Do you have a fear of black cats? Always worried to walk under a ladder? Do you cringe if you break a mirror?.  If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you might be superstitious.  Don’t worry, you’re not alone… there are many people around the world, who feel the same way.  Some, however, are more sceptical about superstitions.

A Black Cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere -Groucho Marx

Whichever camp you fall into, one thing is for sure, Japan has a very rich culture, steeped in old traditions, and with that come deeply rooted superstitons as well. I remember being told to never whistle at night by Japanese friends.  Whistling?  Really?  The incessant compulsion to whistle at night had never entered my mind thus far.  I was absolutely baffled by this.  If you are equally baffled now and would like to find out what this superstition and others in Japan are all about, read on.

Here are 7 common superstitions (迷信) many people still believe in:

  1. Filing your Nails at Night
    If you decide to go against this bit of ancient wisdom, you won’t see your parents before they die, or you’ll die early.  -Death?  Really?  Seems a bit harsh just for basic grooming.  What do toenails have to do with your parent’s deathbed?  Well, we didn’t always have the modern creature comforts of the modern age.  Many moons ago, people had to use (gasp!) Sharp knives to trim their nails.  So, sharp knives plus darkness can quickly turn into a disaster, further exacerbated by the lack of medical care and antibiotics. Wounds turn into gangrene and before you know it: death by nail clipping.
  2. Whistling at night
    Just like the old Irish folk-tale suggests, people believe if you do decide to invoke your inner pied piper at night, you’ll invite Snakes or ghosts. -Since snakes do not have external ears or ear drums, they “listen”, mainly through detecting skull vibrations. This myth, which is thought to have originated in Korea, was probably told to keep mainly kids quiet at night.  I guess the lesson here is not to make noise at night and disturb your parents or neighbours.
  3. Hiccuping 100 times in a row.
    You’ll die.  Wow, they don’t mess around with this one.  -The Jury is still out, if the person actually dies from the Hiccups, or from supernatural causes related to hiccuping. In any case, should you find yourself in the unlucky position of not being able to stop the hiccups, here’s a proven way to get back to normal: Stop Hiccups
  4. Lying down after eating.
    You’ll become a cow. -While it’s probably not a good idea to lay down after eating, since it can increase stomach acid and isn’t good for digestion, the act of transmogrification has so far completely eluded human (medical) skills, so I wouldn’t worry too much about this right now.  You might feel like a cow the morning after gorging down that delicious pizza and beer though.
  5. Seeing a spider 
in the morning
    Hold off on killing the morning spider visitor because it’s auspicious, but go ahead and smack the evening visitor, as pm spiders are considered bad luck. I’m unsure how this rule would apply for a pet spider that you see day and night though.  Hmmmmm….
  6. Hide (or cover) your belly button if you hear Thunder
    The God of Thunder (雷神) will steal it.  Well, that was totally out left field.  One of my Japanese friends was quite surprised that we (in the West) don’t cover our Belly Buttons during a thunderstorm.  When asked if she did it, I was met with a very surprised “of course”.  I’m not quite sure what the thunder gods do with their collection of Belly Buttons, but a quick googling suggested that the Kaminari actually eat the Belly Buttons. Now that’s scary!
  7. Leaving your fan on all night.
    You’ll die – You might wonder how exactly does a fan kill?  I am not entirely sure to be honest with you. I used to live in Florida, where you wouldn’t be able to sleep without leaving the fan on – especially in the summer months. I’m unaware of any mass deaths from fans, perhaps this only applies in Japan (and Korea where this myth originated)?!?  Perhaps this happens approximately 3 weeks later when you’ll die of shock after getting your electricity bill.

What do you think? Are any of these superstitions feasibly based on reality? Which ones do you believe in and why? Do you know any others that didn’t make the list?  Let us know in the comments section below.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.