by Stefanie on 17/09/2013 | Uncategorized

Japan, the Land of Imperial Hemp and the Rising Sun in the 21ST Century – Part 1

Hemp has always been known as a plant that has been used since ancient times, and for all cultures it has served as an essential tool in social and individual development. However, Japanese culture not only stands out from the all the others for having placed cannabis in the irreplaceable, vital, sacred and ritualistic category, but rather since the very origins of Japanese civilization, cannabis has been associated with the incarnation of the divinity itself, being a symbol of purity.


Japanese templeHemp has always been known as a plant that has been used since ancient times, and for all cultures it has served as an essential tool in social and individual development. However, Japanese culture not only stands out from the all the others for having placed cannabis in the irreplaceable, vital, sacred and ritualistic category, but rather since the very origins of Japanese civilization, cannabis has been associated with the incarnation of the divinity itself, being a symbol of purity.

Hemp and the centre of power

Since the very beginning of the Japanese Empire, and its maximum expression – the Emperor himself – hemp has constituted an intrinsic part of the centre of power and tradition. Both the Divine Emperor and hemp remain the chief symbols of protection in this country. Cannabis is planted in gardens and temples across the nation in order to protect the country from evil. And, once its life cycle is over, the fibres are made sacred by turning them into clothes for the Emperor and priests.

Japanse gardenExperts in mystics and spirituality have pointed out that Japan must literally have been “divested of its protective thread”, a celestial thread that united “the spiritual world above” to “the Earth below” for it to have been possible for it to have been attacked so brutally with the atomic bomb in 1945. Beyond this metaphysical vision, which cannabis has always represented not only in its industrial or traditional aspect, but also and above all as a mystical vehicle with the gods, in the whole of ancient Asia, there lies another undeniable historical fact.

Consequences of The Cannabis Control Act

The Cannabis Control Act  (in Japanese, Taima Hirishimari Hô), the first Japanese law to restrict the cultivation and possession of cannabis, was passed in 1948 when Japan was not a sovereign country but still occupied by the United States, under the supreme command of General MacArthur. The Japanese word ‘taima’ (cannabis) refers not only to the more traditional, pragmatic use of the plant, rather than its medicinal or psychotropic uses. It was the founding goddess and literally means “tall hemp”, to differentiate it from other shorter hemp-like plants.

This confusion occurs in all languages, since being the oldest and most commonly used fibrous plant, it has become synonymous with the term “fibre”, which in Japanese is referred to using the more generic word “asa”, and “hemp” is written using the characters “MA/asa“; the Japanese pictogram to define the plant:

pictogram

(For more information about the symbolic history of cannabis, in Japan and elsewhere, please click here, ed.)

The enemies of the Empire clearly believed that the total abandoning of cannabis cultivation was of great importance, favouring the control of narcotics as an excuse, despite the fact that there had never been a problem in Japan. The American global agenda aimed to eliminate cannabis from every country, including their own. The United States passed a similar law a few years later, having already applied total domestic prohibition and control in 1920.

Fortunately, the astute Japanese negotiators managed to save industrial hemp from the soldiers, through the granting of special permits issued in Japan, allowing for the subsistence of thousands of traditional hemp farmers and basic supplies for the country.

Hemp cultivation then and today

Today, cultivation continues, although on a lower scale compared with its former splendour and significance as a cultural expression in numerous everyday events. From having symbolised purity and divinity for an entire nation, the whole Japanese population having been educated for generations about hemp and the love and respect nature and Shinto veneration, it was gradually forgotten about.

Japanese Buddhist Temple Pilgrim's Hemp Jacket kimonoboy blogspot
Japanese Buddhist Temple Pilgrim’s Hemp Jacket (Source: Kimonoboy Blogspot)

This nuance, in other words that it was not a total ban, was something unknown to the Japanese, who have seen their ancient hemp culture disappear for this reason and due to the introduction of synthetic fibres and cotton. In addition to this there is the artificial and throwaway culture of plastic and petrol, set against the splendid backdrop of the past, with its emphasis on beauty, delicacy, quality but also time rusticity and strength, all incarnated in hemp, as a symbol of its rustic and cultural idiosyncrasy.

With their infinite patience, the Japanese have used the plant to create paper and fabrics, which are really exquisite, unparalleled, true masterpieces of Japanese culture. Their use in ancient times goes back to the Japanese Neolithic period, known as the “rope-patterned” or Jomon Period  in Japanese, which flourished between 10,000 BC and 300 BC. Hemp was used above all for food, to make rope and baskets, in a hunter-gatherer evolutionary context.

Author: David Hurtado

To be continued…

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Richard

Hello, good article. I recommend you to write an article about the cultural importance/impact of cannabis around the world.

07/05/2016

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