Japanese ‘omikoshi’ like Ark of Covenant

Ark of the covenant of Israel (left) and “Omikoshi” ark of Japan (right)

  

“The Bible says that when David brought up the ark into Jerusalem, “David was clothed in a robe of fine linen” (1 Chronicles 15:27). The same was true for the priests and choirs. In the Japanese Bible, this verse is translated into “robe of white linen.” In ancient Israel, although the high priest wore a colorful robe, ordinary priests wore simple white linen. Priests wore white clothes at holy events.

Japanese priests also wear white robes at holy events”.

 Arimasa Kubo

So often we have found the Greco-Romans appropriating Hebrew lore, customs, writings, etc. Even the Japanese, it seems, if we can believe this:

http://www5.ocn.ne.jp/~magi9/isracame.htm

 

In the Bible, in First Chronicles, chapter 15, it is written that David brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord into Jerusalem.

 

David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of units of a thousand went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-Edom, with rejoicing. …Now David was clothed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and as were the singers, and Kenaniah, who was in charge of the singing of the choirs.  David also wore a linen ephod.

So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouts, with the sounding of rams’ horns and trumpets, and of cymbals, and the playing of lyres and harps. (15:25-28)

….

When I read these passages, I think; “How well does this look like the scene of Japanese people carrying our ‘omikoshi’ during festivals? The shape of the Japanese ‘Omikoshi’ appears similar to the ark of the covenant. Japanese sing and dance in front of it with shouts, and to the sounds of musical instruments. These are quite similar to the customs of ancient Israel.”

….

Japanese carry the “omikoshi” on their shoulders with poles – usually two poles. So did the ancient Israelites: “The Levites carried the ark of God with poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the LORD.” (1 Chronicles 15:15) The Israeli ark of the covenant had two poles (Exodus 25:10-15). Some restored models of the ark as it was imagined to be have used two poles on the upper parts of the ark. But the Bible says those poles were to be fastened to the ark by the four rings “on its four feet” (Exodus 25:12). Hence, the poles must have been attached on the bottom of the ark. This is similar to the Japanese “omikoshi.” The Israeli ark had two statues of gold cherubim on its top. Cherubim are a type of angel, heavenly being having wings like birds. Japanese “omikoshi” also have on its top the gold bird called “Ho-oh” which is an imaginary bird and a mysterious heavenly being. The entire Israeli ark was overlaid with gold. Japanese “omikoshi” are also overlaid partly and sometimes entirely with gold. The size of an “omikoshi” is almost the same as the Israeli ark. Japanese “omikoshi” could be a remnant of the ark of ancient Israel.

 

Many Things Concerning the Ark Resemble Japanese Customs.

 

King David and people of Israel sang and danced to the sounds of musical instruments in front of the ark. We Japanese sing and dance to the sounds of musical instruments in front of “omikoshi” as well. Several years ago, I saw an American-made movie titled “King David” which was a faithful story of the life of King David. In the movie, David was seen dancing in front of the ark while it was being carried into Jerusalem. I thought: “If the scenery of Jerusalem were replaced by Japanese scenery, this scene would be just the same as what can be observed in Japanese festivals.” The atmosphere of the music also resembles the Japanese style.  David’s dancing appears similar to Japanese traditional dancing.

 

At the Shinto shrine festival of “Gion-jinja” in Kyoto, men carry “omikoshi,” then enter a river, and cross it. I can’t help but think this originates from the memory of the Ancient Israelites carrying the ark as they crossed the Jordan river after their exodus from Egypt.

 

In a Japanese island of the Inland Sea of Seto, the men selected as the carriers of the “omikoshi” stay together at a house for one week before they would carry the “omikoshi.” This is to prevent profaning themselves. Furthermore on the day before they carry “omikoshi,” the men bathe in seawater to sanctify themselves. This is similar to an ancient Israelite custom:

 

“So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel.” (1 Chronicles 15:14)

 

The Bible says that after the ark entered Jerusalem and the march was finished, “David distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to  everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins” (1 Chronicles  16:3). This is similar to a Japanese custom. Sweets are distributed to everyone after a Japanese festival. It was a delight during my childhood.

 

The Robe of Japanese Priests Resembles the Robe of Israeli Priests.

 

The Bible says that when David brought up the ark into Jerusalem, “David was clothed in a robe of fine linen” (1 Chronicles 15:27). The same was true for the priests and choirs. In the Japanese Bible, this verse is translated into “robe of white linen.” In ancient Israel, although the high priest wore a colorful robe, ordinary priests wore simple white linen. Priests wore white clothes at holy events. Japanese priests also wear white robes at holy events. In Ise-jingu, one of the oldest Japanese shrines, all of the priests wear white robes. And in many Japanese Shinto shrines, especially traditional ones, the people wear white robes when they carry the “omikoshi” just like the Israelites did. Buddhist priests wear luxurious colorful robes. However, in the Japanese Shinto religion, white is regarded as the holiest color. The Emperor of Japan, just after he finishes the ceremony of his accession to the throne, appears alone in front of the Shinto god. When he arrives there, he wears a pure white robe covering his entire body except that his feet are naked. This is similar to the action of Moses and Joshua who removed their sandals in front of God to be in bare feet (Exodus 3:5, Joshua 5:15). Marvin Tokayer, a rabbi who lived in Japan for 10 years, wrote in his book: “The linen robes which Japanese Shinto priests wear have the same figure as the white linen robes of the ancient priests of Israel.  ”

 

Japanese Shinto priest in white robe with fringes

 

The Japanese Shinto priest robe has cords of 20-30 centimeters long (about 10 inches) hung from the corners of the robe. These fringes are similar to those of the ancient Israelites. Deuteronomy 22:12 says: “make them fringes in the… corners of their garments throughout their generations.” Fringes (tassels) were a token that a person was an Israelite. In the gospels of the New Testament, it is also written that the Pharisees “make their tassels on their garments long” (Matthew 23:5). A woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage came to Jesus (Yeshua) and touched the “tassel on His coat” (Matthew 9:20, The New Testament: A Translation in the Language of the People, translated by Charles B. Williams). Imagined pictures of ancient Israeli clothing sometimes do not have fringes. But their robes actually had fringes. The Jewish Tallit (prayer shawl), which the Jews put on when they pray, has fringes in the corners according to tradition.

 

Japanese Shinto priests wear on their robe a rectangle of cloth from their shoulders to thighs. This is the same as the ephod worn by David: “David also wore a linen ephod.” (1 Chronicles 15:27) Although the ephod of the high priest was colorful with jewels, the ordinary priests under him wore the ephods of simple white linen cloth (1 Samuel 22:18). Rabbi Tokayer states that the rectangle of cloth on the robe of Japanese Shinto priest looks very similar to the ephod of the Kohen, the Jewish priest. The Japanese Shinto priest puts a cap on his head just like Israeli priest did (Exodus 29:40). The Japanese priest also puts a sash on his waist. So did the Israeli priest. The clothing of Japanese Shinto priests appears to be similar to the clothing used by ancient Israelites. …. [etc.].

 

 

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