Hi! In this post we'll take a look at all the items that are associated with healing and resurrection - even remotely, like Red Lump - that we haven't discussed yet. We'll also decipher the kanji that pop up on screen when you use all of them - and also when you use items we've already talked about: Rice, Sweet Rice Ball and others. And prepare yourself for the centerpiece of this post: Divine Grass! Oh boy.
Disclaimer #0 — common sense is still everything. Please do not assume that I have access to some secret true knowledge; I'm just entertained by reading Sekiro in Japanese. My lore theories are just theories so treat them accordingly.
Disclaimer #1 —
trust me, I'm a professional if this fact is somehow important - I am a certified linguist. My major is English and Japanese as foreign languages, my minor is intercultural communication. Fun stuff!
Disclaimer #2 — I am not a professional translator, I have never worked in localization. Yes, I will say that something is translated poorly and something is not, and it will be my personal point of view. People have been complaining that I am picking on minor things or have weird opinions when it comes to "better translations". I want to emphasize that it's okay to have those :) Ultimately, my goal is to give you the information so you can see if the localization was good or not, whether something important was lost or not. My opinion is just that and I choose to share it, however odd it might seem.
Disclaimer #3 — I am not an expert on Buddhism or Shintoism, so if I get something wrong in the religious side of things, I'm sorry :D I will leave links to the religious terms that we will undoubtedly encounter so you can read more on your own, if you are interested.
This is a popular question in the comment section. In a nutshell, Japanese kanji usually have two types of readings: on-reading and kun-reading, there might be a number of them in each category. On-readings have carried over from Chinese since kanji were borrowed from there, and kun-readings are native to Japanese. When a kanji stands on its own and is used as a single word, it is read with its kun-reading. When a kanji is used as a part of a multi-kanji word, it is read with its on-reading. It is slightly more complicated, but in broad strokes I think it explains it.
As far as I know, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was localized into English by Mugen Creations.
[:] — colon after a vowel means that it's a long sound;
['] — apostrophe after a vowel or before a vowel (or between two [n]) means that these are two different syllables, not a single long one.
The transcriptions I give do not follow all academic rules, and I don't think it's necessary. They are just here to represent the pronunciation.
For this research I mostly used Sekiro Shadows Die Twice Official Artworks, English wiki and a number of dictionaries.
We'll start with the most important healing item of all - Healing Gourd! Its original name is 傷薬瓢箪 [sho:yaku hyo:tan]. 傷薬 [sho:yaku] denotes salve or potion, it's literally "wound" + "medicine". 瓢箪 [hyo:tan] denotes bottle gourd, we've talked about these gourds in the previous post about Status Effects. Healing Gourd looks like a typical bottle gourd.
The first paragraph is nearly identical to all the other gourds we discussed earlier, like Green Mossy Gourd or Withered Red Gourd. "Vitality-restoring medicine" is 薬水 [yakusui] - medicinal water, exactly the same thing that is found in all the other gourds. Interesting that here it's translated a bit differently.
I really like how the localization correctly writes "by an apprentice", hinting that there were more of them. The original says exactly this, "Made by one of the apprentices [...]". The last paragraph has also been done very well in my opinion.
It didn't make much sense to me why Kuro would have the Healing Gourd, and for a long time I thought it to be just a gameplay convenience. He cannot be hurt by normal means, he doesn't require medicine. However, when he gives the Gourd to Wolf, he uses the verb 託す [takusu] - to entrust someone with something, to place something under one's care. A weird word choice for a mere gameplay convenience. I checked the dialogue, and upon meeting Wolf for the first time, Emma confirms that she was the creator of the Gourd and she originally did make it specifically for Kuro. And then I realized that Emma saw the Dragonrot epidemic that Tomoe and Takeru inadvertently created, and since they did not have any cure at the time, everyone who caught it died, including Takeru, the Dragon Heir. I think, she might have created the Healing Gourd for Kuro to possibly help him if he ever catches Dragonrot like his predecessor. There isn't much interaction between her and Kuro in the game but she cares about him very deeply - and I think, her witnessing Tomoe and Takeru's tragedy is a big part of that.
Sometimes the kanji that pop up on the screen when you use an item are hard to read because of the stylized calligraphy writing but I think that the kanji you see when you use the Healing Gourd is this one - 治 [chi], one of its verbs is 治す [naosu] - to heal.
