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Exploring Daijin & Sadaijin: Connections To Japanese Culture & Mythology!

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Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume no Tojimari has been a roaring success all over the world. To attribute that success to just the director of the movie would be unjustified. Anyone who has watched the movie has found Daijin the cat the show stopper in the movie.

Suzume and Souta’s unconventional love, the twist and turns in events, the animation and the music were top notch, but Daijin the cat has made a special place in everyone’s heart.

Daijin is a notoriously cute cat who was initially a keystone, guarding the dimension “Ever After”. After transforming into a cat, he wreaked havoc as he involved Suzume and Souta in a cat-and-mouse chase. He stopped by each door that let through an enormous worm that could destroy Japan.

Wildly misunderstood and misinterpreted as a negative character in the story, Daijin plays a critical role to save Japan and Souta for Suzume’s acceptance.

This isn’t the first-time cats are being used as mythical creatures to deliver a story. Cats are the most preferred pet in Japan (That doesn’t mean they don’t adopt dogs!) They have been a source of inspiration for numerous characters in literature, film, and popular culture.

Jiji from Hayao Miyazaki's Kiki's Delivery Service

Examples include Jiji, the black cat from Hayao Miyazaki’s “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” and the feline protagonist from Natsume Soseki’s acclaimed novel “I Am a Cat.” These charming animals have captured the imagination of people throughout history and continue to be a beloved subject of artistic expression.

Parallels of Daijin and Sadaijin in Mythology and Suzume no Tojimari:

The story of Daijin and Sadaijin were based on Ministers of State and trusted advisors. Daijin tried his best to guide Suzume to close the doors to Ever After to protect Suzume and her world from impending doom. We see throughout the movie that Daijin did what he (as a kami, thus the mindset is different from a human) felt would have helped Suzume.

These are Hinamatsuri dolls of Daijin and Sadaijin

She had to come to terms with a piece of her past she wrestled with. Daijin also made the ultimate sacrifice of becoming a keystone again when he saw that Suzume’s resolve to save Souta from the Ever After.

Ministers are known for making critical decisions for the safety and betterment of their State or kingdom. Daijin, be it from history or in the movie (being a Kami) is a perfect example of a minister because he has the mindset that differs from the others, including the king.

Japanese mythology mentioned how Daijin worked as a “Great Minister” in the Imperial Court. Stories of Daijin reverberate in the current times as a set example of an advisor.

Sadaijin on the other hand was known for his military prowess and skill in strategy. That explained to an extent how and why Sadaijin was introduced in the movie near the end. As you see in the movie when Suzume is on her quest to save Souta and close the final door, Sadaijin accompanied her and got ahead to battle the worm in the forefront.

Also, the fact that Souta’s grandfather entrusted Sadaijin to protect Suzume when he knew she wouldn’t give up on saving Souta. Going by appearance, Sadaijin looked bigger and stronger than Daijin and therefore proved to be the worthy opponent for the worm.

Going by the aspect of the placement of the keystones, Daijin and Sadaijin means “minister” and “minister of the left”. This means that Daijin is the “minister of the right”. This corresponds to their purpose as the east and west keystones.

Why were Daijin and Sadaijin Cats?

Apart from the fact that Japan has a feline obsession that goes to the extent of Japan having Cat temples where they worship the feline God for good luck, cats are known to be outcasts in many cultures such as the Chinese Zodiacs. This has an influence on Japanese anime as well.

Daijin and Sadaijin are keystones to the Ever After that guard the real world from the Giant worm

The anime Fruits Basket which revolved around the story of a girl who met and lived with a family who bore the Chinese Zodiac curses featured the male protagonist with the curse of the Cat. He always felt unaccepted and cheated as he was left out of the banquet the Jade Emperor had invited animals for.

As a result of which, the character was detested by all and was secluded from the family. All he craved for was to be accepted by the family.

In Suzume, Daijin is a cat who looked for acceptance and attention from Suzume. When Daijin had Suzume’s attention, he looked lively and healthy. But after Souta turned into a keystone to the Ever After, Suzume blamed Daijin for the same and he instantly turned into weak and malnourished. He again regained his vigor after Suzume understood that Daijin always wanted to help and meant no harm.

Even Sadaijin’s introduction in the movie was conflicted as he had possessed Tamaki and brought forward her inner thoughts and regrets. This corresponds to cats being unpopular in not just China but in quite a few places around the world as they were associated with witchcraft and bad luck.

Japanese anime took inspiration from the Chinese Zodiac that blurred lines of culture and at the same time helped anime and manga creators explore more intriguing storylines.

Bottomline:

Cats don’t abide by human nature and morals, even less if they are spirits of deities. You could witness this in the feline as an animal. They have a mind of their own, they are independent and they operate in a way they like and obey no one. Though cute and adorable creatures, cats, or even Daijin and Sadaijin for that matter are quite conflicted and controversial.

Be it Japan or even the rest of the world, cats have quite a high status of their own. Some consider them good luck and put statues of them outside their stores, houses, and offices and some associate them with bad omens and witchcraft.

But the bottom line is, just like dogs, cats are protectors of the place they are in. They guard the house against rodents, and insects and also alert their families of any upcoming danger. That was what Daijin and Sadaijin did throughout the movie.

Cats are a sign of good luck. Maneki the cat is placed outside stores and offices in Japan to bring in good luck

In addition to being popular characters in anime, cats are also used in various ways to enhance the visual and narrative elements of the medium. Overall, cats are popular and an important element of Japanese anime, and they are used in a variety of ways to enhance the visual and narrative elements of the medium, and to symbolize Japanese culture and tradition.

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