J a p a n e s e    C u l t u r e

Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Friday, October 07, 2016


Separate Flesh One Heart Oath

Two Bodies One Heart OathThe Shinto shrine at which my wife and I were married gave us a wedding oath in which it was written that we were to remain "different bodies, but now with one heart" (異体同心).

This presents an interesting contrast with the conception of marriage as becoming one flesh in Genesis 24.

"21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs [sides] and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man. 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."

I know that there is a Nacalian transformation to be had here -- well it is obvious and overt -- but I don't know what it means to become "one flesh."

Perhaps it goes like this.

In the West God, in one of his persons, listens and for the faithful becomes a comforter (paraclete, generalised other, impartial spectator, super addressee) shared by all, whereas visual perspectives are "dialogical" in the Bakhtinian sense, always polysemous, seen from the point of view of others, so that my face is not my self (Nishida), but "a face for a face" (in Nacalian inversion of Mori's "you for you"). While visuality in the West remains polysemous and subjective in general, among married couples ones appearance may become primarily above all for the eyes of ones spouse.

In Japan however the kind old sun is watching, and presents a gaze apart that his shared by all. However language remains polysemous so that in general the Japanese first person pronoun is as Arimasa Mori says no more than a "'You' for a 'You.'" However among Japanese married couples perhaps, the Japanese linguistic superaddressee becomes ones spouse.

In each case, therefore, perhaps "our better half" takes the place of the perspective not occupied by God. I can see how that might work to make Western couples one flesh (c.f. Terrence Malik's ""We were a family... Each standing in the other's light.") but it is pretty strange to me that a Shinto Shrine might, under this interpretation, call the self-narrative the heart.

But then again, Shinto has become very wordy post-Meiji, modelling itself upon Western monotheisms and handing out oaths like this, and may even have forgotten, like Prime Minister Abe, and Seiichi Tsuruta (鷲田清一) that the Japanese heart is a mirror. In this morning's Asahi Newspaper Professor Tsuruta came back to his senses.

This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.