View Full Version : Shinto and Hemp

John Lindsey
10th November 2002, 04:42
The following was taken from an article called:

Restoring hemp to natural place in Japan's culture

Read the whole article here: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?fl20021109a1.htm

Native to Asia and extensively cultivated in other parts of the world, the plant is largely grown for the fibers to be extracted from its stems, and the drugs hashish and marijuana. In Japan, it is legal to be in possession of stems and seeds, but illegal to be found with leaves and flowers. Hence the need for a growing license.

"Hemp tends to get stronger in its effect when it goes wild," Yasunao explains. "The plants that grow freely as weeds in Hokkaido are very different to the hemp I grow."

The purpose of his plot is for research. The word must have gone out, because soon after he gained his license in the 1990s he was busted for possession. "After I explained to the police the significance of hemp in Shinto rites and ancient Japanese culture, they let me go."

The plant, he believes, has spiritual as well as practical properties. Regarded as a purifying agent, a baby's umbilical cord used to be tied off with hemp before being cut. During the Bon festival for the dead, the plant was burned in tribute to ancestors. While during the war, because hemp grew quickly, and had associations with Shinto and therefore the divinity of the Imperial cause, it was used for making military uniforms and parachutes.

"You will find that the hemp leaf traditionally used in designs for obi sashes and baby clothes," he says. "Also the rope pattern used to decorate pottery by Japan's prehistoric Jomon people is hemp-based. It's no accident that the fiber is used to craft the twisted rope (yokuzuna) worn by sumo's top champion yokozuna. It signifies its importance."

Archaeologists -- pushing back the boundaries of history since the death of the Showa emperor -- have found considerable quantities of hemp seeds on Jomon sites, he adds. "Hemp was always central to Japanese culture."

His book on the subject, titled "Makoto no Hanashi" ("Story of Truth"), was published in October last year by Hyogensha -- a strange but fascinating meld of historical fact and New Age fiction, now in its second printing. There are shadows of a new nationalism, even though he insists that the subject -- hemp -- is universal. "The Celts had a tradition of using the plant. You can find it throughout ancient cultures all over the world."

At the same time he postulates that hemp's importance in Shintoism means that Japan led the way, as the source of all wisdom. "Japan was a hemp culture."

Many Japanese of his age, born postwar but torn between embracing and rejecting Western values, seek to raise their country above the shame of surrender and occupation. They are outgoing, cosmopolitan and believe themselves open to the world, and yet they seek with a certain desperation to re-create Japan's spiritual heart in order to regain their cultural pride and personal self-esteem.

Yasunao has established what he calls "a Jomon energy center" on Oshima. Its aim is to investigate the history and properties of hemp and discover how ancient people used it. "We need that kind of wisdom today." There's a similar interest in many countries, he says: Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada.

10th November 2002, 15:02
Ah, yes. I believe that the hemp renaissance in Canada was started by the McKenzie brothers, back in the early '80s. Ay?

"The power of the Force stopped you hosers!"

13th November 2002, 02:22
Hmm..and here all this time I thought all they did was drink beer...

14th November 2002, 18:22
You might be surprised at what Norhterners get up to.