Mexican anthropologist and filmmaker Carlos Villanueva Castillo, who recently completed a short film that will participate in the NASA CineSpace festival, is working on a documentary project on the relation between the Maya and the Japan cultures.
The Japanese Ambassador to Mexico, Mr. Yasushi Takase, was recently in Mérida to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Dr. Hydeyo Noguchi, a Japanese citizen who was appointed “Doctor Honoris Causa” by the University of Yucatán in 1920, who lived four months in Mérida and had international recognition for studying the “Yellow Fever” in tropical regions.
Villanueva Castillo, who visited Guatemala on December 2018, stated: “The Center for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage in located within the premises of the Tikal National Park. Which was built with a donation of 50 million Quetzales (6.5 million USD) from the Japanese government to Guatemala. The donation was made through the International Cooperation Agency of Japan, and the center was inaugurated on July 6, 2012. The Tikal National Park is impressive, it has several Mayan cities within the area and great biodiversity. ”
“The royal family of Japan has a genuine interest in the Maya culture, in 2014 the prince of Japan, Akishino, brother of Naruhito today’s Emperor, and Princess Kiko, wife of Akishino visited Tikal. They attended the official inauguration ceremony of the” Conservation and Research Center.” Tikal has been a World Heritage Site since 1979 just as Chichén Itzá here in Yucatán,” he added.
“My interest in the relationship between Japan and the Maya came from visiting Tikal with my friend Juan Carlos Polanco, producer and photographer and his wife, Akiko Shimo, who is a Japanese artist and their children. With this visit, I understood why the call Tikal the” Heart of the Maya World”, Villanueva Castillo continued .
“And the question that came up was: Why the government and archaeologists of Japan are so interested in the Maya cities? The answer is simple, Japan’s interest in the Maya is due to the deep spirituality of both civilizations”, Villanueva said.
It was then that Villanueva decided that he should make a documentary about the close relation of Japan and the Maya World. He began to structure research on these two cultures, geographically distant, so close in their cultural essence.
What are some of the cultural links between the Japanese and the Maya?
From mythical animals like the Dragon ‘Ryu’ or ‘Tatsu’ which, although of Chinese origin, have physical and mystical attributes similar to the Maya ’Kukulcán’ or ‘Quetzacoatl’ (Feathered Snake) of Olmecas-Mayas-Toltecas-Aztecas.
In ancient writing, Japanese scholars relate the logographic form of Mayan glyphs and the ancient Kenji script of Japan. Also in the creation myths from the divine couple, there is a relationship between the Mayan deities Zamna (male) and Ixchel (female) and the mythical divine couple of ancient Japan: Izanagi (male) and Izanami (female).
Besides, the Japanese mythology and Mayan myths shaer archetypal symbols that link both mythologies. All this mystical heritage, combined with religious influences during the history of both cultures, resulted in a deep spirituality and relationship with nature.
This is about the mythical relationship between the Japanese and the Maya the past, but there are other links in the present.
“In today’s world, Japanese artists, academics, musicians and shamans have come to know, study and relate to the Maya culture with which they identify in many ways”, staed Villanueva.
He continued: “In the 1950s, an ambassador from Japan in Mexico visited Guatemala, he ran into the book of Popol Vuh and for 10 years, he dedicated to translate it into Japanese. This diplomat received the highest decoration of the government of Guatemala for spreading the knowledge of the most important book of Maya origin among archaeologists, anthropologists and linguists from different universities in the nation of the rising sun”.
Then Villanueva declared: “The Maya culture has been deeply investigated and important findings were made in Japan, but, their studies are not disseminated that much in America or Europe. With this documentary we want to recognize their valuable contributions, it is something that we have to spread; the Japanese works in Copa, Honduras, in Teotihuacán, Mexico, in Guatemala, and even in a Maya city in the state of Tabasco, just to mention some works that are of utmost importance, and only known in closed academic circles. This is something I want to highlight in one or several documentaries, the great Japanese contribution to the knowledge and understanding of our Maya culture”.
The Yucatan Times Newsroom with information from La Verdad