10 Spooky Japanese Superstitions

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Like any other country, Japan has it’s own unique set of beliefs, superstitions and unusual habits. Some concern themselves with numerology, some relate to death, and some simply defy any logical link to anything whatsoever.
Below are some of the more common superstitions you may come across on your travels in Japan.

1. Hearse / Ambulance

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When a hearse (霊柩車 reikyusha) or an ambulance passes by, and you either see or hear it, in the latter case people tend to tuck in the thumbs into their fists. This action is believed to “protect” their parents, since the word for thumb, “oyayubi” (親指) literally means “parent-thumb”.

2. Cutting Your Nails At Night

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According to this superstition, cutting your nails at night will bring bad luck and you will not be able to be there when your parents pass away. Surely this belief started when electricity was a rare thing, and was meant to avoid cutting yourself due to poor lighting.

3. Whistle At Night And You Attract Burglars

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In old times, whistling was commonly used by burglars and criminals to communicate with each other. Now it is clear why you should not whistle or play a flute – you would invite all the bad into your house.

4. Chopsticks Stuck Vertically Into The Rice Bowl

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This is not only a really bad manner, it is believed to be extremely unlucky to do so. The reason is simple: this is only done during a funeral, when the food is “offered” to the deceased.

5. Breaking A Comb

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If you happen to break a comb, this is a sign of misfortune. Years ago, a comb was an expensive acquisition, so this belief is not that crazy: you would have to spend a lot of money to buy another one!

6. Do Not Step At A Tatami Border

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This also applies to a slide door’s border: it is believed to bring bad luck if stepping on a Japanese tatami mat’s border. If examined more detailed, you will see, that Japanese tatami mats have a silk border, where some families have their family emblem engraved on it. That is why it is considered rude and bad luck to step on them withyour feet!

7. Hide Your Bellybutton

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Where it seems that with this superstition worrying parents try to tame their wild teenage daughter, who is wearing crazy belly-tops, this has a different origin.
According to Japanese mythology, Raijin (雷神/らいじん), the god of thunder, lightning, and storms, would eat the bellybuttons (or entire abdomen) of children. Also, his companion god, Raijuu (雷獣/らいじゅう) is believed to sleep in bellybuttons, and waken up by Raijin by striking a lightning.

8. Never Sleep Facing North

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The body of deceased on a funeral are placed north. To avoid receiving bad luck or even ending up dead, people avoid sleeping in the north direction.

9. Do Not Write A Name With Red Ink

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It is very rude and believed to bring bad luck to write a name in red ink. That is due to the fact, that Japanese tomb stones are having the family members written in black and red ink.

10. Number 4

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“Ichi, ni, san, chi”, that is “one, two, three, four” in Japanese. The number four, “shi” (四) has another meaning as well:“shi” (死) means “death”.
Therefore, anything in relation to four is being avoided. Room Number 4, gifts are chosen either 3 or 5 pieces, and products, in general are usually not sold in sets of four.The more Japanese superstitions you know, the better you get used to the culture and mutual understanding can improve.

Additionally: you understand why people behave differently and can integrate more smoothly once you learn the beliefs, that have dominated Japanese culture for centuries.

Credit – Japan Info

Brought to You By- Sikandar Kumar Mehta

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