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The History of Marijuana in Japan

Japan has a history with marijuana that dates back to the Jōmon period, between 10,000 BC and 300 AD. During this time, traces of cannabis were found  woven into clothing fibers in Japan, because as many Ancient Japanese texts mention, the plant grows tall and strong. The Manyoshu, an ancient Japanese magazine that contains poetry, is among one of these texts that referenced cannabis being used in Ancient Japan. According to the poems in the magazine, ninjas used cannabis in training as hurdles to jump over. Now, ninjas must find a different hurdle to jump over because Japan is home to some of the strictest marijuana laws.

Before Japan introduced these laws, Shinto priests used the plant to perform cleansings or exorcisms, because Shintoism follows a tradition of cleansing, purity, and harmony. Cannabis was also used in Shinto weddings because brides used to wear cannabis veils and tiaras to signify their purity before their husbands. There are still Shinto shrines today that hold annual ceremonies using cannabis, which was also considered a war material for the navy and air force during World War II, “During World War II, there was a saying among the military that without cannabis, the war couldn’t be waged.” Even with this long history with the plant, there is still some doubt as to whether or not it was ever actually smoked by the Japanese, so experts speculate it’s possible that cannabis was used by the masses while sake was drunk by the rich.  


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