Japanese people are often extremely superstitious, and many of their beliefs date back centuries and are deeply rooted in their culture. Some are similar to those of western or other Asian countries, but there are many unique ones, and many are designed as lessons and warnings of dire consequences.
Some superstitions with lessons include, if you play with fire you will wet your bed, or when you lay down after eating you might become a cow, this one’s got a message don’t be lazy after a meal or you may get fat. Also, make sure you don’t whistle in the night as a spider will come, this means don’t annoy your neighbours.
Many superstitions are based around death. You should hide your thumbs around a funeral possession because the word for thumb in Japanese translates to parent finger, therefore you protect your parents from death if the funeral doesn’t see your thumb. All funeral goers put salt on themselves before attending, to cleanse themselves before returning to their home. Sleeping with your head facing north is also bad luck and you will have a short life because this is the way a body is laid out at a funeral. Correct handling of chopsticks also prevents bad luck regarding death, You must never stick your chopsticks upright into food as this is what is done at a funeral. And it is also bad luck to pass food from chopstick to chopstick as this is what is done to the cremated remains.
Some numbers can be exceedingly bad luck too, number 4 is the worst as it is pronounced “Shi” a similar word to death in Japanese, so you should never give gifts in sets of four. 9 is also extremely unlucky and means pain or suffering, 13 like in many other cultures is not real good either, and 43 is terribly distressing during childbirth as it translates to still born. Many hospitals and hotels in Japan avoid using these room numbers.
Not all superstitions are bad, there are quite a few lucky things, one of the most notable is the beckoning cat or Maneki Neko. You will see this little guy outside many shops and homes, waving their little arms. These cats are meant to bring you all sorts of good luck from wealth, health, happiness, love, you name it. Different colour cats bring different types of luck or rewards. The white cat with black and orange spots is the most lucky, and depending on what paw is raised, the cat brings either more customers or more wealth.
There are also several things that are good and bad depending on when you see them. If you see a spider in the morning, it means good luck so you shouldn’t kill it, but if you see one at night, it means bad luck.