Gourd seed is called exactly that - 瓢箪の種 [hyo:tan no tane] - bottle gourd seed. The description confirms that the medicinal waters are created by the seeds - the original description even repeats this fact in a separate paragraph, which the English localization chose not to do.
「その弟子エマは、葦名に古くから伝わる｜薬水の曲がり瓢箪を詳しく調べる、この種を解き明かした」- "Emma, a pupil of Dogen, carefully researched the medicinal waters of the curved bottle gourds, known in Ashina since the ancient times, and discovered these seeds".
Emma researched the curved bottle gourds that we discussed in the previous post - they naturally grow throughout Ashina in poisonous lands, in scorched soil, on graveyards and battlefields, and are able to generate medicinal water with special properties. Emma discovered that the seeds were responsible for that, and thus she was able to create this special healing gourd that is fueled by these self-replenishing seeds. Emma is so cool!
Next up - a modest Pellet. Its original name is 丸薬 [gan'yaku] - pill, literally "round medicine". Interestingly enough, it's not just a random herb medicine shaped as a ball, but a 秘薬 [hiyaku] - secret medicine.
The second paragraph was localized quite accurately: these pellets have been around for a long time. Let's talk about a "pill case", the Japanese word for it is 印籠 [inro:]. Inrō is a traditional Japanese case for holding small objects. Japanese traditional garments more often than not didn't really have pockets so people needed something to carry their identity seals and medicine. Inrō is a stack of tiny nested boxes usually hung from the obi - a sash element of the garment. The anatomy of an inrō is quite curious, you can read more about it here, if you're interested. As you can probably imagine, there was no end to craftsmanship when it came to inrō - they were made of wood, bone, ivory, lacquer, and could be richly decorated. On the Pellet's picture you can see a little case - that's an inrō.
「丸薬を入れた印籠は、戦勝のお守り代わりでもある」- "There are also inrō with [these] pellets that are used instead of battle victory omamori".
When I first read "A pill case full of these pellets would also serve as a battle charm" I was sure that I was supposed to keep a certain number of pellets on hand and I'll be somehow buffed, like a secret mechanic :D But no, the original just says that these cases with pellets were used in the quality of an omamori charm that brings victory in battle, it's not actually a mechanic or anything.
When you use a Pellet, the kanji you see are 続治 - "continuous healing".
Divine Grass. People have been telling me for a while now that I need to look at the original description of Divine Grass, that it's somehow vastly different from the English description. I'll admit, I didn't take it seriously: come on, how different can it be? Sekiro overall is localized quite well I'd say. Probably the localization didn't have enough space and had to skip a line again. Or the original title was too long and didn't fit the symbol restriction and had to be somehow changed.
Well, you can imagine the look on my face when I read the original description and realized that the localized version has literally nothing to do with it. It can't even be called "a localized version" because nothing was localized, save for the effect of the item, the rest of the description is completely made up. However, I don't think that it was done out of some ill intention, that's silly. Maybe the original description changed during development, but the localized version of it wasn't updated accordingly due to some sort of unfortunate oversight. The English localization of Sekiro isn't known to just make up false descriptions that have nothing in common with the original so there's certainly some sort of unfortunate circumstance involved. Doesn't help us as players to understand the story though, and I'd say Divine Grass is probably one of the key items that have the most lore about gods in the entire game. So let's get to it, we'll translate it line by line and I'll do my best not to slip somewhere.
Its original name is 神食み [kamibami] - I found a whole forum where people discuss the correct reading of this word, there are several options but we'll go with [kamibami]. Initially I thought the literal translation would be "god's food", or "god's fodder"... 食み [hami] is derived from the verb 食む [hamu] - to eat (fodder or grass). But hold on to this thought as more meanings would become apparent as we dive deeper into the description.
「HPを完全に回復させる、いにしえの秘薬｜全ての状態異常も、併せて回復する」- "A secret medicine of the ancient times that fully restores HP and in addition cures all status abnormalities."
「葦名のひと際古い土地に生える草木には、名の無し小さな神々が寄っていたという」 - "It is said that small nameless gods gathered in the vegetation sprouting in the remarkably old Ashina lands."
Ok, brace yourself for the next line. So, here goes:
「これは、そうした草木を練り上げ作られる｜神々を食み、ありがたく戴く秘薬である」- "These plants were well kneaded. Consuming gods, [people] humbly received with gratitude this secret cure."
