Previously: How To See Your Occult Twin.
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When I first found this Japanese ritual game in an archived 2ch post dated 2007, its title was written as “黒神陀の術” — a phrase I understood to mean, roughly, “The Black God Ritual.” Part of a larger thread titled “時を戻す方法はないでしょうか?” (“Is there a way to turn the time back?”), it’s meant to be a method of traveling not to another world, but to another time. Specifically, it’s used to travel back in time — never forwards.
But if you translate the ritual’s title more directly, it’s actually something closer to “Kurokami’s Technique” or “The Art of Kurokami” — a detail which immediately set my spider sense a-tingling. Why? Well, if you’re a longtime TGIMM reader, you probably already know: It’s because I’ve already covered a game with an almost identical name. That game is called Kurokami-sama — but if you compare Kurokami-sama to the Kurokami’s Technique ritual that’s the subject of today’s piece, it becomes clear very, very quickly that they’re extremely different games. In fact, they bear absolutely nothing in common except for their names and the fact that they both originated in Japan.
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That was… curious to me, so I started looking into it a little more — and I fell down a gigantic rabbit hole in the process. There is, I think, a reason these very different rituals have such similar names, all of which hinges around the way Japanese works as a language.
However, because all of that research amounted to about 1,000 words of text by the time I was done with it, I’m actually going to break tradition here and bump all that to after the ritual’s instructions, rather than before it. (Even though I think it’s all fascinating, and even though I’m sure many of you will also find it interesting, I would also be willing to bet that plenty of people just want to read the ritual itself and call it a day.) So, if you want to read a lot of theorizing about why I suspect these two very different games have almost identical names, you can either scroll down or just click here. If you just want to read the game itself, continue on.
Before you begin playing, it’s useful to know that the Black God Ritual, as I’ll refer to it from here on out, makes use of the Rokuyo (六曜) calendar — a date-keeping system in Japan originally based off the lunar calendar used to determine lucky and unlucky days. There are six days in a Rokuyo week (“roku” meaning six): Sensho(先勝), Tomobiki (友引 ), Sakimake (先負 ), Butsumetsu (仏滅), Taian (大安), and Shakku (赤口). The Black God Ritual is meant to be performed right as the clock ticks over from the evening of Senshō to the wee hours of the morning of Tomobiki.
Not familiar with the lunar calendar? Good news: It’s pretty easy to figure out what Rokuyo day it is. Many modern Japanese calendars still keep track of the Rokuyo week; you’ll typically find the characters for each of the six Rokuyo days written in the corners of the Gregorian calendar squares that correspond to them. So, if you happen to have a Japanese calendar handy, just check for the next time Tomobiki is marked on your calendar and you’ll know when to attempt the ritual. Also, generally speaking, the first of each month in the Gregorian calendar marks the first day of the Rokuyo week, so you can figure out when Tomobiki is even if your calendar isn’t Japanese. And lastly, this handy site will tell you exactly which Rokuyo day has or will occur and when for every single year between 1900 and 2100.
There’s no known way to reverse this ritual, by the way, so don’t attempt to perform unless you’re really, REALLY sure you want to relive a part of your life that’s already past.
As always, play at your own risk.
- One principal.
- A quiet, empty room in which to play. This room should ideally be a square-shaped tatami room measuring six mats or less. (See: Additional Notes.) It MUST be at least 261 meters or 857 feet above sea level.
- A candle.
- Matches or a lighter.
- A black, ink-based writing implement. A Sharpie or other variety of permanent marker is recommended.
- A Rokuyo calendar.
- A time-keeping device capable of marking time in complete silence. Do not use a time-keeping device that audibly ticks.
- Consult your Rokuyo calendar to determine an appropriate time to perform the ritual. Choose your date by first identifying an upcoming Tomobiki you find appealing; then note the date of the Sensho directly prior to this Tomobiki. This Sensho is the date on which you will perform the ritual.
- Make any necessary arrangements: Assemble the required supplies. Decide to what point in time you would like to return. Choose your playing space and empty it of any and all furniture or other items, if possible. Clear any debts you have in the present.
- Shortly before midnight on your chosen Sensho, bring the candle, matches or lighter, Sharpie, and time-keeping device to the playing space.
- Close the curtains or otherwise block the windows. Ensure that no light from the outside is visible within the playing space.
- Turn off, unplug, and/or remove the batteries from any and all devices or other items capable of making noise and clear them from the playing space. You may retain your time-keeping device, as long as it is completely silent — e.g. a digital watch with any alarms or other noise-making functions turned off, etc.
- Clear the playing space of any remaining furniture or other items, if you have not already done so.
- Clear the playing space of all other people or pets.
