What Does It Mean?

What Does It Mean?

In the last post, I explained “kami” and “jinja”, and I will return to “matsuri” in more detail later. However, there are two other Japanese words that should be explained. Specifically, what are “Mimusubi” and “Kannagara”?

“Mimusubi” is taken from the name of two of the first kami to arise in the creation myth found in the Kojiki, the oldest surviving record of Japanese legends. According to this text, the first three kami to appear were Amenominakanushi, Takamimusubi, and Kamumusubi. Amenominakanushi promptly disappears from the legends, but the two Musubi kami play important roles later on. Takamimusubi is very important among the kami of the heavens, and Kamumusubi is very important among the kami of the earth.

“Musubi” originally means the power of creation, development, and growth. The relevance of this to the theme of Kannagara should be obvious. It can be pronounced “musuhi”, but if you use the “musubi” pronunciation, it also means “bond”, as in a knot or a relationship. Thus, “musubi” refers directly to three of the four main themes of Kannagara. “Mi” is a Japanese prefix indicating respect, but it can also be written with the character for “kami”, and thus mean “sacred”. “Mimusubi” represents the sacred power of creation, growth, and bonds.

However, “mi” can also mean “three”. (Wordplay of this sort is extremely common in Japanese.) That is why the logo for Mimusubi is three knotted pieces of paper. The knotted pieces of paper represent letters, particularly poetic letters, as such letters were traditionally tied in that way before being sent. Thus, there is quite a specific reference to literary creation. These poetic letters were often exchanged between lovers, so there is a reference to relationships as well, and the Japanese name for this knotted paper element is “musubi”.

“Kannagara” is a word over which there is much debate, because it appears in old documents, where it is not clearly defined, and then is not used much for about a thousand years. In the phrase “Kannagara no Michi”, it forms one of the names of Shinto. “Michi” means “way”, as does the “to” in “Shinto”; it’s the same Japanese character as is used for “do” in “kendo”, the way of the sword, and so on. The “shin” character in “Shinto” means “kami”, and “kannagara” is two characters, one of which is the character for “kami”. One theory is that “kannagara” just means the same as “kami”. Another is that it means acting like kami, or as kami command. Another is that it means becoming kami.

All of these interpretations are very appropriate to the themes of the game, which makes it a good title. At the very least, it’s a good working title, and it’s important to have one of those, because they often end up being the final title.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of Shinto terms do not have good translations into English, so I plan to use the Japanese. I’ll even use the Japanese for a few words that do have good translations, because one English word in the middle of Japanese ones looks odd. I’ll discuss these Japanese words as they come up in the design.

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