Small nameless gods gathered in the plants, and people kneaded the plants into these pellets - with gods still there - and, em, that's Divine Grass. Gods' food, but also kinda... Gods as food, you know.
「だが、神なる竜が根付いたのちは、そうした小さな神々は、姿を潜めてしまった。。。」 - "However, after the dragon god took root, these small gods went into hiding..."
Pretty different from the English description, huh.
The small nameless gods hid away when the Dragon took root in Ashina lands, and the big gods with names remained, we know at least about two of them: Shirohebi, a god of the land in the form of a white snake, and - Spoler alert! - Irogoi, a god of the land in the form of a coloured carp.
The original description explains why there are so few of these items throughout the game: it's been a very long time since smaller gods disappeared, there is no source of Divine Grass anymore. Less than a dozen is all that's left from the ancient times since before the Dragon. Now you can knead the plants and roll them into balls all you like but since the gods are gone, so are the powers of such a medicine. You know, during my first playthrough I chose the Homecoming ending because it seemed the right thing to do to rid the lands of Ashina of the curse of Dragon's Blood. Now it is obvious to me that it also benefits local deities who will probably come out of their hiding and repopulate the lands. And get rolled up into balls and eaten again...
It also sheds some light on the weird procedure of creating the cradle that can carry the Dragon home. The Child of Rejuvenation has to consume a pair of serpentine fruits: hearts of two generations of a local god that remained - god of the land White Snake. As we can see from the description of the Divine Grass, consuming gods to gain some benefit or to cause some sort of a divine effect isn't a new concept in Ashina lands. If you ate small nameless gods in the grass, you'd be cured of all illnesses but if you eat a part of a great god of the land - who knows what will occur. In part, it seems to be a joined effort from both humans and local deities to make things right and send the Dragon, who was washed up here accidentally and took root, home, and reclaim the land for themselves. Of course, it's all just my theories, take them with a grain of salt as always, but at least that's how I understand the events of the Homecoming ending. Sure, the White Snake didn't seem happy with Wolf stealing the enshrined viscera and then cutting out the fresh one, but the snakes will be fine.
When you use Divine Grass, you get a special animation and the kanji 治 [chi] - healing, just like when you use Healing Gourd, and then 癒 [yu] - cure, just like when you use an item that cures your status abnormality.
Let's look at different kanji that pop up on the screen when you use other healing items that we've already discussed in other posts:
Rice - the same kanji as when using a Pellet: 続治 - "continuous healing".
Fine Snow - the same kanji as when using a Pellet or Rice: 続治 - "continuous healing".
Sweet Rice Ball - 続治 - "continuous healing" and 続幹 - "continuous concentration [recovery]".
Let's move on to the items that have to do with resurrection, and we'll start with Bundled Jizo Statue! Its original name is おくるみ地蔵 [okurumi jizo:] - wrapped Jizō. おくるみ [okurumi] is a covering used to wrap a baby. Jizō is one of the most beloved deities in Japan, he is considered to be a guardian deity of children and travellers. Jizō, or Jizō Bosatsu, is a bodhisattva known under many names in different branches of Buddhism but we'll focus on the role of Jizō in Japan. He is a protector of children but also a guardian for the spirits of children who passed away. It is believed that if a child passes away before the parents do, they are unable to cross the river to the afterlife and are stuck in a limbo waiting for their parents. They make stone towers as a merit-making practice, to gain more merit for their parents and for themselves, but evil yokai destroy the towers and torment the children. Jizō hides the children from yokai spirits beneath his clothes, that's why you often see Jizō statues dressed - and dressed in red, because red is believed to ward off evil spirits. You can also see many stone towers near Jizō statues made by travelers to help children in their task of merit making and to help protect them from the mean yokai who topple the towers. Parents also give offerings to Jizō to thank him for saving their children from a serious illness.
「赤い布に包まれた小さな童地蔵」- "a small child Jizō wrapped in red cloth".
The localization says to "raise in prayer in between one's palms" while the original says to "place it on the open palm and pray", and if you look closely, you'll see that Wolf holds it on his palm while using the other hand to make a praying gesture.
Otherwise, the description is quite accurate, such a Jizō is a statement to parental love - 親ごころ [oyagokoro]. The grammatical structure of the next sentence suggests that while wrapping the little statue in cloth, parents pray that their child at least has a peaceful life.
