Japanese “Omikoshi” Resembles the Ark of the Covenant

Carrying Ark of the Covenant

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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 Israelbrought 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)

Illustration  of Israeli people carrying the Ark of the Covenant

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  “Omikoshi” ark

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 Israelsang 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 Jerusalemwere 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.

Waving the Sheaf of Harvest  Is Also the Custom of Japan.

The Jews wave a sheaf of their first fruits of grain seven  weeks before Shavuot (Pentecost, Leviticus 23:10-11), They also wave a sheaf of  plants at Sukkot (the Feast of Booths, Leviticus  23:40). This has been a tradition since the time of Moses. Ancient Israeli  priests also waved a plant branch when he sanctifies someone. David said, “Purge  me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” [Psalm 51:7(9)]. This is also a  traditional Japanese custom.

Shinto priest  waving for sanctification

When a Japanese priest sanctifies someone or something, he  waves a tree branch. Or he waves a “harainusa,” which is made of a stick and white papers and  looks like a plant. Today’s “harainusa” is simplified  and made of white papers that are folded in a zigzag pattern like small  lightning bolts, but in old days it was a plant branch  or cereals. A Japanese Christian woman  acquaintance of mine used to think of this “harainusa”  as merely a pagan custom. But she later went to the U.S.A.and had an  opportunity to attend a Sukkot ceremony. When she saw  the Jewish waving of the sheaf of the harvest, she shouted in her heart, “Oh,  this is the same as a Japanese priest does! Here lies the home for the  Japanese.”

The Structure of the Japanese  Shinto Shrine is Similar to God’s Tabernacle of Ancient Israel.

The inside of God’s tabernacle in ancient Israelwas divided into two  parts. The first was the Holy  Place, and the second was the Holy of Holies. The  Japanese Shinto shrine is also divided into two  parts. The functions performed in the  Japanese shrine are similar to those of the Israeli tabernacle. Japanese pray in  front of its Holy  Place. They cannot enter inside. Only Shinto priests  and special ones can enter. Shinto priest enters the Holy of Holies of the  Japanese shrine only at special times. This is similar to the Israeli  tabernacle. The Japanese Holy of Holies is  located usually in far west or far north of the shrine. The Israeli Holy of  Holies was located in far west of the temple. Shinto’s Holy of Holies is also  located on a higher level than the Holy Place, and between them are steps.  Scholars state that, in the Israeli temple built by Solomon, the Holy of Holies  was on an elevated level as well, and between them  there were steps of about 2.7 meters (9 feet) in  width.

Typical  Japanese Shinto shrine

In front of a Japanese shrine, there are  two statues of lions known as “komainu” that sit on  both sides of the approach. They are not idols  but guards for the shrine. This was also a custom of ancient Israel. In  God’s temple in Israel and  in the palace of Solomon, there were statues or relieves of lions (1  Kings 7:36, 10:19).

“Komainu” guards for shrine

In the early history of Japan, there  were absolutely no lions. But the statues of lions have  been placed in Japanese shrines since ancient times. It has  been proven by scholars that statues of lions located in front of Japanese  shrines originated from the Middle  East.
Located near the entrance of a Japanese shrine  is a “temizuya” – a place for worshipers to wash their  hands and mouth. They used to wash their feet, too, in old days. This is a  similar custom as is found in Jewish synagogues. The ancient tabernacle and temple of Israelalso had a laver for washing hands and  feet near the entrances.

In front of a Japanese shrine, there is a gate  called the “torii.” The type gate  does not exist in China or  in Korea, it is peculiar to Japan. The “torii” gate consists of two vertical pillars and a bar  connecting the upper parts. But the oldest form  consists of only two vertical pillars and a rope connecting the upper parts.  When a Shinto priest bows to the gate, he bows to the two pillars separately. It is assumed that the “torii”  gate was originally constructed of only two pillars.

In the Israeli temple, there were two pillars used as a gate  (1 Kings 7:21). And according to Joseph Eidelberg, in Aramaic language which ancient Israelites  used, the word for gate was “tar’a.” This word might  have changed slightly and become the Japanese “torii”. Some “toriis,”  especially of old shrines, are painted red. I can’t help but think this is a picture of the two door posts  and the lintel on which the blood of the lamb was put the night before the  exodus from Egypt.
In the Japanese Shinto  religion, there is a custom to surround a holy place with a rope called the  “shimenawa,” which has slips of white papers inserted  along the bottom edge of the rope. The “shimenawa”  rope is set as the boundary. The Bible says that when Moses was given God’s Ten  Commandments on Mt. Sinai, he “set bounds” (Exodus 19:12) around it for  the Israelites not to approach. Although the nature of these “bounds” is not known, ropes might have been used. The Japanese “shimenawa” rope might then be a custom that originates from  the time of Moses. The zigzag pattern of white papers inserted along the rope  reminds me of the thunders at Mt. Sinai.
The major difference between a Japanese  Shinto shrine and the ancient Israeli temple is that the shrine does not have  the burning altar for animal sacrifices. I used to wonder why Shinto religion  does not have the custom of animal sacrifices if Shinto originated from the  religion of ancient Israel. But  then I found the answer in Deuteronomy, chapter  12. Moses commanded the people not to offer any animal sacrifices at any other  locations except at specific places in Canaan  (12:10-14). Hence, if the Israelites came to ancient Japan, they would not be permitted to offer animal  sacrifices.
Shinto shrine is usually built on a  mountain or a hill. Almost every mountain in Japan has a shrine,  even you find a shrine on top of Mt.Fuji. In ancient Israel, on mountains were usually  located worship places called “the high places”. The temple of Jerusalem was built on a  mountain (Mt.Moriah). Moses was  given the Ten Commandments from God on Mt.Sinai. It was  thought in Israel that mountain is a place  close to God. Many Shinto shrines are built with the gates in the east and the Holy of Holies  in the west as we see in Matsuo grand shrine (Matsuo-taisya) in Kyoto and others. While,  others are built with the gates in the south and the Holy of Holies in the  north. The reason of building with the gates in the east (and the Holy of  Holies in the west) is that the sun comes from the east. The ancient Israeli  tabernacle or temple was built with the gate in the  east and the Holy of Holies in the west, based on the belief that the glory of  God comes from the east. All Shinto shrines are made of wood.  Many parts of the ancient Israeli temple were also made of wood. The Israelites  used stones in some places, but walls, floors, ceilings and all of the insides  were overlaid with wood (1 Kings 6:9, 15-18), which was cedars from Lebanon (1  Kings 5:6). In Japanthey do not have cedars from Lebanon, so in Shinto  shrines they use Hinoki cypress which is hardly eaten  by bugs like cedars from Lebanon. The wood of the ancient Israeli temple was  all overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:20-30). In Japan the  important parts of the main shrine of Ise-jingu, for instance, are overlaid with gold.

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

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