What part of the law is this possession?

(Shoujiki no koube ni kami yadoru;
“A god dwells in the head of the honest”)


Honesty is the best policy. A benevolent spirit will protect, inspire, even possess those who are honest in their dealings. Note that here “honesty” seems to stand in contrast with “cheating” or “trickery” rather than simply with “lying.” The exhortation is to be fair and straightforward in all your interactions with others.


We begin four characters in with 頭 (here pronounced koube), “head.” The associative particle の (no) indicates that the head “belongs to” the noun 正直 (shoujiki), “honesty,” or by extension “an honest person.” This noun phrase is marked by the particle に (ni) as the location of the verb 宿る (yadoru), “to stay in,” which appears in conclusive form. While any further particles are elided, this verb takes as its subject the noun 神 (kami), “spirit,” “divinity.”


Many students of Japanese will want to read 頭 as atama, but 頭 – and to an extent 首, which is semi-interchangeable – have had many readings over the years including kashira, kabu, kubi, and koube, which seems to be associated with the Heian era. (This said, though, bear in mind that phonetic similarity doesn’t necessarily mean that the above readings are variations on a theme; it’s thought that they have distinct etymologies.)

There are a number of variants and synonyms for this phrase. One makes the person explicit instead of rendering them as just a head by declaring that 正直者に神宿る, where 正直者 is shoujikimono, “an honest person,” another rearranges the word order with 神は正直の頭に宿る, moving the “god” to the front and making it the topic with particle は (wa).

Example sentence:


(Shoujiki no koube ni kami yadoru to iu shi, uso itsuwari no nai seikatsu wo okurou to ganbatteru kedo, oshoku yara sagi yara aru kara… nan to iu ka, shoujiki na shakai ni mo natte hoshii.”)

[“The gods help an honest person, as they say, so I’m doing my best to live a life free of lies and deception. But there’s still corruption and scams, so… how should I put it? I’d like an honest society.”]

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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