Who is God in Japanese? 2015/04/04

English word “ God” is often translated as “ kam i” in Japanese. However  Japanese “ kami ” is totally different concept from God in monotheism.


According to the study of Jomon language which is presumed to be ancient Japanese language used during Jomon period,  “ka” means the surface or the top and  “mi” means being covered. Then the combined word “kami” means something great and awesome which lies on the top of things and is invisibly shrouded in mystery.


In modern Japanese we have several meanings from the same pronunciation of “kami”, although we usually pronounce as “okami” by adding the polite expression of “o”.


One meaning is the government or the controller of administration or the top of the power.Until the end of Edo period, we called the top of the district as “ kami “ of the particular district、such as “Musashi-no-kami” which means the controller of Musashi country, or “Higo-no-kami” which means the controller of Higo country.


The female tops of various service shops or variety of organizations such as inns, restaurants, bars, groceries are also called as “ okami “.


Sometime “ okami “ means a master, and sometime it means a common housewife.


Basically we call any person which lies on top of us as “ kami “ or “ okami “.

On one occasion, “ kami “ is meant as the great God, and on another occasion, “ kami “  is referred just for an ordinary housewife.


It sounds rather complicated, however we can easily understand the speaker’s real intention of “ kami “  in the particular occasion from the context of the conversation.

BGoy281 okami of  long established inn.