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Tresi Nonno. 2015. On Ainu etymology of key concepts of Shintō: tamashii and kami. Cultural Anthropology and Ethnosemiotics, Vol. 1, № 1; pp.: 24 - 35

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Shintō is the first and the basic religion of Japan. In most works on Shintō it is said that its central object is kami but almost nothing is said about etymology and meaning of this concept. In this paper I made an attempt to clarify this question. In Ainu religion there is concept kamuy that looks much alike kami. Ainu concept kamuy can be explained through the concept of ramat. Japanese concept kami also shapes a pair with concept of tamashii. I have come to the following conclusions: Japanese tamashii originated from Ainu ramat and Japanese kami originated from Ainu kamuy; ramat/tamashii means "vital energy exists", it is something like energy/ether that fills the universe; kamuy means "item filled by [ramat]"; kamuy/kami are beings/items that have a lot of ramat and can share it; aim of any Shintō rite is to get more ramat/tamashii.
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CAES Vol.1, № 1 (March 2015)
On Ainu etymology of key concepts of Shintō: tamashii and kami
Tresi Nonno
MA in sociocultural anthropology, independent scholar; Chiba, Japan; e-mail:
Shintō is the first and the basic religion of Japan. In most works on Shintō it is said that its
central object is kami but almost nothing is said about etymology and meaning of this concept.
In this paper I made an attempt to clarify this question. In Ainu religion there is concept kamuy
that looks much alike kami. Ainu concept kamuy can be explained through the concept of ramat.
Japanese concept kami also shapes a pair with concept of tamashii. I have come to the following
conclusions: Japanese tamashii originated from Ainu ramat and Japanese kami originated from
Ainu kamuy; ramat/tamashii means vital energy exists”, it is something like energy/ether that
fills the universe; kamuy means “item filled by [ramat]”; kamuy/kami are beings/items that have
a lot of ramat and can share it; aim of any Shintō rite is to get more ramat/tamashii.
Key words: ramat, kamuy, tamashii, kami, Shintō, Root Shintō
It is well known that Shintō is the first and the basic religion of Japan. Along with Buddhism,
Taoism and Confucianism it shapes spirit landscape of Japanese culture. Shintō is the only
religion of Japan which was not imported but is of islands origin.
It is important to note that term Shintō would better be revised because it is just an artificial term
invented in the period of Nara (more exactly about 720 AD) in order to distinguish believes of
islands origin from Buddhism and Taoism.
First time term Shintō was used in 日本書記“Nihon-shoki”; in the scroll about emperor Yōmei
用明 it is said 天皇信佛法尊神道“Emperor believed in the doctrine of Buddha and honored the
way of kami” (Nihon shoki); and the term become widely spread in Heian epoch.
Term Shintō “the way of of kami was invented according to Chinese model of naming of
different doctrines: in Chinese culture there are many doctrines, and each of them was called as
“a way something”.
As far as Chinese culture is culture of written signs, doctrines and concepts can be pretty fully
expressed in written signs and through those signs can be step by step pretty fully acquired.
Due to this gradually acquire appears the analogy of ‘way’, i.e. gradually moving to a certain
aim. Actually Shintō was not a way, it was not a systematic doctrine or a belief which was
expressed in written signs but it was just a ‘heap’ of rather amorphous cults of islands origin
with some borrowings from Buddhism and Taoism.
Well, so this term should be revised or should be used with certain degree of awareness: when
we use term Shintō we accept the Chinese point of view and introduce Chinese system into a
world which was completely different. That’s why I would prefer to name the subject of actual
consideration atmospheric cult or atmospheric cults of early Japan.
The concept of atmospheric cult can be described as an amorphous system of believes one of
main point of which is nature worship; it is usually based on a set of principles connected by
CAES Vol.1, № 1 (March 2015)
their inner logic so it isn’t eclectic but it isn’t as elaborated in its details as religions of statehood
Also adepts of an atmospheric cult can relate with some super natural being having no detailed
image of the being and have dim knowledge: who this being really is, for example: make some
offerings to the owner of forest having no definite image of this being, having no definite image
of its shape or sex and so on.
When we look at contemporary Shintō we see well elaborated rites made of eclectic mix of very
different traditions. At first in second and in the third sight Shinto is just a system of rites a
system of well elaborated practices of communication with kami.
