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Inaka Dictionary: 鎌 (かま) Kama–a sickle

October 1, 2010

The kama is the queen of tools in the Japanese countryside. They are used on a daily basis, mostly by women weeding gardens, around pathways, etc. The Japanese have a penchant for eliminating anything that even slightly resembles a weed. They even pull out grass (with the kama) if it is growing where it doesn’t belong. Many Japanese will cut entire sections of grass or weeds by hand with a kama, the same job a westerner would only consider doing with a lawn mower. The kama is thorough because it allows you to cut out the roots along with the weeds. On the other hand, you can just cut something back too if you don’t want to completely remove it.

There must be something soothing to the Japanese about bare ground, because they create so much of it, usually with kamas. The bare ground is then duly raked and even swept daily to keep it free of leaves and other debris. Check it out all the “ground” the next time you visit a temple or shrine.

The Japanese must wonder why Westerners would want such big yards, all full of lush, green grass–and the occasional dandelion.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Walter Buffalo permalink
    October 1, 2010 5:30 pm

    Nice one Dazeymay! You got me wondering what the Japanese word for “scythe” was… unfortunately it’s not very exciting… 大鎌・・・a big sickle!

    And on the topic of kama, … the Japanese word for (preying) mantis is カマキリ (kamakiri.)

    I support the theory that it has this name because it’s “hands” are shaped like sickles. Paired with “kiri” (cut, as in harakiri) you have 鎌切 ・・・ an insect that “cuts down” its prey with “sickles.”

    Unfortunately there are also TWO OTHER kanji variants used for カマキリ : 蟷螂 and 螳螂

  2. humorusguidetojapan permalink*
    October 1, 2010 5:46 pm

    Thanks for that Walter Buff! “big sickle” sounds more like an insult to me: You lying piece of big sickle! If praying mantises do use sickles, I’d like to employ them right away! Of course, those カマキリ praying mantises could also be iron pot slashers! 釜切り You never know, insects have strange powers….Moooo!

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