|Posted: March 28, 2006, 2:40 am - IP Logged|
The world of Japanese superstition.
Do you panic after breaking a mirror because it may mean seven years'bad luck? Do you avoid letting a black cat cross your path? Does the number 13 make you uncomfortable? Do you scold your children when they open an umbrella in the house? When you knock over a salt shaker do you throw a pinch of salt over your left shoulder? Perhaps you keep a rabbit's foot or a "lucky" coin in your pocket or handbag. And, I'm sure you never walk under a ladder. Any Japanese who saw such reactions would probably laugh and call you a superstitious, unscientific, old-fashioned person. Yet the same Japanese might turn around and tell you with teh sincerest conviction that numbers 42 should be avoided at any cost, that badgers are mischievous, evil, little wrong-doers, that dead spirits are sometimes embodied in female cats, that women ghosts haunt txi-cabs, and that every rock, tree, mountain, river and even grain of sand has a spirit. Then you might "logically" conclude the Japanese are superstitious, unscientific and old-fashioned. You see, it all depends on where you live, how you were educated, your religious and family background, your psychological composition and your daily environment. I know of no group of people, no race, no culture, and no nation without at least a few superstitions, many of which westerners might consider odd, weird, eccentric or even childish, despite the fact that they have been convinced that their superstitions are quite valid, powerful and accurate.
The number "Four" in Japanese is shi. "Death in Japanese is also pronounced shi." for this reason most Japanese try to avoid that sound. Some hospitals in Japan does not have the numbers, 4, 9, 14, 19, or 42 for any room. Number 9 is pronounced ku in Japanese rhyming with a different word which means pain or worry. Number 42 is pronounced shi-ni meaning to die. Number 420 is shi-ni-rei which means a dead spirit, and number 24 is ni-shi or double death. Especially in the maternity ward, some hospitals refrain from using the number 43, shi-zan, because it means still-birth. In Japan it is considered bad luck: to step on the cloth border of the tatami floor mats, to stick your chopsticks upright in a full rice-bowl (this is only done when a person dies), to get married on certain days, to breaj a comb, to break the strap of your gata, wooden clog, or zori, or to eat fried eel and melon at the same meal. It is bad luck not to bring a potted plant to a sick person, not to throw salt on your door step after a beggar comes to your house, to mentiona few. Most Japanese temples do a thriving business selling various charms to ward off evil spirits, to protect the holder from accidents or sickness, or to bring them good luck. The most popular are called Omamori Bukuro, literally, "a charm in a brocade bag". Practically every taxi and truck in Japan carries one, or a small, girl doll, to ward off evil, female ghosts or to protect them against accidents. Many private passenger cars carry similar charms.