Today is Mother’s day, And I would like to take this chance to express my gratitude to have such a supportive and caring mother. I am sure you feel the same way towards your mothers. so do make sure to buy your Okaasan a present.
Most beginner Japanese students learn the word for “mother” early on. however, there are not so many who know the origins of the word even among advanced students. Actually not even Japanese people know it anyway. It originates from the sun. how? read on to find out how.
If you know anything or two about Japanese culture, you know that on new years day they go to the shrines (Or Budhist temples) which is called 初詣 (Hatsumode) to pray and celebrate the new year, so when they pray they put their hands together and close their eyes and clap a few times making new year’s wishes, and paying their reapect. The fact of the matter is, their Ancestors used to do this not only on new year’s day, but every morning.
You can get a better glimpse at this when you check how Lafcadio Hearn who came to Japan in 1890 describes a scene at the morning when he was in Izumo (A city in Japan).
Hearn mentions “Konnichisama” in his writings. it means the sun. Sakaino Katsunori Explains more in his book (日本の心の教育）
There are still a lot of places where they call the sun “こんにちさま” like in Kochi perfecture, Tosa they call it “こんにちさん” , and in Niigata prefecture, Kariwa district they call it “こんにっさん”、And in Gifu they call it “コンニッツァマ” with a heavy accent. all of these words mean the “sun”.
In Natsme Soseki’s Novel 坊っちゃん (Bochan) there is this line “そんなことをしたら今日様（太陽）へ申し訳ないがなもし” (日本の心の教育 p.122)
Moreover, surprisingly enough it is said that the origin of こんにちは(Konnichiha) the greeting everybody uses today actually means the sun (太陽）
People everywhere in Japan used to refer to the sun as 今日様 (こんにちさま) so the greeting こんにちは meant やぁ、太陽さん (日本の心の教育 p.222)
Most people would be confused by now. why would you call any body the sun!
I did some research to get a better image at this. So it was mentioned in Gishi Wajinden (魏志倭人伝, ‘Records of Wei: An Account of the Wa’) which is the oldest record mentioning Japan, that a trader who had came to ancient Japan described it as ” People have elegant demeanor, and when they see each other they great each other by striking their hand together”
元気 essentially means the source of energy, So the greeting「今日は元気ですか」is a way to confirm that “you are born from the energy of the sun, so are you living and shining with it?” then the usual reply is 「はい、元気です。」 which shows that you are living well with the sun energetically. (日本の心の教育 p.123)
Now we get to さようなら which basically follows the same context.
after greeting what comes next is「さようなら（ば）、ご機嫌よう」機嫌 means mood or feeling, so it means ” If you’re living well with the sun, then it must feel good”
Japanese people use these greetings on a daily basis oblivious of this historical background that first gave meaning to it.
This was a very long introduction to get us to the point to understand how お母さん came from the sun. Sakaino Katsunori says that the origin of お母さん also comes from the sun, previously it was called「カカ様」 and common people would call her 「おッカァ」. Also the husband in the family used to call her 「うちのカミさん」「うちのカカア」
「カ 」in older Japanese was 「カカ」and if we trace it back a little bit more it was 「カアカア」, if we trace it back even further it was 「カッカッ」, All refer to カ. 「ミ」however, means our body as in 身. and 「カッカッ」actually denotes the onomatopoeic sound of the burning of the sun(擬態語), 「カカ」and 「カアカア」are the same. in other words, Ancient Japanese people called the fact that our life comes from the sun and that people are its body「日・身（力ミ）」 body of the sun. (日本の心の教育 p.104)
Especially that mothers gave birth to their children, they give them warmth, raise them and take care of the household, they considered mothers as the sun itself. calling them 「お日身（カミ）さん」which later took other forms like 「カカさま」「おっカア」「おかあさん」.