- When the playing space is dark, silent, and empty of all things save yourself and your supplies, close the door to the room.
- Turn off the lights.
- And begin.
- Using the Sharpie, write the date to which you would like to travel on the candle.
- Place the candle on the floor in the center of the playing space.
- Sit cross-legged on the floor in front of the candle.
- Light the candle using the matches or lighter.
- Keep an eye on the time.
- At 11:59pm, get ready.
- At 12 midnight, just as Sensho becomes Tomobiki, close your eyes and hold your breath.
- At 12:01am on Tomobiki, allow yourself a breath; then speak the phrase “世のたもう” (phonetically, “yo nota mo’”) aloud.
- Repeat it.
- Once more.
- Keep repeating it, keep chanting it, as many times as you feel you must.
- When you sense the time is finally right, let yourself fall silent.
- Now, open your eyes.
- If you’ve done it correctly… you’ve arrived.
- Now: What will you do with the time you’ve regained?
- Use it wisely.
- Otherwise… what was the point of making the journey in the first place?
Concerning the Playing Space:
- Traditionally, the size of a room in Japan is measured by how many tatami mats fit inside it. The precise size of a tatami mat varies depending on region, but insofar as there is a “standard” size for a tatami mat, the measurements used in Nagoya — 1.82 by 0.81 meters, 5.97 by 2.98 feet, 1 by 0.5 ken, or 6 by 3 shaku — may be considered to fulfill this criteria.
- Common room sizes based on these tatami measurements include eight-mat rooms measuring 3.64 by 3.64 meters; six-mat rooms measuring 2.73 by 3.3.64 meters; and four-and-a-half-mat rooms measuring 2.73 by 2.73 meters. “Jo”are the commonly-used unit of measure to identify tatami-based room measurements in Japanese real-estate; as such, an eight-mat room measures 8 jo, a six-mat room 6 jo, and a four-and-a-half-mat room 4.5 jo.
- For the purposes of this ritual, it is recommended that you choose a room no larger than the measurements of a five-and-a-half-mat room — that is, a square-shaped room measuring approximately 5.5 jo or 2.98 meters by 2.98 meters. If you are unable to secure access to a tatami room, a non-tatami room that satisfies the general measurement requirements will suffice.
Do NOT perform this ritual if you have any outstanding debts in your current time. You MUST clear those debts before beginning.
Once the playing space’s door has been closed and the lights turned off in Preparing: Steps 8 and 9, no other light source besides the candle may be used. Do NOT use a flashlight, a lantern, the light from your mobile phone, etc. to see. (For this reason, it is not recommended that you use your mobile phone for your time-keeping device, even if you set it to silent; in order to display the time, it will by necessity light up.)
Side effects of successfully completing this ritual include, but are not limited to experiencing chronic, debilitating headaches for an extended period of time and/or being involved in a major, life-threatening incident within a year of completion.
You may perform the ritual as many times as you like, bearing in mind the toll the aforementioned side effects may have on your physical and/or mental health. Also, should the ritual be performed more than three years after a previous performance, it is unlikely to succeed.
There is no known way to reverse the effects of this ritual — that is, the only way to return to your original time is to arrive there naturally once more. Of course, whether or not everything is the same as it was once you get there will depend on your actions this time around, so… mind how you go.
The ritual may ONLY be used to travel back to a time you’ve already experienced once before.
Do NOT use this ritual to attempt to travel back to a time before you were born.
And ABSOLUTELY do not use this ritual to attempt to travel FORWARD in time.
There are some things we are simply not meant to know.
On Kurokami-sama, Kurokami’s Technique, and the Intricacies of Language:
As promised, here’s everything else I dug up on the two Kurokami rituals and the linguistic quirks that separate them from each other.
I should note before we begin that I have only a very basic grasp of Japanese. I do know a little bit — mostly about how words and sentences are constructed, rather than specific vocabulary — but because I lack anything close to proficiency, let alone fluency, it is a distinct possibility that I might have gotten something wrong. I also found literally no English sources for the 2ch time traveling ritual I’m referring to as Kurokami’s Technique/the Black God Ritual, so I can’t check my work against any extant English translations. But for the curious, here’s what I’ve been working with:
Written Japanese uses three different character sets— hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Hiragana and katakana are both phonetic alphabets — that is, each character corresponds to a specific sound — while kanji is…a bit more complicated. It’s not as simple as “hiragana and katakana are phonetic, while kanji characters represent ideas and concepts,” but that’s a good starting point; it’s also true that you just sort of have to memorize the thousands of kanji characters that exist and their meanings in order to really grasp written Japanese. For a good “broad strokes” explanation of the complexities of kanji, head here.
