The spiritual power of words in the Japanese Language

Japan has a traditional philosophy called kotodama.
People in ancient times referred to Japan as “The country where kotodama brings happiness”, and the idea still holds true today.


What is kotodama?
Saying things ambiguously is Japanese culture
Unlucky words are paraphrased in good words
Let’s use kotodama!


What is kotodama?

In Japan, it’s believed that words have special powers that make things come true once you say the word. If you say something good, something good will happen, but if you say bad things, something bad will happen. For Japanese people, words directly mean actual actions.
Expressing your own opinion or feeling is called “kotoage”, and is not a good thing to do. The attitude when saying words is also important in Japan. If you have maliciousness or arrogance in your heart, these words are believed to come back to you.

A Child’s face

Saying things ambiguously is Japanese culture

The Japanese way of communication is “reading the air”. In this way, you don’t express your idea clearly, but guess what others want to say from their facial expression, or the choice of words they use. Contrary to that, Western culture is more dependent on verbal communication, because there are so many different types of nationalities in Western countries. Japan is an island where almost all people are of the same race, so we all share common ideas.


Unlucky words are paraphrased in good words

We don’t say unlucky words, because we are afraid that they’ll actually happen.
For example, you are not supposed to say any bad words during exam season in Japan, such as fail, slip, fall down, etc. These remind us of failure. Bad words are also believed to alter the bad to good by paraphrasing it. For example, we refer to the end of a party as “opening”, because you don’t want the happy and joyful moments to “end”.

Let’s use kotodama!

I’ll introduce some good Japanese words that have kotodama power.

●Arigatou (Thank you)

Say it when you want to show your gratitude.

●Ureshii (I’m happy)
Say it when you are satisfied with something, feeling joyful and happy. You can use it when showing your gratitude to someone who did a good thing for you.

●Daijobu (Don’t worry)
Say it when you try to ease people.

Let’s use these words in Japan and feel the power of kotodama!

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Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.