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




Kimi no Na Wa and Musubi

kumihimo musubi S


Kimi no Na Wa is an extremely popular and powerful anime movie directed by Makoto Shinkai. We say “powerful” in that it is thought-provoking of matters outside the ordinary limits of time and space.

Musubi.  Kumihimo is a Japanese braiding method for making decorative and functional cords, and it is depicted in several scenes in the movie. Musubi is a knot, a tying together, of connecting people and things. The photo shows two kumihimo cords in a musubi knot.

Motohisa Yamakage has taught Koshinto through books such as The Essence of Shinto. Yamakage Sensei writes, “Musubi means to unite or bind together. … the concept of musubi signifies the proliferation of life and spirit. … the very process of creating and giving birth to life and spirit is described as musubi and we [Koshinto] place it in very high regard.”

Time and Space.  We have related the Tanabata Festival tale as the weaving of time and space. This is an observance since early Jomon times that takes place in the seventh night of the seventh lunar month, when the moon is only half-full and the stars in the Milky Way can clearly be seen. The word tanabata means a kind of weaving loom. So picture a fabric being woven with threads of warp and woof. The threads of the warp represent the flow of time, and the shuttling of the woof creates space.

Kimi no Na wa (君の名は) is an international hit movie, entitled Your Name in English. The warping and entangling of time and space is the theme of this metaphysical movie. Perhaps that’s why millions of people find the movie so intriguing.

In today’s essay, we consider how the movie conveys the message of Musubi through the imagery of braiding.

Early on in the movie, we see that Mitsuha lives with her sister and grandmother in a very small town in the rural land of Hida. Grandmother is priestess of an old shrine which has as its goshintai sacred object a megalith in the center of a meteor crater. Mitsuha serves as miko-san shrine maiden and performs a ritual at the shrine. Grandmother is also teaching Mitsuha to braid cords in the style of kumihimo. What, we wonder, is the significance of these elements?

Musubi in Kimi no Na wa

Grandmother’s explanation of Musubi uses the imagery of kumihimo. In one scene, Mitsuha and her sister are going with their grandmother on a pilgrimage to the sacred place of the megalith. On the way, Grandmother is explaining Musubi. We have restored the original word, kami, to the subtitles.

Musubi is the old way of calling the local guardian kami.

Tying thread is Musubi. Connecting people is Musubi.

These are all the kami’s power.

So the braided cords that we make are the kami’s art and represent the flow of time itself.

They converge and take shape. They twist, tangle, sometimes unravel, break, then connect again.

Musubi-knotting. That’s time.


From the above, we can see that the concept of musubi is that of gathering and connecting. Grandmother has explained how people are connected in time and space, and she stresses the time element. This is the basic theme of the movie.



Tanabata Matsuri — A Star Festival of Ancient Hinomoto

800px-Tanabata_Festival_in_Edo_(Hiroshige,_1852)In this post, we discuss the popular Tanabata Festival in terms of its origin.  This star festival of the Weaver was traditionally held on the seventh night of the seventh lunar month. It is held in July or August in modern times.

While many think erroneously that the Tanabata Festival is of Continental origin, this post by Julian Way shows that it was known in Hinomoto long before Continental contact:

     “Tanahata is a festival already ancient in Hotsuma times.”

Tanahata is a loom for ori weaving.  Tanahata matsuri is indigenous to the early people of Japan and is described in the Wosite documents Mikasafumi and Hotsuma Tsutae. This passage is from the Mikasafumi document.

From Namekoto no Aya in Mikasafumi,  as presented in Julian-Way:

afumi matsu     /     fume ni yawashite

kaze to nasu     /     yumi hari ni umu

iu to asa     /     woto tanahata no

hoshi matsuri     /     mochi ha miwoya to

iki tama ni     /     yena no hasuke no

me-wo a-e ha     /     a-ogi odori te

i o ukuru

Mikasafumi Namekoto no aya

Afumi  is the 7th month of the luni-solar calendar of the old days. Fume ni yawashite, the heat of summer is softening.

Yumi-hari is the first quarter of the moon, the seventh day, so the night sky is dark and stars can be seen. At the end of the seven days, a ceremony is held. Cotton and asa (hemp) are spun in the ceremony called woto tanahata no hoshi matsuri.  [Hoshi matsuri, star festival, where hoshi means star and matsuri is translated festival, although it meant an observance in the olden days.]  This is the star festival of Tanahata.

From time immemorial, weaving was sacred work that has been entrusted to women. The ceremony of tanahata, too, was considered sacred.

The special Wosite letter  wo  seen in the third line of the verse has a vertical line indicating the unseen connection to the stars. Stars are honored as ancestors. The other  wo  in  me-wo  refers to male and  me  to female.

Amemiwoya and Universe

The origin of Universe can be understood through Amemiwoya as the Great Origin. Amemiwoya is the Cosmic Parent. Amemiwoya is like the pole star, and Kunitokotachi and the eight Kunisatsuchi sons are like the stars rotating around the pole star.


In short, weaving is precious work that makes Ame-no-nori the Law of the Cosmos visible in form. So, both the order of the world and governing were taught by likening to hataori weaving with a loom.

Tanahata is a festival already ancient in Hotsuma times.

Odori, dance

なんと、(祖先を)仰ぎ、 踊って アメ のエネルギーを受ける・・・元気になる。

Our ancestors looked up, danced, and received the energy of Universe and  –good health.


It was our tradition from Jomon times.

Long ago, when thinking of the beginning of the world and the beginning of people while looking up at the beautiful stars in the night sky, our hearts communed with our precious ancestors and started this ceremony dedicated to stars.


Image: Woodblock print, Tanabata Matsuri in Edo by Hiroshige

Photo: Sky and Telescope