Japanese superstitions

Japanese superstitions are rooted in the culture and history of Japan and the Japanese people.[1] Some Japanese superstitions are meant to teach lessons or serve as practical advice.


Some superstitions that are common in Japan have been imported from other cultures. The Japanese share superstitions with other Asian cultures, particularly the Chinese, with whom they share significant historical and cultural ties. The unluckiness of the number four is one such example, as the Japanese word for "four" sounds like the word for "death". However, unlike most other countries, in Japan, a black cat crossing your path is considered to bring good luck.[2]

A significant portion of Japanese superstition is related to language. Numbers and objects that have names that are homophones for words such as "death" and "suffering" are typically considered unlucky. Other superstitions relate to the literal meanings of words. Another significant part of Japanese superstition has its roots in Japan's ancient pagan, animist culture and regards certain natural things as having kami. Thus, many Japanese superstitions involve beliefs about animals and depictions of animals bringing about good or bad fortune.[3]

Folk wisdom

Linguistic superstition

If a funeral hearse drives past, you must hide your thumb in a fist. The Japanese word for "thumb" literally translates as "parent-finger.". Hiding it is considered protection for your parents. If this is not done, one's parents will die.[5]


See also: Tetraphobia

There are several unlucky numbers in Japanese. Traditionally, 4 is unlucky because it is sometimes pronounced shi, which is the word for death.[5] Sometimes levels or rooms with 4 don't exist in hospitals or hotels. Particularly in the maternity section of a hospital, the room number 43 is avoided because it can literally mean "still birth". When giving gifts such as plates, they are normally in sets of three or five, never four.[3]

Number 9 is pronounced ku — with the same pronunciation as agony or torture. Combs (kushi) are rarely given as presents as the name is pronounced the same as 9 4.[6]

The number 13 is occasionally thought of as unlucky, although this is imported from Western culture.

Death and the supernatural


See also


  1. Simon, Gwladys Hughes (July–September 1952). "Some Japanese Beliefs and Home Remedies". The Journal of American Folklore. 65 (257): 281–293. doi:10.2307/537081. JSTOR 537081.
  2. "Superstition Bash Black Cats". Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-10-09. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Japanese Superstitions Part 1 - Death and the Number 4". Japan Zone. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Japanese Superstitions, Part 2 - Omens and Floor Plans". Japan Zone. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Japanese Superstition". Japan Guide. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  6. http://maggiesensei.com/2010/03/03/%E8%BF%B7%E4%BF%A1meishin-%E7%B8%81%E8%B5%B7engi-japanese-superstitions/
  7. Shuji, Matsushita (September 30, 2007). "A mouse in cat's skin". CNet Asia. Archived from the original on June 3, 2008. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
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