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Goin’ Japanesque!

How Many Do You Know? 9 Superstitions that Any Japanese Knows

There are surely superstitions in your home country? Of course we have them in Japan as well. Here we introduce superstitions that are specific to Japan, told by grandparents to little children since their youth.


1. Tea

The stem of a tea leaf is called chabashira (literally means tea pillar). It is difficult for these to even pass through the tea strainer, but it is rare for it to float vertically. For this reason, it is considered very lucky for the chabashira to sit vertically. FYI, I have never experienced this for myself. 


2. Thunder

In Japan, from the old days it is said that there are gods called the Raijin Fujin (God of Thunder, God of Wind). When thunder sounds, parents often tell their children “The Kaminari sama (the God of Thunder) will come to take your bellybutton! Hide your bellybutton!”  

Tip 1

1. Trying to hide the bellybutton, the children naturally curl up into a small ball. It is said that this was an excuse to get children to get into this pose to protect themselves from lightning that may strike from high. 

2. When thunder sounds, it is often followed with rain and leads to lowered temperature. It is also an excuse to get children to keep their bellies warm. 


3. Yozume


Cutting your fingernails at night makes death come to you before your parents. This is a universal idea that dying before your parents is considered unfilial. 

Tip 2

1. A play on words for Yozume (night, nail) and Yozume (one’s wake).  

2. Cutting one’s fingernails too deep in the dim light of the evening may cause pus to form during farm labor on the following day, eventually possibly leading to death. In the old days, candles were used as a source of light and it was difficult to see. There were also many families that made a living from farming. There was lack of good medication as we have nowadays. 


4. Whistling

Whistling in the night will cause a snake to appear. 


5. Hiccuping 


Hiccupping 100 times will kill you. All superstition. 


6. Fukumimi


Having large earlobes like that of the Shichifukujin (Seven Lucky Gods) is called fukumimi (lucky ear). It is said that someone with a fukumimi will become rich. There is no causal relation, but it really seems that someone with fukumimi often have good personalities. 


7. Teeth

When your upper baby teeth fall out, it is thrown under the verandah. When it’s the lower baby teeth you throw it over the roof. This is supposed to help strong teeth grow. 


8. Spider


A spider that crawls into the house represents a guest or good luck so it must not be killed. On the other hand a spider at night is said to be a servant of thieves and demons. 


9. Dreams

There is a saying “Ichi fuji, Ni taka, San Nasubi (one Mt. Fuji, two hawk, three eggplant)”. It is said that it is auspicious to see these things in the first dreams of the New Year in this particular order. 

Tip 3

1. It is the order that Tokugawa Ieyasu favored.

2. It is said that it is a play on words.
Fuji: buji (safe), fushi (immortal)
Taka: takai (high)
Nasu: nasu (to achieve)

There are various theories to how it developed.

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