Not just foreigners but even Japanese people often think of Shintō as just a system of special
rites with lack of philosophy behind the rites. But Shintō also has its own philosophy as well as
any other spiritual tradition but in contemporary Shintō it is piled by late borrowings and
different eclectic practices.
And if we are going to see this philosophy we have to detach late borrowings we have to go to
the root of this tradition, i.e. we have to turn to so called root Shintō because it was then when
all elements of this tradition were quite logically connected.
Though some anthropologists think that rite is more important than myth; here rite means
practice and myth means not stories of deities but ideas or philosophy which is behind certain
I think myth is much more important than rite because myth is like grammar system and rite is
like an actual performance of grammar: a person knows a language when he/she knows its
grammar system and can produce phrases according to its grammar, and a person who learnt just
some often used greetings but has no knowledge of grammar hardly can be considered as a
speaker of a certain language.
Culture as well as language can be represented as an ordered pair of the following view <A; Ω>
where A is a set of certain memes/morphemes/concepts and Ω is a set of distributions upon A.
The situation in religion studies is much alike: if you have good image of philosophy of certain
spiritual tradition then you see its inner logic well and can interpret any performances of that
system right way
Best way to understand inner logic of a certain tradition is to turn to its key concepts and to pay
special attention to their origin/etymology.
In most works on Shintō you can read that main concept of Shintō is kami. They often translate
kami as “god” or “deity” but it isn’t correct approach since kami isn’t equal to such a concept as
It should be noted that concept kami differs seriously from the concept of “god”. In Abrahamic
traditions god is a transcendental being which is opposite to this world and kami of Shinto exists
in the neighborhood of people’s world and people can quite easily get island of kami and also
people can become kami. Because of it, the word kami should not be translated as “god”. I think
the best way is to leave the word kami without any translation and explain its meaning every
time when we introduce it in a certain text.
When people write something on Shintō they usually write of kami as of central concept of
Shintō but in most cases they don’t care much of etymology of this word and its original
meaning; when they need to explain what kami means they usually just say “kami is something
like deity/spirit” and then they just give some examples of what is kami; anyway they don’t try
to connect origin of the word kami and its meaning and don’t try to connect meaning with
concrete examples of kami; i.e. etymology is considered as just a subject of interest for the sake
of interest and meaning is considered as something separated; speculative thoughts about
etymology have almost no relation to interpretations of meaning of the concept of kami. I don’t
consider such approach as good since I believe etymology can be very helpful in the case of
interpretation; and proper interpretation should account etymology.
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Research on origin
It’s amazing fact that a word of almost same sound and meaning exists in Ainu language. This
word is kamuy. Widely spread is opinion that kamuy originated from Japanese kami.
Actually there can be four probable schemes of kami and kamuy relationship: 1) kamuy and
kami are true cognates, i.e., they originated from one word of a language that was a probable
common ancestor of Ainu and Japanese; 2) kamuy and kami appeared independently; 3) kamuy
originated from kami; 4) kami originated from kamuy.
Let’s consider all versions.
1) Kamuy and kami appeared independently and are completely unrelated. This version seems to
be rather impossible: these words are words of languages which have been neighbors for more
than fifteen centuries; they sound so alike and designate very similar concepts; this version can
be realistic if Ainu and Japanese were not neighbors.
2) Kamuy and kami are true cognates, i.e., they have originated from a word of a language which
is common ancestor of Ainu and Japanese. But this is impossible because Ainu and Japanese are
completely genetically unrelated.
This version is sometimes supported by so called megalocomparativists i.e. people who think
Ainu and Japanese are actually languages of same stock diverged very long ago. Such ideas are
based on a very perfunctory view on language at all and also on ignorance of many important
elements of compared languages. People who are followers of such ideas usually do the
following: they take some randomly chosen lexemes and having compared them state that
compared languages are relatives. And no attention is paid to structural items. It was Swadesh
yet who warned that by comparing just vocabularies certain languages relationship can’t be
proven and some other methods should be used for it, i.e. analysis of structures. Swadesh
method is method of estimation approximate time of divergence of languages which have
already been proven to be relatives. However his warning is well forgotten and we can see that
lexicostatistics is widely spread method and is considered as a completely relevant method in
comparative linguistics. It’s much easier to take a dictionary compiled by someone else and
chose some “look alike” words in it than to study grammar and structures; that fact explains
wide spread of this methodology.
