The 15 Amazing Japanese Superstitions

Bad luck strikes you? Maybe you have not respected the Japanese superstitions.

Japanese superstitions called “Meishin” are a series of irrational beliefs based on supernatural powers and omens.

Meanwhile, to avoid this, here are the most amazing superstitions found in Japanese culture.

1) Don't put your pillow towards the north

When you move into a new house, it is a good idea to take a compass or know where north is. In Buddhist funerals, the body of the deceased faces north. So it is important for Japanese people not to put their pillow towards the north

2) Do not whistle at night

A whistle at night can attract snakes near your home. At least this is what a legend of the Edo era says, where a young man whistled to attract bandits near his home.

3) Don't cut your nails at night

In Japan, cutting one’s nails at night causes misfortune.

According to this superstition, those who break this rule are not at the funeral of their parents.

4) No thumbs up if there is a hearse

You may come across a hearse on your walks. In that case, it’s a good idea to hide your thumb (and your child’s thumb) to protect yourself from death. In fact, this superstition comes from Japanese vocabulary, where the word “thumb” (親指, “oyayubi”) and the word “parent” (親 “oya”) are used, have the same pronunciation.

5) Do not break your geta

Geta are a type of wooden flip-flop covered with cloth worn by Japanese women in summer. If this cloth breaks, Japanese tradition says that it brings bad luck. This superstition is similar to us in France with the broken mirror.

6) Don't push your chopsticks into the rice

In Buddhist funerals, there is a custom of sticking chopsticks into the rice when burying the deceased. If you do it while eating, then it may bring you bad luck.

7) Don't walk hungry on a lightning day

Some Japanese believe that having a bare stomach on a stormy day can allow lightning (symbolizing demons) to strike your navel

8) Do not use the number 4

The number “4” is not widely pronounced in Japan.

And for a good reason. It is because it is pronounced “shi”, which means “death” in Japanese.

In Japanese, 4 can be pronounced in two ways: yon or shi. Death is pronounced shi in Japanese.

Therefore, superstitious Japanese people would like to avoid the number 4 as much as possible.

9) Not to be born in the year of the horse

If you are getting married, you should read your horoscope to see how compatible your two spouses are. However, if a woman was born in the year of the horse, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990 or 2002, her marriage could be complicated. Throughout Japanese history, women born on these days have been known to kill, or at least hurt, their husbands.

10) Do not use red ink to write someone's name

It is better not to write someone’s name in red, because red is the color used to engrave names on Japanese graves.

11) Don't kill the spider in the morning

Spiders bring good luck in Japan, so beware and do not crush spiders! 

12) Teru teru bouzu

A lighter and more accessible superstition, the “Teruteru bôzu” is a great classic that Japanese parents share with their children.

A handmade doll made of fabric to protect from the rain. Attach it to your windows the day before a family outing to avoid fogging and let the sun shine.

Whatever emotions these Japanese customs and superstitions evoke, do not take them lightly. Otherwise, you will hurt the sensitivity of the Japanese people you meet during your trip to Japan.

13) Japanese tea

If you see small branches of tea floating vertically in your cup, it is a sign of good luck. There are many ways to taste and discover the many varieties in Japan.

14) Do not bring potted flowers to someone who is ill

When you visit a sick person in Japan, be careful not to take a flowerpot with you, as the roots symbolize a slow healing. However, nothing forbids a nice bouquet.

Now you know everything about these 14 Japanese superstitions… Of course, there are many others.

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