big group of Korean, Buryat, Tibetans, and N. Chinese. Ainu was the first differentiated, and Ryukyuans separated later. Japanese and Koreans still comprised a single group

The Peopling of Japan

Table 4 Frequency results.  Japanese relate by far to Koreans, less so to northern Chinese. Ryukyuans present smallest distance to Buryats, then S Chinese. Ainu cloest to mainland Japanese, Koreans, and N. Chinese. 

Table 4 Sequence matches.  Japanese relate first to Koreans and second to Buryats. Ryukyuans to Buryats then to Koreans. Ainu greatest affinities toward Kamchatka. Ryukyuans had a dual northern and southern Asian background previous to  admixture with mainland Japanese. Great distance and low identity values for Ainu-Ryukyuan pairs, indicating notable maternal isolation.

Some conclusions:  Ancient Japanese inhabitants came from northern Asia, later immigration came from southern Asia. Ainu have a rather recent Siberian influence. Ryukyuans show an older radiation from southern China. Macrohaplogroup N is larger in Ainu (50%) than in Ryukyuans (15%). Both of these populations are considered largely isolated but “they most probably had different maternal origins.”


“… the actual Japanese population is the result of a complex demographic history…” The Ryukyuans and Ainu are well differentiated from the mainland Japanese, yet that have common pecularities shared with the mainland Japanese (highest frequences in Asia for M7a, M7b2, and N9b. For both, their closest relatives are northern populations. “…our results are strikingly coincident with the previously proposed northern origin and influences received by the Japanese.” Horai’s (1997) mt studies demonstrated closest relation with Koreans. Some of these are substantially recent roots. Although it is well-documented that there was substantial immigration from Korea during the Yayoi period, mainland Japanese do share some of their haplotypes exclusively with Southern China (2.5%), N. China (1.5%), C Asia (1.5%), and Indonesia.

“In summary, Japan could have received several northern and southern Asian maternal inputs since Paleolithic times, with notable northern Asian immigrations through Korea in the late Neolithic and more specific gene flows from western Asia, Siberia, and southern Islands.”

3.  Hammer, 2006, Dual origins of the Japanese: common ground for hunter-gatherer and farmer Y chromosomes,



Haplogroup D as a Jomon marker. Haplogroups D and C began expansions in Japan ~20,000 and ~12,000 years ago, respectively. These are the Jomon hunter-gatherers with Central Asian origin. The Yayoi farmers with haplogroup O and SE Asian origin began to expand only 4,000 years ago. These are the dual origins. D presence in Japanese males was 35%, ranging from 75% in Ainu to 26% in Tokushima. Outside Japan, D is extremely rare. Presence of haplogroup O was 52% overall of six populations (Ainu, Aomori, Shizuoka, Tokushima, Kyushu, Okinawa). O is not found in Ainu. Kyushu 62%, Honshu 51%, Okinawa 38%.

4.  Stoneking and Delfin, 2010, The human genetic history of East Asia: Weaving a complex Tapestry,   http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(09)02067-3.  A review paper.

East Asia encompasses the region bordered by Ural Mountains in west, by Himalayan Plateau in SW, by Bering Strait in NE, and SE Asia. Presents two figures: mtDNA haplogroups and Y-chromosome haplogroups. Note in the latter, the yellow D-M174 in Tibet and Japan, very dissimilar to Korea.

5.  Adachi, Noboru, et al, Mitochondrial DNA analysis of Hokkaido Jomon skeletons: Remnants of archaic maternal lineages at the southwestern edge of former Beringia, 2011.  Abstract only. 

~22,000 YA is coalescence time of haplogroups N9b, D4h2, G1b, and M7a which were observed in the Jomon skeletons. All of these haplogroups except M7a were observed with high frequencies in SE Siberians but were absent in SE Asians. This implies that the Hokkaido Jomon were direct descendants of Paleolithic Siberians.  

Illustration above is from Wa-pedia.



Seoritsuhime Shrines in Iwate

DSC03592 Fudo no TakiYamanomiya: Mountain Shrines of Mystery has posted a series of articles of shrines in Iwate Prefecture that enshrine the kami Seoritsuhime. She is the spirit of waterfalls and rapids, of purification and water in all its aspects.

Seoritsuhime was a kami who lived in Omi on the shore of Biwako, around 3,000 years ago, as documented in the Hotsuma Tsutae. Because she was an indigenous leader, the later continentals wished to erase her memory. They succeeded in reducing the number of her shrines from the thousands to a mere 450. See also the series of articles by Woshite World on why and how Wosite, the indigenous language, was erased as well.

Iwate Prefecture, with 36, has the most Seoritsuhime shrines. Yamanomiya visited and reported on seven of them.





Kimi no Na Wa and Twilight


Kataware-doki Fragment of Time

We are told in the movie, Kimi no Na Wa, that kataware-doki means twilight in the dialect of Hida, where Mitsuha lives. Iwakage has more about the land of Hida as seen in the movie, if you click here. 

Strange things can happen during kataware-doki, the toki time of kataware. And they do, in the movie.

Kataware means a fragment. Fragment of time. Also, the fragment of the meteor that crashes to earth in Hida, obliterating Mitsuha’s hometown.

Let’s consider the fragment of time called kataware-doki. Twilight is a fascinating time of day — or is it night? It is the time between day and night, when it is neither day nor is it night. It is kure, dusk. Many haiku have been written about kure. Here’s one by Basho.

kono michi ya / yuku hito nashi ni / aki no kure.

This path —  no one walks it  —  autumn twilight

This lonely path that Basho describes could be a viewed as an autumn day turning into night, or as late autumn when the season turns to winter. It may even allude to the time when his life is coming to a close.

Kure is a border between two things such as light and dark, life and death, between two instants of time. It is at such a border that all things are possible.

As we were pondering twilight, Earth and Sky posted an article on three definitions of twilight, saying “You can define twilight simply as the time of day between daylight and darkness, whether that’s after sunset, or before sunrise.” They explain how Civil, Nautical, and Astronomical Twilight are defined — astronomically.

Still, these definitions do not explain how we feel about twilight.

Photo: Earth at twilight as viewed from space, NASA


2017.12.04 Update. Basho in his autumn haiku used kure for dusk. The character for dusk is 昏, also read kare. We noticed that, in the movie, the teacher also explained kataware-doki as karetaso and tasokare. We find that tasokare is written 黄昏, where the first character means yellow and the second is dusk. Now, kare usually means “he, him.” But kare if pronounced tare or dare would mean “who?”

So, we are back to the title of the movie, slightly rephrased, as:

Who are you?

Perhaps that was question being posed by Makoto Shinkai.