But we always should keep in mind that any language is first of all a set of structure but not just
a heap of lexemes. Structure is bottle while lexicon is liquid which is inside the bottle; in a
bottle can be put wine, water, gasoline or even sand but bottle always remains bottle. Because of
it we should pay most attention to structures in any linguistic question but especially while we
deal with questions of genetic relationship.
Ainu and Japanese differ seriously in their structural parameters; they differ like for instance
Mandarin and Basque. Thereby the version that kamuy and kami are cognates should be
considered as a completely wrong hypothesis.
3) Ainu word kamuy originated from Japanese kami. Actually according to this version Ainu
word kamuy has originated from Old Japanese kamɯ. The same transformation can be seen in
Ainu word for chopsticks that definitely was borrowed from Old Japanese: Old Japanese pasɯ
Modern Japanese hashi Ainu: pasuy.
This version is widely spread among scholars who have ever got touch with etymology of
kamuy and kami (Vos 1990: 176; Vovin 1993: 99).
It is based mostly on Japanese state mythology that says Ainu people always were and are
savage aborigines of North and haven’t contributed anyhow into Japanese culture. Such ideas
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can be broken if we take an impartial glance at genetic landscape of Japanese archipelago.
About 35% of Japanese have Ainu Y haplogroup D2. (Tajima et al. 2004; Hammer et al. 2006)
Cultural influence correlates well with genetic influence: if there is no serious genetic influence
there can be just borrowing of certain techniques or ideas but not serious acceptance of culture.
If we take a look at for instance USA we can see that Native American didn’t make any serious
contribution into genetic landscape of contemporary Americans and contemporary American
culture as well; if we take a look at Mexico we can see that many people there are of
Aztec/Mayan origin and we can see some influence of Aztec/Mayan culture on contemporary
life of Mexico.
When we see that about 35% of Japanese population have Ainu Y haplogroup it’s hardly
possible to deny the fact of Ainu influence on Japanese culture. Of course, one can ignore it but
such statements would be based on Japanese nationalists’ mythology that roughly ignore facts
and states “Kojiki isn’t myth” and “Japanese have been living in Japanese archipelago since
long ago in their present form”.
Ainu were not primitive aborigines’. One can easy understand it if just takes a look at mon
pottery that is the oldest pottery of the world and one of the most elaborated artwork ever known
in human history.
Pic. 1 A middle Jōmon pot
(source accessed
February 2015)
By the end of Jōmon period (13000 300 BC) there was appropriate material base for appearing
of a state, though agriculture which usually is the precondition for appear of statehood, was
practiced restrictedly by the Ainu of late Jōmon, but rich sea hunting sea fishing and sea
gathering definitely could be the base of material stratification and statehood.
Best marker of state is weapon since state is first of all institutionalized violence and killing
people as special activity. Archaeology evidences shows us that during most of Jōmon period
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(13000 300 BC) arrowhead weighted about 2 grams while by the end of mon appeared
heavier arrowheads. Lighter arrowheads fly further while heavier arrowheads make more
serious wounds. Also we can see that appeared fenced settlements and tombs where human
remains were buried with weapon. (Sahara 1990: 200 201)
When they speak of early Japan they usually say that first state alike structures appeared when
some so called Korean group came; in this context Korean is just compact term to designate
groups of Mongoloid race speaking a language of so called Buyeo stock1.
But we don’t see any serious Korean influence until Kofun period (4 6 centuries AD). In the
period of Kofun we can see regular and wide spread of Korean technologies in Japanese
archipelago but we don’t see it before. Another proof that there were no Korean before Kofun
is spread of Chinese influence: as I told above serious spread of certain culture always correlate
with some genetic influence; people of Yayoi epoch (300 BC 300 AD) had some contacts with
Chinese but it happened quite irregularly and Chinese culture didn’t influence seriously into
people of Yayoi; we can speak of serious Chinese influence only since the end of Kofun;
Korean people were bridge of Chinese influence; if there were no Korean there were no
If we take an impartial look at architecture of Yoshinogari site (Yayoi) and at Sannai-Maruyma
site (late Jōmon) we see almost no differences; it isn’t a great mistake to say architecture of
Yoshinogari was just development of that of Sannai-Maruyama (Pic. 2, Pic. 4). If we take a look
at Yayoi pottery and at pottery of Late Jōmon we also don’t see border between two potteries
(Pic.5, Pic. 6) be we can rather say that pottery of Yayoi is a continuation of late Jōmon potter
with just slight continental influences.
