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Unusual Japanese Superstitions

Unusual Japanese Superstitions Some of Which seem Quite Silly

By Honey B Wackx.

The Japanese are a very superstitious people. They follow many unusual superstitions some of which seem quite silly, at least to those of us that are not Japanese, and some of which are unique in their own ways. Whatever may be the case; these superstitions have a very vital role in the society of Japanese people.


Below are some of the Japanese superstitions I’ve discovered:

The Japanese firmly believe that non-living things or inanimate objects have ghosts or spirits in them. This belief is further elaborated by the fact that they celebrate a festival of burning unwanted dolls. There is also a folktale of living umbrella which further makes the people remember that the inanimate objects have life. Unlucky numbers in Japanese custom are the number nine and number four as they both are pronunciations of the word death and pain respectively. Even the numbers 42 and 24 are considered unlucky numbers. Rarely a Japanese sportsman wears a jersey with these numbers and even the hotels, vehicles and hospital room numbers do not sport this number.

Cutting of nails at night means the arrival of quick death according to one Japanese superstition. The middle person in a photograph of three is considered to be unlucky and it means the person will face death soon.

Something similar to this was pointed out to me a few years ago when we were looking at family pictures. At the time I thought, what the heck, what kind of nonsense is that? The person who pointed it out to me was not Japanese, but was from an Asian country. However it didn’t seem so funny when what she said came true a short time later.

There are some lucky superstitions in Japanese culture which are unique.

  • Eating a pickled plum early in the morning prevents accidents.
  • Stepping on animal dung or a bird pooping on you is also considered lucky. Weather conditions are also predicted by these superstitions.
  • It is believed that if a shoe lands on its sole, the weather is going to be pleasant. If it lands upside down then it indicates the onset of rain and if it lands on the side, then the weather is going to be cloudy.

My information didn’t say, but I am assuming that in these shoe superstitions that the shoe is thrown up in the air and when it lands in the indicated positions, that’s what the superstitions are referring to.

The Japanese also believe that wearing an amulet with prayers inscribed is effective in warding off evil omens. There are different kinds of amulets, each aiming at solving a different purpose. Some other funny superstitions are like whistling at night invites a snake to the home. Another is lying down immediately after eating your food will turn you into a cow. To me, if this isn’t ridiculous then nothing is, although I thought the same way about the people in a picture – to my dismay.

According to other Japanese superstitions, February 3rd is considered important because on this day, it is said that eating of beans makes the person strong and healthy. On this day, bad luck is thrown out of the house by throwing dried Soya beans out of the house. This ensures good luck into the house. New shoes should be worn first early in the morning. Wearing them later in the afternoon or evening is a sign of bad luck. Playing with fire is a sign of bed wetting at night. So the kids are asked not to do so. Aside from that, I think this is a very and dangerous habit. The use of needle and thread before leaving the house is inauspicious.

In the Japanese Language writing the words ‘human beings’ on your palms is believed to relieve one from stress and nervousness. Some rare combinations of Japanese food like eel and plums eaten together will make you sick. On seeing a funeral car, one should hide one’s thumbs, or a close one of that people may die soon.

All these and many other superstitions belonging to the Japanese culture are prevalent even today. If you know of any other Japanese superstitions not mentioned here or any mentioned you can elaborate on please enter a reply so our other readers can learn about them.

Copyright © 2011-2013

Asian Superstition Question

Sandra asks…

Is there some sort of superstition about eating all white food in Asia?

It has happened twice, once in china and once in japan. I was picking myself whatever food i liked and when i sat down on the table someone else pointed out – hey all your food is white. I’m from Europe so i hadn’t been paying any attention to it at all, just picked what tastes i liked. but as it happened twice i started thinking maybe there is some superstition or folklore in Asia associated with eating white food. nobody in Europe has ever pointed anything like that out to me
Same, you just making it up or actually being serious? i understand the idea, for example there would definitely be jokes about it in Europe when black man was eating all black/brown foods, or Asian eating all yellow foods. i don’t really mind if there is any sort of cultural joke behind it but id like to know if its just a coincidence or if there is more to it. superstitions and beliefs can have lots of influence on people, imagine that you are on a business lunch with a very religious Muslim and you order pork and wine, not the smartest move right, it could end up influencing your business. i just want to be sure its nothing of that sort

“I’m not aware of any superstition of such thing. My guess is that it’s because you ate food that happens to be food of the whites (Western food)”
no it was all local cuisine, rice, sushi, crab stuff like that, white by the color. and the fact that I’m not local is pretty obvious and well known anyhow. i also don’t think it was a joke of any kind, it was just like a plain statement, “look what you are eating”. maybe just something that is supposed to bring good/bad luck?

