Show Notes for EP11 of our Podcast – Superstitions.
There are many Superstitions in Japan.
The numbers 4 and 9 in Japan have associations within bad luck.
The number 4 四 can be associated with death as this can be pronounced shi. The same pronunciation for death. Similarly 9 九 can be pronounced ku, which is the same sound for the word for pain.
Do to this there will be instances where you do not see these numbers used. Such as in lifts. Also, it would be highly unlike to be given gifts with 4 or 9 items within them due to the unlucky association.
However there are powerful associations with the number 7 七 as in the Ryukyu Island there is the belief that there are seven founding sibling, as well as seven souls within the human body. They do interestingly believe there are 49 bones in the human body, which uses both the 4 and 9 associated with bad luck in mainland Japan.
Staying on the Ryukyu Islands, they have a plant there known as the Lygodium Japonicum, this climbing fern has associations with being able to capture evil things which would ensure the safety of a place or area.
When it comes to toenails there is the belief that cutting them after will shorten your life. This perhaps it due to the play on words of yotsume which means night and nails, but also can mean ‘to die early’ or ‘to shorten ones life.’ It is also possible this superstition was once based on sound advice as this would have come about in a time when only dim oil lamps would light the night. Cutting ones nails in this dim light, with crude tools not designed for this purpose would have been highly dangerous.
Be sure to not kill a spider in the morning as it is the bringer of bad look and may be a messenger from Heaven. Conversely, a Spider at night may bring bad luck and can be killed, and may also be a messenger from Hell.
If you whistle at night, it is likely that a ghost, snake or monster will appear in front of you.
If you play with fire at night, you will wet your bed.
The Year of Hinoe Uma
There is the belief that women born in this year will be filled with stubbornness and a fiery temper.
The idea stems from a tale known as The Greengrocer’s Daughter. In 1681 there was a women in Edo who was taking refuge from a fire. During this time she fell in love with a man, and wanting desperately to meet him again she started another fire hoping that would bring them together again.
This belief still exist, and the last time this year occurred (1966) the birth rate dropped by 25% as people did not want to have a daughter with these characteristics. The next occurrence will be in 2026.
The Thunder God
Ensure that you cover your navel when it thunders as the God of Thunder will come and take it.
This idea comes from an interesting story in which the God of Thunder is said to have a love for eating navels.
The story says that there was a man who wished to fight the God of Thunder. And knowing he loved navels, he murdered a woman and took her navel; hanging it from a kite to lure down this God.
The God took the bait and begins to chew the navel, when the man appeared to fight him.
In a bizarre twist it says the woman actually didn’t die, and was reunited with her navel.
Todays tune was one we have mentioned a few times, the ‘going home song.’ A song which is played around 6pm in summer (5pm in Winter) to tell children it is time to go home. The song is called Yuyake Koyake.
You can find a youtube video of the full song HERE:
夕焼け 小焼けで 日が暮れて
烏と いっしょに かえりましょう
Karasuto iishoni kaerimasho
At the sunset
The bell sounds from the Temple
We’ll go home hand in hand
We’ll go back together with the crows.
Feature Image: Unlucky Numbers in Japan, from Guidable.
You can listen to the full episode over on Anchor here: Japan Archives, or wherever you listen to Podcasts.
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