Pic. 2 Map representing location of Sannai-Maruyama and Yoshinogari sites (created by the
author after Google map screenshot)
1 Buyeo stock or Buyeo languages is a group or a stock that consists of closely related languages: (Baekje, Buyeo,
Goguryeo, Korean, Japanese); Buyeo stock is supposed to be a part of Altaic stock.
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Pic. 3 Architecture of Sannai-Maruyama
(photo source: accessed February 2015)
Pic. 4 Architecture of Yoshinogari
(photo source: accessed February 2015)
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Pic. 5 Late Jōmon pot
(photo source accessed February
Pic. 6 Yayoi pots
(photo source accessed February
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Yamatai state described in Chinese chronicle “Records of the Three Kingdoms” possibly was
Ainu state since it existed before large spread of Korean influence; some scholars believe
Yoshinogari site was capital of Yamatai kingdom. Also it’s interesting fact first name of
Japanese state i.e. Yamato obviously originated from word Yamatai; actually Yamato is
transformation of word Yamatai in Old Japanese since no diphthongs were allowed in Old
Japanese and diphthongs were transformed into a single vowel.
It means that social structure of Ainu society was developed enough by the end of mon and
during Yayoi and they obviously could influence on Japanese culture as well as they influenced
on Japanese genetics.
4) Japanese kami has originated from Ainu kamuy. This version is based on the following: in
Japanese language word for paper sounds completely same way, i.e. kami; when it was
borrowed into Ainu it has become kampi; in this connection it is thought that Ainu kamuy can’t
originated from Japanese kami because Japanese kami would become kampi but not kamuy in
Ainu (Akulov 2006: 200) and so kamuy can’t be derived from kami but kami was derived from
Though I support the last version I don’t think it is possible to deny the possibility of Japanese
origin of word kamuy basing solely on the fact that Japanese “paper” kami has become kampi in
Ainu; since kampi and and kamuy could be borrowing of different epoch i.e. word kampi is
probably borrowing of a rather late epoch close to nowadays and if paper would be borrowed in
earlier epoch when Old Japanese was language of everyday use it would probably have sounded
same way i.e. kamuy.
Anyway, I think it can be seen quite clearly now that it’s impossible to say something definite of
whether word kamuy has originated from word kami or kami from kamuy if our consideration is
restricted by these two words only; in order to clarify this issue we should use all information
that is related to these concepts.
Neil Gordon Munro writes that two basic concepts of Ainu religion are ramat and kamuy
(Munro 1962).
Akulov shows these two concepts are connected, i.e. the meaning of kamuy can be understood
through that of ramat (Akulov 2006).
Among concepts of Shintō we can see word that looks much alike Ainu ramat and has very
close meaning. This word is tama/tamashii. It’s interesting fact that in Ainu-Japanese dictionary
compiled by Kayano Shigeru ramat is translated as tamashii (Kayano 2005: 461). Thus we have
got two pairs: kamuy ramat and kami tamashii/tama.
Concept kamuy is closely connected with that of ramat and same situation is probably in the
case of kami and tama/tamashii so I think there was no borrowing of single concept but it was
borrowing of whole pair, both concepts were borrowed as a system. If we suppose the pair was
borrowed from Old Japanese by Ainu then it contradicts the fact that there were no words
beginning with [r] in Old Japanese (Ono 1982); and also the fact that Japanese [t] can’t become
[r] in Ainu; for instance: tono “master” is just same tono in Ainu but not *rono.
It means that the pair is originally Ainu and was borrowed from Ainu to Old Japanese.
