Why I love the word “kami”

Why I love the word “kami” April 7, 2016

In Japanese, the word used to refer to any kind of deity is kami, often with the suffix “-sama” at the end to show respect. Out of all the words for “deity” I know in any language, “kami” or “kami-sama” is perhaps my favourite. And here’s why…

kami
The kanji character for “kami”

1. Its overall meaning is vague

When the Japanese refer to kami-sama, it’s not always clear exactly what deity, or deities, they are referring to. It could be used to refer to the numerous spirits in Shinto, a specific Shinto deity, the Christian God, or indeed any other kind of deity. I’ve even heard people interpret “kami” to mean something more abstract, like “life-force” or qi. The Japanese may often talk about kami-sama without even thinking about what kami-sama they actually mean. They’re just referring to those mysterious and great “powers that be.”

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