Oh My Kami! Fujin

Those of you familiar with Mortal Kombat might have heard of today’s kami before, although the game version is quite different from the real one. This is Fujin (風神), the god of the winds. He’s said to be one of the oldest gods, present at the time of Creation when he opened up his bag of winds to clear the morning mists and fill the void between Earth and Heaven.

His appearance is that of a fearsome demon, and in Chinese mythology he and his buddy Raijin (we’ll meet him later) were evil demons who opposed Buddha, but after being defeated by his army, they join his side and have been working as gods since.

While the god of the winds has probably always been a part of Japanese mythology, the imagery we see of Fujin can be traced back to the ancient Greek god of the North Wind, Boreas (from whom we get the words boreal, aurora borealis, and Hyperborea). Boreas carried a magic cloak in which he carried the wind, and he was a very popular god. When Alexander the Great formed his empire, he brought Greek gods and imagery all the way to India’s doorstep, and the cultural reverberations were tremendous. The Greco-Bactrian culture that sprang up in present-day Afghanistan preserved those Greek images long after the dissolution of Alexander’s empire, and eventually merged them with Buddhist iconography, which traveled along the Silk Road to China and then Japan. Pretty cool, huh?



I won’t be posting a kami tomorrow or the next day, as I will be traveling to Yokohama for a friend’s wedding. So have a nice weekend and Coming of Age Day (here in Japan), and when I get back I’ll post a new kami very soon. Maybe I’ll get some nice wedding photos too.

This print is available on my Etsy store. If you’re interested in buying the original, please email me. Thanks for reading!

4 thoughts on “Oh My Kami! Fujin

  1. Thanks for the link! I’d never heard of the maruts before, but I will definitely do some reading. I’m pretty sure every culture has come up with their own wind gods; I’ve heard that the wind bag which Fujin carries comes from Boreas, but Fujin himself is native Japanese. Definitely a lot of Japanese imagery is strongly influenced by Indian religion and imagery!

  2. Friend, you’re wrong. The wind god in Japan has more in common with the marut in India. The earliest mention of storm gods appears in the Rgveda, see this long url:
    The veda were there long before Alexander packed up his storm god and headed eastward.

  3. Bhiksuni, Matt is neither right nor wrong, and the wind god is probably neither strictly Hindi, Greek, or Japanese. What was beautiful about all these traditions, when they were at their best, was that they were inclusive, plural, and syncretic — meaning that, when they encountered other cultures, they did not seek to usurp their beliefs and assert their own “one true god,” but rather sought to emphasize the parallels between them. In the Greco-Bactrian case that Matt refers to, the Greeks who came with Alexander eventually became Buddhist monks and helped spread Buddhism to China and eventually to Japan, and to Zen, Shinto itself being “chin” or “zen” + “tao.” Many of the world’s problems can be traced to intolerance rather than acceptance, and to claiming a single correct “god” as one’s own, rather than recognizing that what is wondrous in the world to one group is probably also wondrous to another, and is to be respected by all.

  4. Pingback: A-Yokai-A-Day: Ashura | MatthewMeyer.net

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