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Cannabis Culture - Japan

Cannabis has a long history in Japan, dating back to its pre-historical period. Fibre and seeds of hemp have been discovered in the archaeology sites dating from the Jomon period (10,000 BC to 300 BC). The name Jomon means “pattern of ropes”, which were certainly made of cannabis hemp.

The ancient Jomon people of Japan lived a civilized, comfortable existence, and used cannabis for weaving clothing and making hemp rope, as well as using the seeds as a food source. Cannabis was almost certainly imported and adapted from China.

In Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan, a high value is placed on cannabis/hemp. It is considered a sacred plant and a symbol of purity and fertility. Shinto shrines are festooned with Shimenawa, which is a hemp rope used to enclose a sacred place. The rope serves to ward off evil spirits and divide the sacred space of the Gods from the outside world.

A Sumo Wrestling Grand Champion (Yokozuna) wears a Shimenawa of hemp around his waist in order to purify the ring before a match. Being the highest ranking Sumo, Japanese people believe that he is inhabited by a spirit.

Hemp is also used during the Bon Festival when Buddhists honor their ancestors. After the hemp stalk is dried, it is burned in order to guide the spirits of the ancestors into the sacred space.

During the Meiji Era in Japan, which spanned from 1868 to 1912, cannabis was prescribed to treat a variety of medical ailments including pain, indigestion, asthma, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea, among others.

In the Japanese Pharmacopoeia, whose 3rd edition was published in 1906, cannabis indica is described as an anesthetic, and the book also gives instructions in the production of cannabis tinctures.

Although, Japan currently has some of the strictest anti-cannabis laws in the world, cannabis has been at the heart of Japanese culture for centuries.

Shown in Cover Photo: Izumo-Taisha also known as Izumo Ōyashiro, one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan and its Shemenawa which is the largest in Japan.

And shown below: Former Yokozuna and 31-time Sumo champion, the late Chiyonofuji (1955 - 2016) wearing his Shimenawa.


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