source: https://www.ghibli.jp/works/chihiro/#frame&gid=1&pid=9

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The Meaning Of Yaoyorozu No Kami【Spirited Away】

Spirited Away is one of the greatest anime films for years. A teenage girl strays into a queer world and grows up through queer experiences. The main story takes place in Yuya and, according to Yubaba, Yuya is a place for Yaoyorozu no kami to take a bath and some rests.

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What’s Yaoyorozu no kami?

Yaoyorozu literally means 8 million in Japanese, by extension, it means a large number or countless. Kami means god, so Yaoyorozu no kami means countless gods and it’s based on Shitoism.
In Shintoism, we consider everything in our world has its own god: a god in a mountain, in a river, in a tree, and even in food. Countless gods stay next to us all the time, so we call them “Yaoyorozu no kami”.

How are they related to people’s lives?

A god has mind just like us, they get happy, sad, and sometimes angry and these feelings cause natural phenomena like heavy rain, tsunami, earthquake, etc. Therefore, in Shintoism, just like living in the human societies, we need to care about gods’ feelings to coexist.
When I was little, I was taught that I had to handle things carefully and not to waste them. For example, if I broke a pencil on purpose, the pencil’s god would be hurt and sad. Of course, I’ve never seen any gods with my eyes so far, but I think most of Japanese people are taught so.

Yaoyorozu no kami in Yuya

In the film, so many kinds of gods gathered in Yuya and they were so interesting. Kusare gami, Chihiro served was actually a famous god of a river, and the big white man with red plate on his head (Chihiro met him on the elevator on the way to Yubaba’s room to ask for a job.) was a god of daikon reddish. He was designed from “Oshira sama”, the god of agriculture admired in the northwest part of Japan.

A month without gods

Here’s an interesting story about Japanese culture based on Shintoism. In old Japan, we used to use the lunar calendar instead of the solar calendar we use today, and every month had a certain name which we sometimes still use.

October was called “Kannazuki” (about 15th Nov. to 14th Dec. in the solar calendar) and it means “a month without gods”. In Shintoism, all the gods all over Japan gather in the shrine of Izumo taisha located in Tottori prefecture (Tottori prefecture is in the southwest part in Japan) to hold a gods’ meeting every year. During the time, almost all gods are absence in other parts of Japan expect for Tottori, so it’s called “a month without gods”. But then, how about in Tottori? Well, October is called “神在月(かみありつき)Kamiaritsuki” there. What do you think the meaning is? Yes, it means “a month WITH gods” because there are gods everywhere from all over Japan at the time! Very interesting isn’t it? 

What do they talk about in the gods’ meeting?

At the meeting, gods talk about humans’ destinies like who would marry who or who would die, and also about how a harvest would be next coming year. If all the gods In Japan gather in the shrine in October, what is going to be happen in the rest part of the country? Well, there’s no problem, some gods stay home and keep their homelands safe. You can see the gods’ meeting in a cute anime, “Kamichu!”

Satsuki’s name from My neighborhood Totoro came from May.

Off the topic… By the way, did you notice the old name for May is Satsuki from the chart above? The story of My neighborhood Totoro, another Ghibli’s legend film starts in May, as you can see people were planting seedlings in rice fields. 2 cute heroines’ names were after the season. Satsuki is from the old name for May and her little sister Mei’s name is after May (English). Maybe, their birthdays might be in May, too.

When you have a chance to watch Spirited Away next time, it would be fun to guess which god would be for what. Thank you for reading!

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