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Home - Etiquette
Superstition

In Japan there are certain things one does not do because they are thought to cause bad luck. A few examples are:
  • The number four:
    The number four is considered inauspicious because it is pronounced the same as the word for death (shi). Therefore, one should not make presents that consist of four pieces, etc. In some hotels and hospitals the room number four is skipped.

  • Stick chopsticks into the rice:
    Do not stick your chopsicks into your food generally, but especially not into rice, because only at funerals, chopsticks are stuck into the rice which is put onto the altar.

  • Give food from chopstick to chopstick:
    This is only done with the bones of the cremated body at funerals.

  • Sleeping towards the North:
    Do not sleep towards the North beacause bodies are laid down like that.

  • Funeral Car:
    If a funeral car passes you should hide your thumb.

  • Cut nails at night:
    If you cut your nails at night, you will not be with your parents when they die.

  • Lie down after eating:
    If you lie down immediately after eating, you will become a cow.

  • Whistle in the night:
    If you whistle in the night, a snake will come to you.

  • Black cat:
    There are also some imported superstitions such as the believe that black cats crossing the street in front of you cause bad luck.

In many shrines, temples and souvenir shops, amulets are sold that are supposed to bring luck, safety or good fortune. There are amulets for money, health, love, success on exams, safety on the streets, etc. Small pieces of paper (omikuji) that predict your future are also available. These pieces of paper are tied around the branch of a tree after reading; either to make the good fortune come true or to avoid the predicted bad fortune.

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