Kotodama: Words Are The Most Powerful Weapon


Be careful with what you say, because words do have power! Yes, people in Japan believe that words have the mystical power to make things happen, and today, we will give you a brief introduction and explanation about the practice of Kotodama, one of the most important superstitions in Japan. Kotodama or Kototama is the Japanese belief that mystical powers dwell in words and names, which apparently can also influence our environment, body, mind, and soul. This superstition is deeply entrenched into the Japanese culture, so you should be aware of Kotodama if you’ll stay in Japan! Remember, that your words have the power to influence your surrounding!


History of Kotodama

Kotodama, or the conscious use of words, is a central concept in Japanese mythology, Shinto, and Kokugaku. The word Koto (言) means word, and the word Dama or Tama (霊) means spirit, so literally Kotodama (言霊) means “word spirit”. Japanese people believe that words have great energy that influences the world around us, and Japanese people have been applying this belief to bring fortune and to avoid misfortune when choosing words and names.


Kotodama in Modern Japanese Society

Kotodama has been reinterpreted many times throughout the history, and even today, you still hear the word Kotodama. Mostly, you’d hear the term kotodama used in public debates related to Gairaigo (foreign loan words that exclude Sino-Japanese loans). The Japanese language is evolving everyday, and there are many foreign loan words are used as Japanese language these days. Many people believe, that allowing too many foreign words into the Japanese language will affect Kotodama that is inherent in original Japanese words negatively. Indeed, there have been many attempts to replace foreign loanwords with original Japanese words in the past, and all of these efforts were done to maintain the Kotodama.



Be Careful with Your Choice of Words!

These days, Japanese people still strongly believe that mystical powers or spirits dwell in words and names, even though the idea of Kotodama has changed since a long time ago. Thus, you must choose your words carefully when talking to others in Japan, and Japanese people won’t take your words or jokes easily, especially if you happen to wish them for bad fortune. For example, your friends are very excited as they will have a picnic tomorrow, but suddenly you say “It will rain tomorrow”, even though you’re only telling them the information that you got from the weather forecast, your statement would likely kill everyone’s mood that time. The main problem is when it really rains the next day, your friends would likely think that the rain was caused by your statement on the previous day, so choose your words wisely! Kotodama in Japanese words has the power to make things happen, so be careful with what you say!


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