If you refuse to lure Jinzaemon to the Abandoned Dungeon, you'll have a chance to pursue his weird personal quest, and as a reward you'll get this special Jizō Statue. Its original name is pretty straightforward - 陣左のおくるみ地蔵 [jinza no okurumi jizo:] - Jinza's wrapped Jizō.
「桜色の布に包まれた小さな童地蔵」- "a small child Jizō wrapped in cloth the colour of cherry blossom" (桜色 [sakurairo]).
The next part of the description is identical to that of a standard Jizō statue, it does the exact same thing, but the last part is unique and it's indented because it's direct speech. The localization is quite accurate - someone is asking Lord Sakuza to take this pink cloth and wrap the little one in it, praying that the child at least has a peaceful life.
Apparently, there is a familial connection between Jinzaemon and lord Sakuza: Jinzaemon literally has this item, and it's called "Jinza's Jizō statue". Also, Jinza and Sakuza share a common kanji 左 [za], which is not really a proof of anything but just a curious detail. It prompted me to research why some male names end in "-zaemon" (左衛門) or "-uemon" (右衛門), the difference between the two being that one of them has a "left" kanji (左), and the other has the "right" (右) kanji. Not to dive too deep into it at this time, it apparently has to do with court titles that later morphed to become name parts, which might suggest that Jinzaemon has some noble heritage. I strongly suspect that Lord Sakuza is a short version of Sakuzaemon, much like Jinza is a shorter version of Jinzaemon.
There is one more character that shares the same name pattern - and it's Owl. In the Shura ending Wolf murders him as he is uttering his name, and he is interrupted at 薄井右近左... [usui ukonza...] but since we can predict the typical ending, it's most likely Ukonzaemon, with the same -zaemon part.
If Jinzaemon and lord Sakuza share a familial connection, what about O'Rin? She'll enter her second phase saying:
「ああ、作左様。。。来てくれぬなら、せめて、代わりに。。。」 - "Ah, Lord Sakuza, if you won't come yourself, then at least, in your stead..."
If you pursue Jinzaemon's quest and he's just outside the arena, as you kill O'Rin, she'll say this:
「ああ。。。良かった｜作左様が。。。代わりに、あの子を寄越してくれた。。。そこに、いるのですね。。。」- "Ah, what a relief. Lord Sakuza sent that child in his stead... He is over there, isn't he?.."
She's obviously talking about Jinzaemon, whom she thinks lord Sakuza sent in his stead. She is calling him a "child", much like the description of the Jizō statue is talking about a child. I think there might be a familial connection between Jinzaemon and O'Rin. O'Rin is an apparition but apparently she cannot find peace, and I believe she finds it if we lead Jinzaemon to her. Then, in true Sekiro fashion, everybody dies. The only thing that gnawed at me was this: O'Rin is incredibly vulnerable to Sabimaru's poison, and this fact together with the sakura cloth, makes it seem that she is an okami descendant. If that's so, and Jinzaemon is related to her, is he susceptible to Sabimaru too? I never attacked him in any of my playthroughs. I asked a friend to look into the game files for me, and turns out that no, Jinzaemon doesn't have any weaknesses to Sabimaru. Then again, I do think that it's only women who carry the vulnerability to Sabimaru, so Jinzaemon not being vulnerable doesn't really disprove his possible relation to O'Rin.
I didn't mean to include the Sakuza-O'Rin-Jinzaemon story in this video but oh well, we have what we have :D When you use any Jizō statue, there aren't any kanji flashing on the screen, but the animation is the same one that you get when using Dragon's Blood Droplet as a consumable item.
Why #1, you ask? Because there are two different Bite Downs in the game with slightly different descriptions, much like there are two differently described Sweet Rice Balls. Bite Down #1 is a classic Bite Down. Its original name is 嚙み締め [kamishime], and "bite down" is a perfect translation for it. It's literally "bire down hard" and we've seen this word multiple times in Sugars' descriptions.
The description is quite accurate, I like the way it's worded. Bite Down, like Divine Grass and Pellet, is a 秘薬 [hiyaku] - secret medicine.
You can get Bite Down #2 from the red-eyed Nightjar on the roofs of the Ashina Castle when it is overrun the second time, after you defeat Sakura Dragon and come back. On the roofs closer to Ashina Castle Idol there are Nightjar shinobi fighting each other, and that's where you can get Bite Down medicine with a slightly different description. The name is unchanged, it's still 嚙み締め [kamishime].