In Old Japanese initial [r] was prohibited but in Ainu [r] can easy turn into [tr]/[t] so when word
ramat was borrowed by Old Japanese initial [r] transformed into [t]; then since only open
syllables were allowed in Old Japanese so original Ainu ramat had become something alike
*tamati and later became tamashii. Transition of dental consonant into fricative during a process
of borrowing from Ainu to Old Japanese is also described by Kindaichi when he considers
etymology of word emishi name of an Ainu tribe described in old Japanese chronicles;
according to Kindaichi word emishi originated from Ainu word emchiu / emtiw that was old
self-naming of Ainu (Kindaichi 1993: 134 135).
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In the case of kamuy kami the history is the following: in Late Jōmon Ainu it was probably the
following group of words: *ka mu ʔi; I think we can reconstruct glottal stops for Late Jōmon as
far as Tamura writes that all syllables that now begin with vowels actually should be considered
as syllables beginning with glottal stop (Tamura 2000: 21); later as far as life in the period of
Yayoi step by step became more and more unset it required more compact utterances and so
glottal stop started to drop and *ka mu ʔi became composite kamui, last two vowel formed
diphthong uy; in Old Japanese diphthongs were not allowed and if Old Japanese borrowed a
word with diphthong the diphthong drifted into a single vowel, kamuy became kamɯ (same
situation happened with above mentioned Yamatai that became Yamato in Old Japanese) and
then with disappear of [ɯ] kamɯ has become contemporary kami.
Research on meaning
Since concepts tamashii and kami are proved to be of Ainu origin we can widely use data about
Ainu religion to clarify their meaning.
Ramat is the first and the main concept. According to my data this word consists of two
morphemes: ram which means “soul”/”mind”/”heart” and at which is similar to such verbs as
an/oka and oma which mean “to be”/”to exist”. So the concept of ramat can be interpreted as
“soul exits” (Akulov 2006: 200).
Root ram is component of many Ainu verbs designating mental/psychic activity: ram “to
think”, e-ram-an “to understand”, e-ram-iskar “not to understand”, e-ram-as “to rejoice to
something”, e-yay-ram-at-te “to maintain”, “to suffer”.
Also I am to note here that component at in ramat is rather a variation of verb as “to stand”
though it doesn’t change the interpretation.
Explaining the meaning of this concept Munro gives the explanations that he received from
Ainu elders:
Kotan-Pira said ramat was the backbone of Ainu religion. Rennuikesh, eighty years old, very
active and intelligent, who came from the north of Hokkaido, said: 'Whatever has no ramat
has nothing'. Nisukrek and other elders agreed with this: 'ramat is all-pervading and
indestructible'. Uesanash said: 'ramat is everywhere' (Munro 1962: 8).
Ramat exists everywhere and fills everything. Everything has its own portion of ramat. One
thing has a lot of ramat another has little but nothing can exist without ramat. Ramat cannot
be annihilated. When beings die or when things are broken their ramat leaves them but doesn't
disappear and goes to another place. Because of it tools and weapon buried with a dead person
often were broken for their ramat could follow the dead person. Following to Neil Gordon
Munro it is possible to state that ramat is very much alike to the Polynesian concept mana
(Akulov 2006: 200).
Ramat is something like ether or dark matter that penetrates and fulfilled whole universe. I
believe it’s more correct to translate concept of ramat as “vital energy exists”.
Kamuy is the second basic concept of Ainu creed.
At least it is possible to state the following; ramat is the basis. But ramat itself cannot make
anything. It may just exist or not exist, but it cannot act. Instead of it kamuy can act. Kamuy
has a lot of ramat and can endow or take away ramat to other beings. Kamuy which endows
ramat is good, kamuy which takes ramat away is bad (Akulov 2006: 201).
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As for interpretation of original meaning of the concept there are two main versions.
The first version is that Ainu word has originated from the root with the meaning of “meat”
kam so according to this version kamuy is just kam-uy <- kam-us/kam-un which means just “of
meat” or “rich with meat”.
This point of view is usually explained in such a way: kamuy is often used in connection with
bear because bear has a lot of meat, i.e. kamuy originated from kam+us/kam+un which later
became kam+uy.