In any event, what’s important to note here is that the three character sets aren’t separate in everyday Japanese; they work together to form the writing system as a whole, with each alphabet serving a slightly different function. I’m overgeneralizing a lot here, but those functions are mostly as follows: Hiragana is largely used for any Japanese words that aren’t written in kanji, as well as for what one astute linguist at Stack Exchange describes as “grammatical ‘glue’”; katakana is used for borrowed foreign words (“loanwords”) and onomatopoetic words; and kanji provides the context necessary to give grammatical units their actual meaning.
A lot of words can be written in myriad different ways in Japanese — and the ways the words are written, as well as the contexts in which they appear, matter a lot when it comes to what everything actually means. And in the case of the two Kurokami rituals, the way the word “kurokami” itself is written makes all the difference.
“Kurokami” is actually a compound word — that is, it’s two words mushed together: “Kuro,” meaning “black,” and “kami.” And in Japanese, “kami” can be written a number of different ways, with its meaning changing depending on how you write it. As one native Japanese speaker explained at the global language learner Q&A site HiNative, “kami” can be written in kanji using three different characters: 神, 髪, and 紙. They’re all pronounced the same, but they aren’t used interchangeably; they each mean something different. When written as 神, the character means “god”; when 髪 is used, it means “hair”; and when 紙 appears, it means “paper.”
When I first encountered the Kurokami-sama ritual last year, most of the Japanese sources I found wrote “kurokami” phonetically in katakana, as カ. For example, at Tocana, the full name of the ritual is written クロカミサマの儀式, with the first six characters representing “kurokami-sama”: ク(ku)ロ(ro)カ(ka)ミ(mi)サ(sa)マ(ma). It’s interesting to me that the alphabet used here is katakana, rather than hiragana; it suggests that the word is onomatopoetic, but doesn’t provide much detail about what it actually means. However, the English translation of the same game by Saya Yomino of Saya in Underworld includes some additional context: In a footnote, she clarifies that her translation is based off of a version in which “kurokami” is written using the kanji characters 黒 (kuro) and 髪 (kami) — with “kuro” meaning “black” and “kami” meaning “hair.“
There’s a lot of hair imagery in the Kurokami-sama ritual: You use a strand of your own hair to perform it, while Kurokami-sama itself might be anything from a creature covered from head to toe in black hair to a Sadako- or Kayako-esque onryo, depending on who you talk to. As such, it makes sense that in this game, “kurokami” would be written using a particular character that means “hair.”
But in the 2ch post detailing Kurokami’s Technique, the ritual’s name appears as 黒神陀の術. Here, “kuro,” or “black,” is again written with the kanji 黒; however, “kami” is written differently: It uses 神, which, as you’ll recall from the HiNative post I referenced earlier, has the meaning of “god.” Knowing, too, that there’s a manga and anime series titled 黒神 whose English translation is titled Black God (or, sometimes, Kurokami: Black God), it seems that the ritual in the 2ch post translates into English as something like the Black God’s Technique, the Art of the Black God, or simply the Black God Ritual.
(I should also note, though, this is one of the many places that not knowing the language complicates things: I’m not totally clear on how 陀, the characters immediately following 神, affect the meaning of the game’s title. What I’ve been able to glean from the internet is that 陀 is a type of kanji used in personal names, and that it sometimes translates as something like “lord.” Reading 神陀 as “Lord God” makes a certain amount of sense in this context, conceptually speaking, but I have no idea whether that’s actually an accurate reading.)
Anyway, given that a) the Kurokami-sama Ritual I previously covered is so very different from the ritual described in the 2ch post, b) the 2ch post pre-dates the other Kurokami-sama Ritual by many years, and c) the different way “kurokami” is written in each version, I wonder whether there’s a sort of accidental connection between the two games. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that the 2ch ritual could have undergone the kind of transformation that can happen to a simple word or phrase in the children’s game of Telephone: That is, I wonder whether the later hair-related Kurokami-sama Ritual evolved out of a typo or a misunderstanding of the 2ch Black God’s/Kurokami’s Technique ritual, in which “kurokami” was, at some point, accidentally written using the kanji for “hair” instead of the kanji for “god.” It’s perhaps also notable that both rituals are required to be carried out in high locations, providing another link.
For what it’s worth, I’ve never encountered the word “kurokami” in the context of any of these rituals written using hiragana characters — only katakana and kanji. That’s also kind of interesting, although I’m not sure whether it’s significant or not.
Anyway, I could absolutely be totally off-base with all of this; I thought it was interesting all the same, though, so do with it what you will. And, hey, if anyone out there is fluent in Japanese and can provide more information, I’d love to hear from you!
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[Photo via ThomasWolter/Pixabay]