Japanese Superstitions & Beliefs
Japan is filled with a diverse array of engaging beliefs that make it the fascinating culture that it is today. Many Japanese superstitions have their birth in the native religion of the area. Others have been fostered through the relative isolation the nation experienced during most of its history.
Japanese Religion is Fairly Traditional
Because Japan spent much of its history focused inwardly, its religious world is fairly traditional. Over 50 percent of the nation either identifies as non-religious or as following their native folk religion, known as Shinto. The most common outside religion is Buddhism, which makes up about 34.9 percent of the population.
Unlike many other Asian nations, Christianity has had little success in Japan. Only 2.3 percent of the nation identified as Christian. Likewise, almost nobody in the country identified with the Islam religion. As a result, religion in Japan is somewhat insular, and Japanese superstitions and beliefs are often unique to the nation.
Common Folk Beliefs
Shinto folk beliefs dominate the world of Japanese superstitious beliefs. For example, it is commonly argued that people who rest after eating will become another animal. Usually, this animal is a cow, pig, or elephant. Another common belief is that playing with fire will make a person wet their bed.
Those two ideas are mostly used to keep children from misbehaving. However, another persistent folk belief states that stepping on the border of a tatami mat can bring bad luck. Many Japanese people also believe that the first dream of the Japanese New Year always comes true. The origin of many of these beliefs appears to be lost to time.
Language is an essential part of Japanese culture. As a result, many of their superstitions center around it. For example, it is important to hide your thumb if you see a funeral hearse, as this will protect your parents from death. Why? The Japanese word for thumb translates to parent-finger.
Other beliefs center around various numbers. Like in many Asian cultures, four is considered an unlucky number because the Japanese word for it sounds like their word for death. Similarly to other Asian cultures, eight is a lucky number in Japan. However, they also consider seven a lucky number because it symbolizes the concept of togetherness.
Engaging With These Superstitions
If Japanese superstitions intrigue you, please look through our list of interesting beliefs. What you find might surprise you, but it will never bore you.