Objections against this version are very strong:
a) According to Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney kamuy should be distinguished from other beings. And
it is important to know that the word kamuy is often used to name some beings and things,
which real names are tabooed. (Ohhuki-Tierney 1984)
Word kamuy is used in connection to very different phenomena and things which can't be
associated with meat or even food anyhow (for example volcanoes or earthquake or wind and so
on) and I seriously believe that if kamuy really originated from root kam “meat” such a serious
drift of meaning hardly would be possible.
b) If we by the way assume that the version of kamuy kam-us/kam-un is right then in modern
Ainu language we would have *kamus/*kamusu (probable variant *kamusu as a result of
influence of Japanese phonotactics) or *kamun, but we know that transformation of un
(locative/genitive particle) into uy can be stable only if it is in a very special position, i.e. is
always followed by a syllable which begins with sound “y”[j] for example: pis un yakura
observer tower placed in the shore” is regularly transformed into pis uy yakura and this pis uy
yakura is stable but in the case of kam-us/kam-un we see that it is not so since us/un syllable
isn’t followed by syllable beginning with “y” and so I think it’s possible to state this version is
The second version is the following:
Following to John Batchelor I believe that word kamuy consists of three morphemes: ka +
mu + i. According to my interpretation the meaning of these morphemes is the following: ka
is similar to Ainu words kurka/ka ta –“over”/“above”;
suffix -i/-hi is often used as a verbal substantivator ex.: pirka-hi, itak-i, an-i;
though now I a bit misunderstand the meaning of the middle morpheme mu, cause I have
never met it in Saru dialect. But I have met such morpheme in Sakhalin Ainu. In Sakhalin
Ainu mu means “spread” and it is equal to imakare, pirasa of Saru dialect. Because of it I
think that mu in kamuy has the similar meaning.
So I think ka-mu-i/ka-mu-y means “spread over thing”, “a thing above people”. And my
interpretation is similar to the interpretation of Batchelor (Akulov 2006: 200).
For some unknown reason Akulov missed the fact that word mu is presented in Kayano Shigeru
dictionary and there it is translated as “to be clogged” or “to be plugged up” (Kayano 2005: 428);
so I think it is better to translate kamuy as “item plugged up by [ramat]” or “item fulfilled by
[ramat]”; and this interpretation correlates well with idea that kamuy has a lot of ramat and can
share it to other beings.
One can probably speak out the following objection against this version: this way of naming,
i.e., designating of something by a noun that ends with suffix -i/-hi that expresses the idea of
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‘abstractness’ is rather unusual and metaphysical for ancient primitive consciousness and
ancient Ainu would rather name such class of beings using nouns with -p/-pe suffix that
originated from noun that means “being”, “thing” and that is usually used when they name
different things and beings”. However such approach is wrong since it’s a projection of
European conception of abstractness to Ainu culture. Suffix -pe/-p is very concrete, it is used
when they speak about items which can be named things, for example: c-i-p “boat”, c-e-p
“fish”, c-u-p Sun, tanne-p “sword” (literally “be long thing”), a-mi-p “dress” (literally
“worn thing”) and so on; suffix -i/-hi is used not just in nouns expressing such highly abstract
items as pirka-hi “beauty”, itak-i “speech” but also is used in such nouns as wen-i “rainy and
windy weather” (literally “badness”) or un-i “house”, “dwelling”; suffix -i/-hi isn’t “very
abstract” or “metaphysical”, but it is just marker of items that simply can’t be considered as
things/beings. As far as kamuy are not just legendary heroes or outstanding people or bears but
also volcanoes, wind, tsunami, fog et c. so use of this suffix is completely logical and consistent
if they need to designate a wide class of items some of which look alike things, but many don’t.
Thus we have the following:
ramat and kamuy are key concepts of Ainu religion.
Ramat is the basic concept. Literally it means “vital energy exits”. Ramat is something alike
ether or dark matter that fills whole universe.
Kamuy is everything that has a lot ramat and can share it. Kamuy literally means “item filled by
As far as these concepts are closely connected they were borrowed by Old Japanese as a pair.
The proves that the pair was borrowed from Ainu to Old Japanese but not from Old Japanese to
Ainu are the following: if we suppose ramat originated from tamashii it contradicts the fact that
Old Japanese [t] doesn’t give [r] in Ainu while Ainu [r] easy can give [t] since Ainu [r] has
variations of [tr]/[t]; then due to the prohibition of initial [r] and prohibition of diphthongs in
Old Japanese ramat has become tamashii and kamuy has become kami.
