This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages) This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Japanese superstitions" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (June 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message) This article is in list format but may read better as prose. You can help by converting this article, if appropriate. Editing help is available. (August 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Japanese superstitions are rooted in the culture and history of Japan and the Japanese people.[1] Some Japanese superstitions are meant to teach lessons or serve as practical advice.


Some superstitions that are common in Japan have been imported from other cultures. The Japanese share superstitions with other Asian cultures, particularly the Chinese, with whom they share significant historical and cultural ties. The unluckiness of the number four is one such example, as the Japanese word for "four" 四 romaji: shi is a homophone for "death" kanji: 死. The same is true for Chinese, hanzi: 死 pinyin: , is also homophonous to "death." However, unlike most other countries, in Japan, a black cat crossing one's path is considered to bring good luck.[2]

A significant portion of Japanese superstition is related to language. Numbers and objects that have names that are homophones (Dōongo / Dōon Igigo (同音語 / 同音異義語, lit. "Like-Sound Utterance" / "Like-Sound Different-Meaning Utterance")) for words such as "death" and "suffering" are typically considered unlucky (see also, Imikotoba). Other superstitions relate to the literal meanings of words. Another significant part of Japanese superstition has its roots in Japan's ancient pagan, animist culture and regards certain natural things as having kami. Thus, many Japanese superstitions involve beliefs about animals and depictions of animals bringing about good or bad fortune.[3]

Folk wisdom

Linguistic superstition

If a funeral hearse drives past, one must hide one's thumbs in a fist. The Japanese word for "thumb" literally translates as "parent-finger". Hiding it is considered protection for one's parents. If this is not done, one's parents will die.[5]


Lucky numbers

Unlucky numbers

See also: Tetraphobia

There are six unlucky numbers in Japanese. Traditionally, 4 is unlucky because it is sometimes pronounced shi, which is the word for death.[5] Sometimes levels or rooms with 4 don't exist in hospitals or hotels.[8] Particularly in the maternity section of a hospital, the room number 43 is avoided because it can literally mean "stillbirth".[3] (死産 - shizan: 死 - death/to die and 産 - childbirth/produce). In cars and racing, number 42 which sounds like shini (死に – to death) and 49, which sounds like shiku (死苦 - a painful death) are avoided.[7] When giving gifts such as plates, they are normally in sets of three or five, never four.[3]

Number 9 is sometimes pronounced ku — with the same pronunciation as agony or torture. Combs (kushi) are rarely given as presents as the name is pronounced the same as 9.[9][8]

Due to these unlucky connotations, the numbers 4 and 9 are often pronounced yon and kyuu instead.

The number 13 is occasionally thought of as unlucky, although this is imported from Western culture.

Death and the supernatural


See also


  1. ^ Simon, Gwladys Hughes (July–September 1952). "Some Japanese Beliefs and Home Remedies". The Journal of American Folklore. 65 (257): 281–293. doi:10.2307/537081. JSTOR 537081.
  2. ^ "Superstition Bash Black Cats". Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. 2011. Archived from the original on October 15, 2011. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Japanese Superstitions Part 1 - Death and the Number 4". Japan Zone. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d "Japanese Superstitions, Part 2 - Omens and Floor Plans". Japan Zone. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Japanese Superstition". Japan Guide. Archived from the original on July 29, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d "Snakes, Combs, and Spiders: 10 Eerie Japanese Superstitions for the Curious". LIVE JAPAN. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "Superstition or Cultural Fact? Major Unlucky Numbers to Know About in Japan | Guidable". October 12, 2018.
  8. ^ a b "Superstition or Cultural Fact? Major Unlucky Numbers To Know About in Japan | Guidable". Guidable Guidable (in Japanese). October 12, 2018. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  9. ^ "Japanese Lessons with Maggie » 迷信(=meishin) + 縁起(=engi) Japanese superstitions". Archived from the original on May 7, 2011.
  10. ^ "Shinto Periods of Mourning". January 1, 2020. Archived from the original on October 21, 2018. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  11. ^ "Japanese Chopstick Etiquette | Asian Lifestyle Design". Retrieved January 2, 2020.
  12. ^ "Japanese Superstitions: The Basics". Japan Info. Retrieved January 2, 2020.
  13. ^ Shuji, Matsushita (September 30, 2007). "A mouse in cat's skin". CNet Asia. Archived from the original on June 3, 2008. Retrieved August 14, 2012.