Friday, February 17, 2012
Amotsuki, the old word for Mochi-Tsuki or Rice Cake Making is also a Metaphor for Coitus
Amotsuki, the old word for Mochi-Tsuki or Rice Cake Making is also a metaphor for Coitus, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
[Cross posted from Shinto Blog with additions]
The most important festival of the Shinto religion is the New Year Festival. At this time Japanese people will visit a shrine, give their children money, and eat certain foods one of which are rice cakes said to contain the spirit of Amaterasu, the mirror-sun-goddess. In traditional homes, such as farm houses, and in some schools and community centres, the rice cakes are made in a traditional way known as "mochi-tsuki" or rice beating.
In a well known Japanese dictionary (Koujien 4th edition) it says that, "Amotsuki" (餅搗）, an old but not defunct word for "mochi-tsuki" which means beating rice to make rice cakes, was used as a metaphor for "boji"(房事） which means coitus.
The rice beating ritual performed at New Year gave me a impression of representing coitus when, as is traditional, a woman turns the rice while her husband beats it.
In the ritual that I saw performed, and took part in, a woman knelt or crouched down beside the "usu" (bowl) and make relatively high pitched noises encouraging a man wielding a big mallet to beat the rice cake, sometimes with a grunt. Apparently quite a lot of males die each year of heart attack as they wield their mallet. The ritual is quite hard work. The men build up a sweat. The rice cake becomes more and more gooey. The thwack, thwack of the mallet (kinu) hitting the gooey rice in the bowl resounds. Finally everyone rejoices partaking of the gooey white rice cake. It is quite a carbohydrate high after all that exertion. Bearing in mind the shape of the tools used, the gender division of labor, their relative positions, and the color and consistency of the final product, I made an interpretation which prompted my my Japanese friends to call me a pervert. Then one day I was reading my dictionary and came across the entry above.
These metaphors may be quite irrelevant and coincidental but since the Shinto-Amaterasu myth is represented in Shinto New-Year's festivities, the fact that a ritual seen as a metaphor for sex (at least in times past) should take a central role in the festivities suggests that perhaps there is a similarly metaphorical episode in the Susano Amaterasu myth. At least one researcher has suggested that the bit where Susano-O throws a backwards skinned horse into the clothing room of Amaterasu such that one of her weavers dies as a result of a shuttle entering her body, may be a metaphor for coitus.
It would not be unusual that sex is represented in Shinto festivities (examples, click with caution and or or parental advice). One commentator (essayist Ei Rokutsukel,2004) expressed the opinion that many or most Shinto festivities were related to sex.
Christian festivals (Christmas and Easter) represent birth and in the Shinto tradition birth is, or was, the dirtiest most defiled thing, as taboo as sex is in the Christian tradition.
With these reversals of the most sacred and the most defiled -- with Japanese and Western religion being so polar -- I used to think that war between Japan and the West would be inevitable.
Similar entries to that photographed above from an other edition of the same dictionary
餅つき ２男女交接の例え Amotsuki (rice beating) is a metaphor for sex
臼と杵 男女の仲がぴったり合うこと Usu to Kinu Pestle and Mortar/mallet very close male female relationship
Mortar to Pestle. Women should not approach/influence men.
Ei Rokutsuke et al (2004) "Matsuri ha Eros de Aru"(Festivals are Eros/Erotic), "Nihon no Matsuri" (Japanese Festivals). Asahi Newspaper. publications.asahi.com/ecs/detail/?item_id=6205
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.