20 Fascinating Japanese Superstitions That Will Blow Your Mind

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Japan has an ancient culture and history, and needless to say, this has resulted in unique legends, myths, and superstitions that have emerged over time.

Japanese superstitions tend to be either rational or quite bizarre. However, all of them appear to have an exciting story while showing a completely different aspect of the distinctive culture.

In this article let’s take a look at a list of the most interesting Japanese superstitions.  

So, gear up and get started to be intrigued!

Uttering “Shio” is Forbidden at Night

Shio in Japanese is known as salt. And this sounds quite similar to shi, which means death in Japanese. Even today, some people in Japan believe that uttering this word at night might make something terrible happen.

Inanimate Objects Possess Spirits

Japanese Buddhists still believe that particular inanimate objects, such as dolls, contain spirits. There are quite a few Japanese stories about how some inanimate objects came to life, which is why Japan holds an annual ceremony known as Ningyo Kuyo. Here, if a doll owner wants to get rid of an old doll, they say a prayer before discarding them.

7 Is Lucky and 4 and 9 Are Unlucky Numbers

Not only in Japan, but people across various countries believe in lucky and unlucky numbers. Japanese people consider the numbers 4 and 9 to be unlucky as they rhyme with death and pain, respectively, which is why some buildings in Japan don’t have the fourth and ninth floors!

On the other hand, Japanese people consider seven to be a lucky number. Japanese Buddhists celebrate the seventh day of a baby’s life. Besides, they believe in the Seven Gods of Luck, who are popularly known as Shichifukujin. The Japanese people celebrate Tanabata every summer on the 7th of July.

Breaking a Comb Brings Bad Luck

Have you ever heard that breaking a mirror is a sign of absolute bad luck? Well, in Japan, it is similar to that of breaking a comb! Whenever you are visiting Japan, you should be extra careful while handling your comb.

Cutting Fingernails at Night is Best Avoided

cutting fingernails

Some Japanese people believe that cutting fingernails at night might lead to an early death. This belief is typically based on wordplay. The Japanese kanji which refers to cutting your nails at night can also be interpreted as “quick death”.

Droppings of Birds and Other Animals are Considered Lucky

This is one quirky Japanese superstition. Basically, if this unpleasant incident ever happens to you, you should probably consider yourself lucky. Un, meaning ‘luck’ in Japanese, has the same pronunciation as that of excrement. This similarity in the pronunciation of words means that both are considered to have the same meaning – in this case, luck.

Your Shoes Can Make Weather Predictions!

Who requires fancy meteorology equipment when your shoes can make accurate weather predictions? All you need to do is throw your shoes up high into the air, and wait until it lands.

If your shoe lands on the sole, then it calls for pleasant weather. And if it lands on its side, the day will probably be cloudy. Finally, if your shoe lands upside down, it will undoubtedly rain!

Plums Bring Good Luck

Certain superstitious beliefs in Japan suggest pickled plums are capable of bringing good luck. In fact, it can also prevent any accidents from occurring. And some Japanese people also believe eating an umeboshi or pickled plum every morning is crucial. This might probably protect you from other dangers.

Japanese Prayer Amulets are Deemed to Bring Good Luck

Some Japanese amulets, like omamori, are popularly known to contain prayers. And as per Japanese superstitions, having an omamori is ideal for promoting good health and safe driving.

Omamori can also provide aid for performing better in education. It can even help you in other situations where you require inevitable divine intervention.

Saying Moduru or Kaeru is Forbidden at Weddings

According to Japanese wedding superstitions, saying moduru or kaeru can bring you bad luck, especially at Japanese weddings. Doing this will probably jinx the ongoing marriage and manipulate the bride to leave her husband. At worst, she might even return home, back to her parents. So, you should be very careful and consider choosing your words very wisely.

Animals Are Believed to Have Supernatural Powers

The fox is popularly known as kitsune in Japanese. And according to Japanese folklore, foxes are believed to possess incredible supernatural abilities.

However, there are good kitsune capable of bringing good luck and warding off evil spirits, but also bad kitsune, such as the yako and nogitsune who are evil kitsune and are widely known for playing tricks and plans on humans.

Stepping on a Tatami Mat is Prohibited

Tatami mats are very commonly found in almost every Japanese home. There are certain tatami mats that contain family emblems and are created in such a way as to have good fortune. The number and layout of the mat can bring good fortune. So, stepping on the border of a tatami mat is considered bad luck by Japanese people.

Japanese Have Fortune Cats

Japanese maneki neko

You might already have heard somewhere about the famous Japanese belief of fortune cats. And whenever you visit any Asian markets and restaurants, you will find the lucky cat figurines.

It is popularly known by the name of maneki neko or beckoning cat. It is typically perched in the front of every Japanese-owned establishment, only to bring good fortune to the owners.

Maneki Neko has a raised left paw that attracts customers, while the raised right paw brings fortune. Sometimes, you might even come across a maneki neko who has both paws in the air.

Never Take Pictures of Three People Standing Beside Each Other

Bizarre as it might seem, it is probably the most interesting superstitious belief in Japanese culture. Whenever it comes to any occasion or family gathering, be careful about the positions you stand for taking pictures.

According to this fascinating Japanese superstition, the person standing in the middle will die an early death. So it is always recommended to take careful note of your standing positions when taking pictures.

A Typical Monster Can Make You Lose Yourself at Night

According to Japanese belief, a nurikabe, a wall-shaped Japanese monster, sometimes appears at night and has the power and capability of impeding a traveler’s path. When this happens, the monster can make the traveler get lost for days.

Never Stick Chopsticks Upright in Your Food

Sticking chopsticks upright on your food plate typically symbolizes a ritual of a Japanese funeral. So, it is crucial to practice proper etiquette while having your meals. That means you need to place your chopsticks appropriately on the chopstick rest. You can also consider laying them across your bowl while they are not in use.

You’ll Die Early by Putting Your Pillow in the North

Japanese people believe that placing your pillow towards the north reduces your lifespan. It is because the rule of placing pillows towards the north is followed during funerals, which is why it is considered bad luck for all living people.

So, according to this Japanese superstition, you should always be careful about the directions you’re placing your pillows.

A Cat’s Face Washing Activity Can Fetch Rain the Following Day

Cats are considered to be immensely sacred in Japanese culture and it’s believed that if a cat washes its face, it will rain the next day.

This superstition may have stemmed from the fact that cats have the capability of smelling the moisture in the air. Or it is basically because cats absolutely dislike having wet whiskers. And that is probably why they take care of their face when there’s a lot of humidity present in the air. And humidity often means impending rain.

Even though it has not been scientifically proven yet, this superstition is quite common amongst Japanese people.

Your Body Gains Flexibility After Drinking Vinegar

Vinegar

People of Japan consider vinegar to be extremely healthy. This is because it cleanses your body from within. Even if there is no proven scientific reason behind this superstition, people mostly consider it to be the truth. And surprisingly, many people adhere to the same and practice consuming vinegar to cleanse their bodies.

Cleaning House on New Year’s Day is Prohibited

As per the traditions of Shinto, Japanese people consider New Year’s Day to be the most sacred of all. This day is believed and meant to gracefully welcome all the gods and goddesses into a new year.

So, if you consider cleaning your house on that day, you deliberately push away the gods for the entire year. Even if it is just mere superstition, would you ever take a chance to risk your luck? No, right? So, you should at least not clean your house on New Year’s day.

Wrapping Up

Because of Japan’s rich, long history, it’s no surprise that there are so many superstitions that have emerged from this culture. These superstitions may appear strange to someone not used to them, but to many Japanese people, it’s a part of their culture.

Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.

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