As it is elsewhere in the world, Orion is one of the most easily recognisable star patterns visible in Japan, and the constellation plays a big part in the country’s history. However, whereas Orion is seen to represent a person, god or creature in most cultures, Japanese lore sees mostly symbols. Also unlike most other cultures, there are many different symbols seen in Orion, rather than one general belief across the Japanese population.
One of the symbols Japanese culture sees in Orion is a Japanese drum. The drum has two heads, with strings tied between them – it forms a rough hourglass shape. Orion’s Belt is seen as the cord used to secure the strings in the middle, and the stars Kappa Ori and Rigel are seen as one end of the drum, with Gamma Ori and Betelgeuse as the other.
Sometimes, work-related objects were seen in Orion’s Belt. These differed according to region, and related to each region’s main industry. Orion’s Belt’s three stars were seen as three prongs on a thread-weaving machine in textile-producing regions, and as bamboo joints, where each of the stars depicted a bamboo pole joint, in regions where bamboo was plentiful.
Common to all Japanese, however, is that Orion’s stars, Betelgeuse and Rigel, are, even today, seen to symbolise loyalty, duty and sacrifice.
Images courtesy of Pixabay.