Kami is all outstanding and unusual, for example: thousand-year cedar, stone of a freakish form,
fall, mount Fuji, founder of the Panasonic company, emperor Meiji, master of a calligraphy or,
for example, famous musician or writer. It is very important to understand that often kami is not
any personal anthropomorphous being or a subject or a thing that can be represented, touched or,
in general, be felt by means of five feelings. Much more often kami is an amorphous force, for
example, gravitation force acting between Earth and Sun can be considered as a kami, forces
operating inside atomic nucleus between protons and neutrons also are kami.
All these items are kami because they have a lot of tamashii and can share tamashii to other
Though sphere of usage of Shintō kami is more narrowed than that of Ainu kamuy they are
actually similar concepts.
And any ritual of Shintō as well as any ritual of Ainu religion is intended to get more
tamashii/ramat and to save the existing one. In order to get more tamashii people have to
contact with beings that have a lot of tamashii and can share it, i.e.: with kami. So kami actually
are something like tools that help people to get more tamashii and it would probably be better to
rename Shintō into Reijijutsu 霊持術 that means “art of holding and catching tamashii.
Thus, having turn to deep root of Shintō and considering etymology of its basic concepts we can
catch its philosophy.
CAES Vol.1, № 1 (March 2015)
Akulov A.Yu. 2006. Ramat newa Kamuy (Ramat and Kamuy), Journal of Chiba University
Eurasian Society, No. 9 October 2006; pp.: 197 201
accessed February 2015
Hammer M., Karafet T.M., Park H. Omoto K. Harihara S., Stoneking M., Horai S. 2006. Dual
origins of the Japanese: common ground for hunter-gatherer and farmer Y chromosomes,
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Kayano S. 2005. Ainugo jiten (Ainu language dictionary). Sanseidō, Tokyo
Kindaichi K. 1993. Ainugogaku kōgi (Lectures on Ainu language studies). Kindaichi Kyōsuke
zenshū (Complete works of Kindaichi Kyōsuke) vol. 5. Sanseido, Tokyo
Munro N.G. 1962. Ainu creed and cult. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London
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... As far as key concepts of Shintō: tamashii and kami are words of Ainu origin (Nonno 2015) means so it's completely natural to suppose that names of certain kami also can be words of Ainu origin. Also interesting fact is the following matter: Izanagi and Izanami belong to that little amount of kami who shape spouse pairs. ...
... Kami is one of basic concept of Shintō; it can be interpreted as "item filled by vital energy tamashii"; Japanese concept of kami originated from Ainu concept kamuy that has almost the same meaning as Japanese concept kami, for more details seeNonno 2015. ...
... Japanese archaeologists like very much to create different classifications of dogū; often it looks like glass beads game, i.e.: a process for the sake of the process, and those classifications don't help true understanding of dogū. 2 Kami 神 is a key concept of Shintō, it is usually translated as "deity", but it is more accurate to left it without translation and give context definition since word kami belongs to the lexis that is highly culturally determined. Japanese concept kami originated from Ainu word kamuy that can be translated as "an item that is filled by vital energy and can endow other beings with vital energy" (for more details seeNonno 2015). ...
Full-text available
Jōmon dogū are anthropomorphic and zoomorphic clay figurines which are found in Japan in layers of Jōmon period (13000-300 BCE). Their meanings and functions are unknown; generally, they can't be sources for learning something about Jōmon life. However, if, for instance, a dogū depicts wild boar it is logical to conclude that wild boars were important for Jōmon people. There are some anthropomorphic dogū which have breasts and a vertical line running upward from genital area to breast. This line looks like an erected penis. It is possible to state that dogū with breasts and penises are depictions of androgynous beings. It isn't possible to say whether these figurines depict deities, but it seems that androgynous beings were an important part of Jōmon people worldview.
