Gender in the Land of the Rising Sun (based on the Russian specialists’ researches on Japan). Part 1


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Gender in the Land of the Rising Sun (based on the Russian specialists’ researches on Japan). Part 1

Oleksandr Meleshchenko, Doctor of Philology, Professor Institute of Journalism, National Taras Shevchenko  university of Kyiv 36/1 Illienka St., Kyiv, 04119, Ukraine

The gender situation in the cosmogonic myths of the peoples of Japan is considered on the example of mythopoetry of the Ryukyu region, as well as the influence of these myths on the gender balance of the old Ryukyu societies both before Christ era and from its beginning up to the 19th century.

The researcher E. Baksheev, based on the achievements of N. Nevsky – the founder of the Russian School of Japanese Studies, as well as his colleague A. Sadokova, reconstructed the role of a woman in the ancient Japanese society on the example of mythopoetry of the Ryukyu region. The chronicles «Records of Omorho Songs» (1532 – 1623), «Records about the path of the Ryukyu gods» (1603 – 1606) by the Japanese monk Taytyu: Rio: teya, «The Mirror of the Generations of Thu: Dzan – the Kingdom of the Ryukyu» (1650), «The Genealogy of Thu: Dzan» (1697 – 1701,
1874), «The Rite of the High Priestess» (1875) were the sources of the research.

In the Japanese society, before the Meiji Revolution, at all social levels of its organization, along with a man who had socio-political and economic power – from the head of the house to the head of the rural community and, further, to the regional ruler and the king – there was a priestess
(a relative and mainly a sister). Her functions were to rely on the authority of the leader spiritually and ritually, relying on the deities’ «will». The kings of Ryukyu were forced to rely on mediation of the priestesses so that siji (shōjo magic power) would come from the Other (parallel) light to protect the throne and the prosperity of the state in this light. In those old times, the status of such a priestess was even higher than that of a male ruler who ruled on her behalf. The Russian specialists on Japan define such a structure of power as diarchy («dual power»), and the system of government as theocratic. In the terminology of Japanese researchers, the theocratic system of government is called as the policy of «unity of worship and governance».

In the XIII – XIV centuries the local and regional rulers were put under the control of the King Ryukyu. The priestesses also lost their independence and had to obey the High Priestess from the royal family. A single secular and religious power was divided into the highest (court) and lower (local) levels.

A special feature of the Ryukyu mythology is the late records of the texts with preservation of many archaic motifs and their «applied», frankly social and political biased character. One of the main tasks of such myths was consecration of the status of the ruling elite and the magical assertion of its high status to support the current social hierarchy. «The Records of Omoro songs» (a poetic anthology in 22 volumes, which includes 1,553 old ritual priestly chants), as well as «The Records about the path of the Ryukyu gods» were not completed as in the early 17th
century the Kingdom of Ryukyu became the target of aggression from the Japanese clan Satsuma and was under its indirect control.

The following chronicles were created under different ideological supervision, which, however, did not change their essence.

Also in the period of the 9th – 14th centuries, as an exception, the rare images of a female warrior appeared, and then disappeared in the 16th – 19th centuries before the Meiji Revolution, being replaced massively by the disenfranchised Japanese women – the wives of samurai, peasants, artisans and merchants.

After the Meiji revolution in 1879, the government of Japan established the Okinawa prefecture.

KEYWORDS: myth; Ryukyu; Japan; gender; priestess; siji (shōjo magic power); chronicles;
chants; Shinto; a female warrio


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