Have you heard of the akai ito legend? A widely held famous Asian belief in Japan that indicates that two people are linked by the red thread of fate. In this article we will do a thorough research on this legend and try to answer all the curiosities related to it.
The word akai ito [赤い糸] literally means red thread and applies to a belief/legend of Chinese origin is non-Japanese. According to legend, the gods tie an invisible red rope around the ankles of men and women who are predestined to be soul mates.
The red thread of Destiny is not necessarily a literal red line. It’s like a countdown timer to alert you just when you find the perfect person. There are several differences between the Chinese legend and the Japanese legend that we will see in this article.
Origin on the Legend of Akai Ito
Legend has it that the red thread may stretch or tie but it will never breaker, no matter how much time passes, the 2 people will meet. In the Japanese version of the legend we usually find the red thread tied in the smallest finger of the couple’s hand.
The legend arose in China during the Hokuso Period. Yuè Xià Lǎorén, an ancient Lunar God of love and marriage, is believed to tie these strings to the birth of people. It is believed that the longer the thread, the farther and sadder the destined people are…
This legend spread throughout Asia, especially Japan, and was fully incorporated into the country’s culture, making appearances in various anime, drama, manga and movies. There is even a drama of the same name, which I recommend taking a look at, it addresses various subjects that help to reflect on life.
Differences Between Chinese and Japanese Legend
The legend is already represented differently in Japan. As already mentioned, instead of an ankle rope, in Japan is a red thread attached to the little finger. The Japanese version of Legend shows a boy who says never to marry until God Xia Lao Yue says he is tied to a girl by a red thread.
Outraged by this upon meeting the girl he throws a stone at her and says he will never marry. The boy grows up and can never fall in love until he meets a girl he is unable to see the face and marries her, asking why she covered her face she says it was because in childhood a boy threw a stone at her and left a scar on his eyebrow.
In the Chinese version a man is about to get married, God says that he is not the right person and points a red baby through the red rope. Annoyed he sets the baby’s house on fire and marries the wrong person and has an unhappy life. The story repeats itself and he ends up marrying the girl who survived.
Yubikiri Genman – Little Finger Promise
It was from this Japanese legend that came the famous promise Yubikiri Genman [指切り拳万]. That famous Japanese oath, in which two people who are making a promise join their little fingers and sing:
指切りげん: まんうそ ついたら 針 千本 飲ます指切った。
Yubikiri gen: Ma n uso tsuitara hari Senbon nomasu yubi kitta.
Little Finger Promise: If I lie, I will swallow 1000 needles and cut my finger.
- 指 – finger;
- 切り– cut;
- げんまん – Ten thousand;
- うそ – lie;
- うそ ついたら – if i lie;
- 針 – Needle;
- 針千本 – 1000 Needle;
- 飲ます – Drink, swallow;
- 指切った – I will cut my finger;
The red thread of fate can sometimes also be related to Reincarnation Romance as happened in Darling in the Franxx. Sometimes the works that represent Akai Ito bring together things like first love, first sight love, or forbidden love.
Akai Ito Anime & DRAMAs
Both akai ito and yubikiri appear several times in anime, music and games. My most recent memory is at the second opening of oreimo. Let’s now recommend some works related to Akai ito for you to watch:
Akai Ito – This drama tells the story of Mei and Atsushi who study at the same school and have birthdays on the same day, each with his own life. In this work with the name of the theme of the article we will see how the red thread will act to unite these 2 people.
Koizora – Another drama/movie based on a mobile game that became a big romantic hit. Koizora tells the story of Mika, a young student who wants to fall in love as soon as she enters high school. One day she receives calls from a mysterious boy until she is conquered and some bullshit happens that will make you cry.
Koi To Uso – An anime that strongly questions akai ito’s ties showing a modern Japan where the government chooses the spouse the person will marry. How does one feel if he is in love with another? Will the red thread of fate change that?
Kimi no Nawa – A masterpiece of animation that conquered everyone in 2016/2017 that can have action, comedy and romance with beautiful animation and direction. The story initially shows 2 young people who usually change bodies randomly. A must have movie!
In India there is a red rope called the Rakhi which indicates a bond between a brother and a sister and serves as a protective talisman. In fact this thread is sometimes used to kill romantic interests of others. It is a literal string and is usually tied around the wrist instead of linking one person to another.
There are gestures involving the fingers that serve as an abbreviation. If we hold the little finger we indicate a boyfriend, if we hold the thumb we indicate a girlfriend. This gesture is believed to have arisen because of akai ito.
There are songs that cite or refer to red wire legend as Red Chord de Frames; Tip of My Tongue de The Civil Wars; L’espoir ~Mahô no Akai Ito~; Nankai Renai de Gumi; Dive Bar de The Tower; The Fool and many others.
Even in Game Zelda: Skyward Sword, one of my favorite franchises, there is a slight reference to Akai Ito. Leading villain Lord Ghirahim says the link is destined to meet him and is linked by a red thread of fate. The villain even won a related attack in the game Hyrule Warriors.
There are movies and doramas that make references to akai ito like Dolls, Touch, Hanamuko wa 18sai, Ashurajou no Hitomi and many others. Several other anime such as Black Clover, Tsuki ga Kirei, Ranma ½, Toradora, Inuyasha, Pokemon, Naruto and many others who also make references. Can you remember any?
When was the last time you came across akai ito in any Japanese work? Leave your comments and if possible share with friends. Thank you and see you next time!