Sunday, July 26, 2009

Japanese superstitions

My Japanese teacher brought me a list of superstitions today:

The number four:
It's considered inauspicious because it is pronounced the same way as the word for death (shi). Therefore, one should not make presents that consist of four pieces. In some hotels, and hospitals the room number four is skipped.

Give food chopstick to chopstick:
This is only done with bones of the cremated body at funerals.

Sleeping toward the North:
Do not sleep towards the North because bodies are laid down like that.

Funeral Car:
If a funeral car passes you, hide your thumbs! My sensei says that this is because your thumbs are considered your "parent" fingers. You need to hide your thumbs so your parents don't die soon.

Cut Nails at Night:
If you cut your nails at night, you will not be with your parents when they die.

Lie down after eating:
If you lie down immediately after eating, you will become a cow.

Whistle in the night:
If you whistle in the night, a snake will come to you.

A couple of other ones we talked about were:

Being alone in the room with a porcelain doll:
Apparently, their hair grows when you are alone with one.

Potted plants for someone in the hospital:
Thats like telling the person that you want them to grow roots in the hospital.


Anonymous said...

I guess every culture has unique superstitions. They're interesting to learn about!

I mentioned a few Japanese superstitions on my site ( ). (You mentioned the same ones here though ;) )

When I first came to Japan, many payphones didn't have the number "4" printed on the dial (you could dial "4", but there was no "4" written on the phone).

Katie said...

Interesting! I've heard the one about the plant in the hospital, but never the others.

Sebastian said...

I read in Kamakura: Fact and Fiction that the ponds at the entrance to the Hachiman Shrine have three and four islands (three for birth and four for death), that the lotuses planted on the two sides were white and red for the same reason.
I think it was supposed to represent life for the family that paid for the shrine and death to their enemies.

Dollars to Yen said...


That's really interesting! I really only ever paid attention to how beautiful it was in the fall and when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Another reason to go back!

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