Japanese History Glossary with Pronunciation




Amida, Amitābha

阿弥陀如来    The Buddha who presides over the Western Paradise. where the failthful will be reborn after death. One of the most popularly revered Buddha's in Japan. In the context of Pure Land practice, it generally refers to the repetition of the phrase Namu Amida Butsu 南無阿弥陀仏  to obtain Sukhāvatī (. "Realm of Bliss"





幕府    The administration of a shogun,also known as a shogunate in English. The were 3 shogunates: Kamakura,Muromachi and Edo.





萬歳  From the Chinese 'Wan Sui' meaning 10,000 years, translated as "long live" in English. Became a Japanese battle cry during the war





武士 Armed men,samurai or warriors. Bushidan were local or regional warrior bands that arose in the provinces during the 10th century.Bushido ( 武士道)  was a set of written rules for a samurai.





茶の湯 Tea ceremony. The custom of drinking tea did not become popular until the spread of Zen Buddhism in the 13th century. It spread from monks who used tea to help monks endure long hours of mediation. The custom of rustic simplicity or Wabi started during the 16th century .





大名 Provincial feudal lords. 'great name". In the Warring States period in the 15th-16th centuries there were 250 daimyōwho contended for power. Under the Tokugawa shoguns a daimyō was defined as the lord who had an income of 10,000 koku of rice.





土偶    Earthenware figurines of the late Jomon period (14,000-300 BC) Many in the form of pergnant women with goggle eyes. Perhaps used for fertility and shamanistic rite .





銅鐸   Ceremonial broze bells of the Yayoi period. Usually only used as decorations for rituals





雅楽    "Elegant music" Ritualized music and dance introduced from China and Korea ib the Nara Periad and became the ceremonial music of the imperial court. Gagaku from 1941.





埴輪    " rings of clay" Terra Cotta  or clay cylinders, later developed into the shape of humans,animals and obects. Placed on the slopes of 5th-6th century kofun tombs, perhaps to use as a substitute for live burials.




Honji suijaku

本地垂迹    The syncretic association of Buddhism and Shinto where kami (Shinto Gods and spirits) are viewed as native incarnations of Buddhist dieties.





一向一揆     "single-minded leagues" Groups of samurai,farmers and monks who rose up against samurai rule in 15th to 16th century Japan.





浄瑠璃    Stories with musical or chanted accompaniment. Name after  Jōruri Gozen, a lover of Minamoto Yoshitsune.. During the 17th century the shamisen became the main accompanying instrument.





歌舞伎  A highly stylized dance drama said to have originated with women performers such as Okuni who performed in the 1600s. Much of its appeal in this era was due to the ribald, suggestive performances and some were prostitutes. Women's kabuki was banned in 1639, with only males allowed to play roles.





神風    "Divine wind"  Name of the storms which destroyed the Mongol invasion fleets of the late 13th century and contributed to the belief that Japan was divinely protected by kami (Shinto gods and spirits). Term used by samurai resisting the Meiji government in Kyushu . Came into English usage with the suicide attacks by Japanese pilots and sailors using planes and small submarines. These types of attacks started in October 1944. Approximately 2,800 Kamikaze attackers sunk 34 Navy ships, damaged 368 others, killed 4,900 sailors





関白    Regent to emperors , position held by manu members of the Fujiwara clan from 880.