Full-text available
Kuzu is one of autochtonic ethnic groups described in Nihon shoki. There is a rather detailed description of Kuzu people in 4 th section of 10 th (the scroll about emperor Ōjin) scroll and a short note in 3 rd section of 3 rd scroll (the scroll about emperor Jimmu). Kuzu seems to be a subgroup of Ainu because of the following: 1) Kuzu people lived alongside the river of Yoshino in mountain forest area; their food was: chestnuts, mushrooms, frogs and trout; 2) it is said that Kuzu people strike their mouth while they sign that looks much alike description of playing jaw harp (jaw harp has been well known in Ainu culture; 3) word Kuzu looks much alike Ainu word kur [kuɾ] that means "human being", "man" and that was widely used in self naming by Ainu.
Full-text available
Comparison of ornaments should be the same as comparison of languages, i.e.: should be compared sets of basic elements and positional distributions of elements. Having applied this methodology to Ainu ornaments and to those of Nivkh, Tungusic people, Tlingit, Maori and Shang I discovered that ornamental traditions of Ainu and Shang demonstrate notable resemblance while the rest traditions differ seriously from Ainu. Main element of Ainu and Shang ornamental traditions is rectangular volute, and this element covers almost all available space. This fact also correlates well with data of genetics. This is a strong proof of southern origin of Ainu. Also it can be one of evidences of Ainu and Sino-Tibetan people relatedness.
Full-text available
Full-text available
Historic Japanese culture evolved from at least two distinct migrations that originated on the Asian continent. Hunter-gatherers arrived before land bridges were submerged after the last glacial maximum (>12,000 years ago) and gave rise to the Jomon culture, and the Yayoi migration brought wet rice agriculture from Korea beginning approximately 2,300 years ago. A set of 81 Y chromosome single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was used to trace the origins of Paleolithic and Neolithic components of the Japanese paternal gene pool, and to determine the relative contribution of Jomon and Yayoi Y chromosome lineages to modern Japanese. Our global sample consisted of >2,500 males from 39 Asian populations, including six populations sampled from across the Japanese archipelago. Japanese populations were characterized by the presence of two major (D and O) and two minor (C and N) clades of Y chromosomes, each with several sub-lineages. Haplogroup D chromosomes were present at 34.7% and were distributed in a U-shaped pattern with the highest frequency in the northern Ainu and southern Ryukyuans. In contrast, haplogroup O lineages (51.8%) were distributed in an inverted U-shaped pattern with a maximum frequency on Kyushu. Coalescent analyses of Y chromosome short tandem repeat diversity indicated that haplogroups D and C began their expansions in Japan approximately 20,000 and approximately 12,000 years ago, respectively, while haplogroup O-47z began its expansion only approximately 4,000 years ago. We infer that these patterns result from separate and distinct genetic contributions from both the Jomon and the Yayoi cultures to modern Japanese, with varying levels of admixture between these two populations across the archipelago. The results also support the hypothesis of a Central Asian origin of Jomonese ancestors, and a Southeast Asian origin of the ancestors of the Yayoi, contra previous models based on morphological and genetic evidence.
Ramat newa Kamuy (Ramat and Kamuy)
  • A Akulov
  • Yu
Akulov A.Yu. 2006. Ramat newa Kamuy (Ramat and Kamuy), Journal of Chiba University Eurasian Society, No. 9 October 2006; pp.: 197 -201 -accessed February 2015
Ainugo jiten (Ainu language dictionary)
  • S Kayano
Kayano S. 2005. Ainugo jiten (Ainu language dictionary). Sanseidō, Tokyo
Kindaichi Kyōsuke zenshū (Complete works of Kindaichi Kyōsuke)
  • K Kindaichi
Kindaichi K. 1993. Ainugogaku kōgi (Lectures on Ainu language studies). Kindaichi Kyōsuke zenshū (Complete works of Kindaichi Kyōsuke) vol. 5. Sanseido, Tokyo
Kanazukai to jōdaigo (Usage of kana and Old Japanese). Iwanami shoten
  • S Ono
Ono S. 1982. Kanazukai to jōdaigo (Usage of kana and Old Japanese). Iwanami shoten, Tokyo
Yayoi Culture in the Context of world History
  • M Sahara
Sahara M. 1992. Yayoi Culture in the Context of world History, Japanese As A Member Of The Asian And Pacific Populations. International Symposium, No 4; pp.: 199 -203
Ainu creed and cult. Routledge and Kegan Paul
  • N G Munro
Munro N.G. 1962. Ainu creed and cult. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London