This evening, Inagaki Shihan began his regular taijutsu
class with a lecture as usual in his ongoing mission to help us understand Osensei's world. He believes that in order to understand the founder's aikido, we need to understand the relevance of his spiritual teachings. Tonight was an explanation of the ‘ame no kazu uta'
, a kind of kotodama chant. Time and again he mentioned ‘shinra-bansho'
森羅万象( "all things in nature") which reminded me to start this thread.
Continuing on from another conversation
, I'd like to post here what I have figured out so far about Osensei's pronunciation of the word kotod
In ‘The Essence of Aikido', John Stevens asserts that the founder had a preference for the unusual ‘t' pronunciation for the last character.
"Morihei's message was set forth in terms of 言霊 kototama, "language of the spirit." Koto means "word, language, speech"; tama signifies "spirit or soul." (The combination of the two characters is usually pronounced kotodama, but Morihei's preference was kototama.)"
John Stevens - The Essence of Aikido P13
In some Japanese dictionaries, kotodama
is the only reading given.
Jim Breen's JDIC has it as below:
言霊; 言魂; こと霊 【ことだ
ま】 (n) soul of language; power of words
However the use of the --tama
pronunciation arises in kototama-gaku
(study of kotodama) which funnily enough, was popularised by Onisaburo Deguchi. All things in nature (shinra-bansho)
have a tama
in this cosmology.
The question of Osensei using that pronunciation is a bit harder to answer. When it was suggested to me to ask someone who knew Osensei, my immediate thought on the matter was "People here might not be able to hear the difference."
Ibaraki dialect is known for a phenomenon called dakuten
insertion. When I first arrived here, I had to buy a bicycle, which in standard Japanese is called a jitensha
. I soon noticed that the locals often called it a jidensha
, which I sometimes mistook for the word densha
(train), which I also had to ride for work. There were times when I was asked if I'd come by bike and I'd answer "No, I came by bike." ("Jidensha de kimashita ka?" "Iie, jitensha de kimashita.
Ibaraki Prefecture is officially written with a ‘k' but locals often pronounce it with a ‘g' even when they correct people for writing the ‘k' in kana
or Roman characters. ("No, not Ibarag
i with a ‘g', it's Ibaragi with a ‘k' see? Ibaragi, not Ibarag
I've taught English at various locations around the prefecture, including former Iwama and when I have to teach the names of different countries in English, I usually run into a problem when I get to Korea. Elementary students in particular crack up with laughter and repeat back the word "Gorilla." It never happened to me in Shizuoka.
I am relieved that Japanese friends from other parts of Japan, who have experienced Ibaraki dialect, right away had the same thought that I did on this matter. Osensei could have said kototama
all of the time, and people might not have noticed the difference. Even if they had, since Osensei was from Kansai, they may simply have put it down to his own dialect.
My own feeling about this is that the special rendition of kotodama
is precisely that: it is special, and it would have been a bit strange for the founder to go out of his way to pronounce it --"tama
" every time, especially when his audience would mostly have missed the difference. He may have had a preference for it, but in everyday life, I can imagine him saying it the standard way, much like people write the kanji 気 (ki) most of the time, even if they prefer 氣.
However, I know there are people out there with recordings of Osensei's voice or who have access to students of the founder outside of Ibaraki. If anyone has more to add on this matter, I would be most grateful.