「自ら死ぬべき時。それを見誤ることもある。如何な事情あれど｜葦名を裏切り、生き長らえるなど。。。」 - "It's time to [suffer] death by one's own hands. This time can be misjudged: betraying Ashina, ensuring survival no matter the circumstances..."
I think, this part of the description tells us why the Nightjar shinobi are fighting each other: Ashina is overrun and burning, the situation is dire, and at this time the Nightjar clan split in two: some of them betrayed Ashina to ensure their survival, and others made peace with the fact that they will inevitably meet their demise. At least, that's how I understand it.
Its original name is 奥の歯 [oku no ha] - back tooth. The first line of the description specifies that it is a 差し歯 [sashiba] - a false tooth.
The original doesn't mention the blue nostrum, it gives a much simpler instruction:
「使うときは、奥歯を嚙み締める」 - "to use, bite down hard on your back teeth."
The last line is my favorite, it turned out great in the English localization - the first death is typically one's last.
Red Lumps have a distant connection to resurrection - they prohibit its use - but I decided to research them here. There are four different types of Red Lumps in the game, two of them are identical save for the NPC name. This is the ordinary Red Lump, its original name is 赤成り玉 [akanari tama] - red lump, or "lump that became red". 玉 [tama] can denote a variety of round things, but the description also says that this item is a 塊 [katamari] - lump or mass, so the localization is accurate.
「食らえば赤目となる、赤く丸い塊」- "red round mass turning one red-eyed upon consumption".
The next line explaining in detail what it is, is quite curious in Japanese:
「成りたいものに、成れなかった者の名残」- "a trace of a person who couldn't become the thing they wanted"
When talking about the subject of change, the original uses the kanji 者 for [mono], meaning "person". However, when talking about what that person wanted to become, it just says もの [mono] in hiragana, which could be both 者 [mono] as "person" and物 [mono] as "thing". In the lands of Ashina people want to become all sorts of things - immortals, carps, you name it, so I think this subtle detail is trying to convey that.
When you use any Red Lump, the kanji on the screen are 赤目 [akame] - red eyes.
Depending on who you send to Doujun, you get to fight either Jinzaemon or Kotaro, and upon death they drop an alternative version of a Red Lump. Their descriptions are identical, the only difference is the name: it's either one or the other. The name of the item also doesn't change, it's still 赤成り玉 [akanari tama].
「赤目と成り果てた陣左衛門｜その体内にあった、赤く丸い塊」- "red round mass found inside the body of Jinzaemon, who was reduced to a Red-Eyes."
The last paragraph, unique to Kotaro and Jinzaemon's Red Lumps, is localized accurately - this thing will likely remain in the stomach forever. Yuck.
Academics' Red Lump is the most interesting of the bunch, its original name is 師弟の赤なり玉 [shitei no akanari tama], where 師弟 [shitei] means "teacher and student". Teacher and student's Red Lump.
The first paragraph is identical to that of Kotaro and Jinzaemon's Red Lumps - this is the one found in the body of Doujun, who was reduced to a Red-Eyes.
The last paragraph basically spills the truth about the weird relationships between Doujun and his mysterious teacher, master surgeon Dousaku - even more so than ther Rot Essence description and the fact that they catch Dragonrot together. I think, the original differs slightly from the localized version.
「道策と道順は、まさしく師弟であった｜こう在りたいと追い求める理想の姿は、往々にして自らの内にこそある」- "Dousaku and Doujun certainly were a teacher and a student. Sometimes, the pursued perfect form of [this relationship] lies within [the person]."
I think, the original description implies that the Dousaku\Doujun split personality is caused by Dousaku's pursuit of the perfect teacher-student relationship that fell out of reach after his and Dougen's paths separated and all students left him for Dougen. He had to get an apprentice from somewhere, and he did.
Since Doujun is a former Senpou Monk, I wonder if Dougen was too?..
And that's it for this post! Pheeeew, Divine Grass and Jinza's Jizō Statue were the main points of research and I feel exhausted but totally satisfied. Today I learned something new about the world of Sekiro, and I hope you did too! We have about two posts left and there are still things to learn and discover.
As usual, stay tuned here and on the Lair's YouTube channel not to miss out on anything.
Thank you for your time.