Saturday, July 9, 2011

Japanese Old Wives Tales And Superstitions

Modern Japan is a shiny world of anime and hi-technology, but just under the surface lies a very superstitious culture, more so than America, I think. They have a rich tradition of superstitions. Here are some of the more common ones.

If you cut your nails at night, you won’t see your parents when they die.

If you lay down after eating, you’ll turn into a cow.

If you’re nervous before speech or presentation, you should write the Chinese character for “person” (hito in Japanese) on your palm three times and then pretend to eat it, then you won’t be nervous.

If you’re nervous during a speech, imagine the audience are pumpkins.

If you whistle at night, snakes will come.

If you whistle at night, it will attract ghosts. (according to my wife)

If you see a hearse, hide your thumb, or you won’t see your parents when they die. (In Japanese, the thumb is known as the father or parent finger)

You shouldn’t bring a potted plant to a sick person. (A potted plant has roots and implies the person will remain sick or in the hospital for a long time.)

You shouldn’t eat eel with pickeled plums or you’ll get a stomachache

You should never stick your chopsticks upright in your rice bowl. (that is only done for the dead at funerals)

If you see a spider in the morning, it’s good luck. (don’t kill it)

If you see a spider at night, it’s bad luck. (kill it!)

About weddings: In Japan people don’t give presents, but money.

Never give an even amount of money at weddings, always an odd amount. An even amount can be easily divided and implies the couple will divorce.

In Japan, there are many superstitions linked to the language. The number four (shi) sounds like the word for death and the number 9 (ku) sounds like the word for suffering. These numbers are considered unlucky.

Never sleep with you head facing north. (This is the direction they place dead bodies. It is the direction that ghosts come)

After attending a funeral, you must throw salt over yourself to cleans evil spirits. At funerals or wakes, guests often receive a gift from the family of the departed, something simple and prepackaged for the occasion like stationary. With the gift there is a small packet of salt, used to sprinkle over yourself before entering your home.

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