Power of words – Kotodama –

April 22, 2015 Juju Kurihara 2 Comments

There are people who make comments that make you fell bad about yourself or discourage you. I´m sure any of us experienced this at least once in the life. This is because of the power of words. It is known as Kotodama (言霊) in Japan. 

In ancient Japan, people already had this concept of "A good Koto no ha (言の葉/ a leaf of word) brings good things and a bad Koto no ha brings misfortunes". Ancient Japanese people were attracted to this power of kotodama and studied it in order to obtain the power. 




Kotodama no kuni (言霊の国/ The country of kotadama) was another name to describe Japan, although this has completely disappeared in the modern Japanese culture. However in Kojiki (古事記), the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, the mystery power of words is already mentioned. 

The universe was still chaotic and yet, there was a immense mind existed. This great universe said to the two Gods, Izanagi no mikoto (伊邪那岐命) and Izanami no mikoto (伊邪那美命), "Mend this drifting country and form it".

The two gods followed the word of the universe by receiving kotodama, the power of its word, the essence and the power of the word and formed Japan as a country. This word from the universe is considered as the first kotodama in this world. 


But what is kotodama then? You may still ask. The word kotodama is written 言霊. 言 means word(s) and 霊 means spirits or soul. This is not about the religious but about the effect of the word that people say. 



For example, it´s a school excursion tomorrow and everyone is excited. Then someone says, "It will rain tomorrow." This comment kills everyone´s illusion at this point but still it´s not that bad. The problem is when it really rains the next day. Although it´s not rational to think there is a relation between the natural phenomena and what the person said, it´s inevitable to feel that word because the cause of rain. This is kotodama. 

Other example. Do you have some friends who make negative comments about your plan or you dream? Not only the feeling of spoilt your enthusiasm but also the fact that your plan doesn´t succeed. It makes you think that you were cursed. 




The power of word also affects on other things such as plants or even food. This is the result of telling one container of rice, "arigato (thank you)" and the other, "mukatsuku (disgusting)" for seven months.  



Both rice have grown mould. However, one is white and the other is black. The white one is the rice had been told thank you all the time and the black one had been told disgusting. 

When the person smelt it, arigato rice didn´t smell bad but rather smelt something familiar. However disgusting rice had a sharp mould smell and very unpleasant. 

I have seen this result in the experience with water too. The study shows the crystal of different water, which has been told different words such as love or demon. The shapes of crystal are dramatically different. It sounds strange but this, we can also consider it as kotodama, can´t we?

Here is the short clip of "Water".



As you can see, the power of word does not exist only in the Japanese culture but also in the Western culture. The words we spin out (curiously enough in Japanese the words are spun out, 紡ぐ(tsumugu).) have their own soul. The words once left our mouth have life and grow alone. We often regret saying bad things to others because once they are out, we can´t control them even though they are cause of troubles. 

Many occasions can make us angry or annoyed. We shout at others or argue. Or maybe we are so drunk that say things that we shouldn´t say unconsciously. But we are responsible what we say. It´s like each of us are the mother of word babies and we can´t just say, "Oh, I was so angry" or "I was too drunk". Or it´s even worse that we say things just for the sake of saying. Because kotodama, the soul of words remain as a trail behind us.  

Now it makes all sense why many life coaches tell us to stay away from the people always give you negative comments and why we love to send people beautiful words or positive words. 

Thank you for stopping by iromegane.



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  1. Historian 7 years Reply

    Slight correction to twistings of john: Torah, not word.
    Although the Torah, is the ultimate truth.
    It’s in Bereishit (Genesis), chapter 1.
    And this was well known amongst the jews, Their sources talk about it quite a bit.

  2. Beth Parkhurst 7 years Reply

    What a fascinating essay! It reminds me of a the first sentence of a sacred text of Christianity, the Gospel according to St. John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I would like to thank you very much for this enlightening lesson.

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