The pentagram is a simple shape with deep meanings. No matter what faith or race we come from that little star seems to conjure up thoughts and feelings more than mere circles or dodecahedrons could ever do to the masses.

So when someone tweeted an image from Google Maps with a pentagram laying upside-down over much of the Kansai Region of Japan, it generated quite a bit of buzz along with 13,000 retweets. It was created by joining several religiously significant locations in the area and has Japan’s ancient capital of Nara smack dab in the center.

Points of the star

This pentagram links five special locations together at a distance of one degree of latitude or (assuming they are using a spherical estimation of the earth) about 111km (69 miles). These locations are (using the letters from the image):

A: Izanagi Jingu (Awaji, Hyogo)
This shrine complex is named after Izanagi, the father of Japan in a creation myth. In the legend he and his deity mate Izanami give birth to all the islands of Japan with Awaji Island being the first.

B: Toyuke Daijinja (Fukuchiyama, Kyoto)
Known as an “original Ise Shrine” which means before the creation of Ise Grand Shrine it was the holder of Toyuke Omikami, the goddess of farming and a major deity of the Shinto religion.

C: Mount Ibuki (Ibigawa, Gifu / Maibara, Shiga)
Mount Ibuki has long been a location of strategic importance during more tumultuous times of Japan’s history, but the mountain’s area also contains legends of plants and soils with remarkable healing properties.

D: Ise Jingu (Ise, Mie)
Considered one of the preeminent shrines of Shinto, Ise is actually a sprawling complex of over 100 smaller shrines. It contains the scared mirror Yata No Kagami, a gift given to the imperial family by the goddess Amaterasu.

E: Kumano Hongu Taisha (Tanabe, Wakayama)
This major Shinto shrine can be found well into the Kii mountains of Wakayama. This area is one of the major pilgrimage stops and was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004.

Bobosei (Five-Pointed Star)

During the time when Nara was the capital, the pentagram was a powerful symbol of protection used by onmyodo, a type of mysticism derived from Chinese beliefs such as yin and yang and the five elements. The most famous practitioner (onmyoji) of this religion was Abe no Seimei who used the pentagram as a seal to protect from evil as well as his family mon (crest).

Here’s a demonstration of the pentagram in use from the smash hit online music video Let’s Go! Onmyoji.

About a millennium ago onmyoji had a fair bit of clout on the politics of Japan and were called upon by Japan’s elite to handle tricky deeds such as exorcisms and fortune telling. There were also advised when it came to the establishment of things such as the capital, Nara.

So if this tweet’s theory is correct, it’s not surprising that the location would be given some sort of mystical protection through onmyodo. Actually, as many comments pointed out, this theory was not very new either. It was mentioned in several manga and books over the years such as Tenjo Tenge by Oh! great or Sengoku Jietai by Ryo Hanmura.

With the sense that this theory is probably right we’re left with two rather large questions: Why is it upside-down? and Does Tokyo also have some sort of mystical protection?

We’re all screwed

Again, this is all under the presumption that this pentagram was intentionally created. First, it’s a little odd that the pentagram is seen with the two bottom points facing upwards which is generally considered bad mojo around the world. The simple assumption would be that the onmyoji of 8th century Japan weren’t overly concerned with how their pentagram would look on Google Maps.

Or were they? The following is a 1656 recreation of the Gyokizu, a map of the Yamato Kingdom created during the Nara period about 900 years before by a Buddhist monk to illustrate the routes of the land. Although there is debate on how authentic this map is to the original(s) it seems to show that folks back then had a pretty decent enough grasp of geography to not accidentally put the pentagram upside-down.

Of course, there’s the possibility that an “upside-down” star may have had no signifigance in onmyodo whatsoever. But there’s also the possibility that someone had made that particular onmyoji a bad cup of tea one day and he just decided to hex everyone in Kansai for eternity.

As for Tokyo, there apparently is a magical seal protecting it as well. Much like the Nara pentagram, the Tokyo shield uses the five elements as laid out in China’s Wu Xing philosophy. The elements are often orientated in a five star pattern and each also has characteristic colors.

So if you’re in the Tokyo area you might want to check out the Goshiki Fudo. Fudo is short for the deity Fudō-myōō also known as Acala. If you happen to be around a Buddhist temple you can’t miss his statue. He’s usually carrying a sword, is engulfed in flames, and has a really pissed off look on his face.

Despite his menacing appearance, he is actually a benevolent force to escort those on the path to enlightenment. Word is that the Goshiki Fudo are five Acala statues with different colored eyes representing each of the five elements.

1 – Black Eyes (Water), Ryusen Temple, Meguro Ward
2 – White Eyes (Metal), Konjoin, Toshima Ward
3 – Red Eyes (Fire), Nankoku Temple, Bunkyo Ward
4 – Green Eyes (Wood), Saisho Temple, Setagaya Ward
5 – Yellow Eyes (Earth), Saisho Temple, Edogawa Ward
*Notice 4 and 5 are different temples even though their names are pronounced the same.

That being said there are a whole bunch of Acala statues everywhere, so true locations may vary if there are any to begin with. Also, word on the net is that the recent construction of the Sky Tree has screwed with this feng shui of Tokyo and opened up the door to misfortune for the metropolis. This may account for the tower’s poor attendance.

Whether or not this is true is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile though, living near the middle of Kansai’s upside-down pentagon has brought closure to a lot of questions regarding my own life such as why I’m not devastatingly handsome or absurdly rich, and why my toast got burned this morning even though I swear I had set the timer to the usual position!

Source: Twitter, My Game News Flash, Green Shinto, Fudo Miyo-O
Video: YouTube – bussan00
Images:  Abe no Seimei mon – Wikipedia-Mukai, Five Elements – Wikipedia, Gyokizu – Wikipedia, Kumano – Wikipedia-Miya.m, Ise Jingu – Wikipedia-Tawashi2006, Ibuki – Wikipedia-kazu2011, Toyuke – Wikipedia-As6022014, Izanagi – Wikipedia-ChiefHira, Fudo – Wikipedia