Marebito

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For the film of the same name, see Marebito (film).

Marebito (稀人 or 客人?) is an ancient Japanese word referring to a ‘divine being’ who comes from afar bringing gifts of wisdom, spiritual knowledge and happiness. The 20th century folklorist, Shinobu Orikuchi, student of the great Japanese folklore scholar, Kunio Yanagita, was the first to bring the ancient concept of ‘marebito’ to modern attention. The word ‘mare’ means ‘rare,’ while the word ‘bito’ means both ‘person’ and ‘spirit.’ In other words the term refers to a divine being who visited ancient Japanese fishing villages from across the ocean’s horizon, or for mountain communities, visited from beyond the distant mountain ranges and bringing gifts of knowledge. Villagers would usually welcome the ‘marebito’ with sacred ritual, festival or ceremonial activity. The ‘marebito’ tradition can still be found in Japan in such areas as Akita prefecture where the ‘Namahage’ tradition is still practiced, or the ‘Iomante’ bear festival celebrated by the indigenous Ainu people on Japan’s large northern island of Hokkaido.