Suzi Q answers:

I’m not aware of any superstition of such thing. My guess is that it’s because you ate food that happens to be food of the whites (Western food) that the Asian people became curious and assume that you are not from the country originally. Because of that, they will treat you differently (in business as well). Some Asians are nice enough to be very attentive and help you as much as possible (thinking that you’re incapable of fully adapting to the Asian culture) and some carry on as they are, but won’t necessarily help you when you have language troubles (instead they will joke about it).
It’s definitely not as bad as eating pork and drinking wine in front of a religious Muslim lol

Chris asks…

Does anyone know some well known superstitions in japan?

I’m thinking about moving to japan in a few years and i wanted to know some of their superstitions, tall tales, folk lore and anything else anyone thinks i should know before moving there

Suzi Q answers:

They have this quote “the nail that sticks out gets hammered” which just means you cant be different and everyone should be the same.

Sharon asks…

What are some superstitions in japan?

Suzi Q answers:

Don’t lie down and heading north for sleep.
(People let dead man only lie down in Buddhist ceremony)

Wedding ceremony would not be held on Butsu-metsu day.
(Butsu-metsu day is Buddhist almanac’s Buddha’s death day, which happens 4 to 5 times a month)

Don’t stick chopsticks in steamed-rice filled in the rice bowl.
(It resembles dish for dead person for Buddhist.)

Thomas asks…

Japanese hide and seek ghost with bear?

I heard there’s a superstition in Japan about playing hide and go seek with a teddy bear and it summons ghosts.
You do this at 3 AM in the morning, and you can be the only one in your house.

You take out the stuffing and fill it with rice, and a clipping of your nail so it knows who you are. Then you put it in a filled bath tub, tell it your name, and count to ten. Then you return to the bathroom and stab it with a knife. Then you tell it to come find you. Then you hide somewhere, and all the lights must be out except for a TV or computers screen. Then you wait for a while, and when the TV starts flickering and getting messed up, you put salt water in your mouth, and go find the bear. The bear might have left the b-room. You have to find it in an hour and when you do, you spit the water in it’s face and say “I win!” three times.

Any idea what I’m talking about or does it sound like just a bunch of weird Asian crap?
by the way, i found this out from a guy in my dorm from japan, and there are a lot of Google results in Japanese.

I Googled it myself and I found nothing. I probably won’t even get any answers to this >__>
and, you have to finish within an hour or so. if you don’t the ghost is supposed to screw you up psychologically or something.
to answer a question, its just your first name you tell it. and you have to name it by the name of someone you hate, or someone close to you. not just a random name out of thin air.

I don’t believe in this or anything but its still seems like it’d be fun to do. Oh and if the ghost finds you before you find it something bad happens. You become invisible by having salt water. Some people have claimed to see the ghost while walking to find the bear.

Also, if your house has a specific ghost you are familiar with, look for it. (hopefully its friendly.)

if the area has a lot of ghost, then make extra care to find the bear in an hour, otherwise all the ghosts have access to portal.

You MUST burn the bear when you are done. (Obviously the next morning. It would be kind of hard to do if its soaking wet.) if you can’t burn it, you just have to make sure it doesn’t retain the shape of a bear. Tear it up or something. Otherwise more ghosts can come haunt you.
obviously none of this will apply to you if you don’t believe in ghosts. if you do, do all the steps i said exactly how i said them. The bear must be prepared BEFORE 3, and you must start counting at 3.

Its fun to try. Even if you don’t believe in this stuff, there’s still part of your subconscious mind that makes it real, because you might want it to be real.

Have fun!

I’m gonna try it but it sounds like a lot of preparation must go into it.
By the way, you have to sew the bear back up after filling it with rice. It must be lead string, and any extra string left hanging off, you rap around the bear’s torso. idk why.

Suzi Q answers:

Sounds freaky as hell. Try it. I wouldn’t =]

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