Japanese Superstitions (2023)

Blood types

It is widely believed among Japanese that one's A/B/O blood type has great influence over his personality. About 100 years ago, a doctor researched the relation between blood type and personality, and concluded that the O-typed were good for army soldiers. Nowadays, most psychiatrists and doctors say this research was wrong. However, many people still believe it.

Blood type A : A man with blood type A is diligent, methodical, steady, and nervous.

Blood type B : A man with blood type B has originality, but is fickle.

Blood type AB : A man with blood type AB is sociable and sensitive.

Blood type O : A man with blood type O is durable and resolute.

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Many Japanese superstitions are associated with death. For example, you should never stick your chopsticks straight up and down in your rice bowl because that is how it is done at a death. You should always lay out your futon so it is pointed south. Your pillow should never point north. This is the position of a body of a dead person at a Buddhist funeral. Some superstitions are considered foolish and funny, but those concerning death are taken very seriously. If you are the middle person in a picture with two others in it, you will soon die or suffer a hard tragedy. Many people in Japan cover their bedroom mirrors at night for fear that a woman from another world will come through and take them away forever.


The Japanese have their own ghosts. Their ghosts are different from ours because all that we really think of as ghosts are clear little white things. Their ghosts each have their own personality and ways to terrorize people. Some general terms for ghosts are "obake" or "bakemono". That literally means transforming thing. "youkai" means bewitching apparition, which includes monsters, goblins, and ghouls. "yuurei" is a dim, hazy, or faint spirit. These are probably the closest types of ghosts to America's vision of them that you will get. They are supposedly dead spirits living on earth for a reason. An example of youkai is "Rokurokubi", a female monster with a long, flexible neck. She looks like a regular woman during the day, but at night, she takes all of their energy away from them, and they die. Women ghosts come back in taxi cabs, and other ghosts come back as cats.

A Good Day, A Bad Day


Japanese had used complex lunar calendar until 19th century. A month had 28 days then. A month also had 5 weeks, and a week had 6 days. The six days included Taian, Butsumetsu, Senpu, Tomobiki, Shakko, and Sensho. They are called Rokuyo.

Nowadays Japanese people use sun calendar, though, some superstitions came to life instead. Taian, "the day of great peace," is believed a good day, and Butsumetsu, "the day Buddha died," is believed a bad day. Most ceremony are held on a Taian day, not on a Butsumetsu day. It is a not good idea to hold a funeral ceremony on a Tomobiki day. If it was held on a Tomobiki day, some of attendee would die soon, they say.

Historical Note: Rokuyo came to popular in 19th century. Until then it was a very minor superstition very few people had believed. In 19th century, the government took the policy to import western science/technology, and tried to prohibit all "primitive" superstitions. The diet passed the law to regulate the description of calendar. It succeeded partially, and most of good day/bad day superstitions died. But, the government forgot to regulate rokuyo superstition because it was too minor. So people came to believe it instead of other many superstitions in those days.

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Once there were another calendar system in which a week had twelve days, different from Rokuyo calendar. According to the calendar, there were days called Sanrinbo twice a month. Sanrinbo was thought so unlucky day that people didn't start travel nor building on the day. Some people still believes the superstition today.

Ritual Ceremonies

Jichinsai, the Ritual to calm the Spirit of Earth

Japanese hold the ceremony of Jichinsai to calm the spirit of earth when they build a new building or other installations such as highway, airport, etc.. In this ceremony, Kannushi, a priest of Shinto, prays the success of building.

Jichinsai is one of traditional Shinto rituals. It was believed that if someone built a new house without permission of earth spirit, the spirit would got angry and destroy the building.


Sumo wrestlers toss salt onto the dohyu to purify the ring.

Personality Stereotypes

Juni-shi (Chinese Zodiac)

Ancient Chinese associated calendar with twelve animals and ten conditions. Japanese have used this calendar, since it was imported from China more than a thousand years ago. The twelve animals are called Juni-shi. The animals includes Ne (mouse), Ushi (bull), Tora (tiger), Usagi (rabbit), Tatsu (dragon), Mi (snake), Uma (horse), Hitsuji (sheep), Saru (monkey), Tori (rooster), Inu (dog), and Inoshishi (buffalo). The year of 1972 was Ne-doshi (a year of mouse). 1973 was Tora-doshi, 1974 was Usagi-doshi, and so on. Then what animal is for 1995? Yes, a year of buffalo, Inoshishi-doshi. 1996 is Ne-doshi, again. Note: This set of twelve animals is of Japanese version of Juni-shi, slightly modified from original Chinese zodiac. If you're interested in original one, you can access Chinese Zodhidac Page .

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There are twelve stereotypes of personality based on Juni-shi. For example, it is said that a man born in Uma-doshi works hard, etc.

There are also ten conditions, consisting of Kinoe, Kinoto, Hinoe, Hinoto, Tsuchinoe, Tsuchinoto, Kanoe, Kanoto, Mizunoe, Mizunoto. They represents five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water), though they have little meaning today. The combination of twelve animals and ten conditions made 60-year-cycle. It is said that a girl born in a year of Hinoe-Uma (condition Hinoe + animal Uma) will kill her husband. All Japanese know that it is merely a superstition, though, the last Hunoe-Uma year, 1966, had least new born baby.

Kaso -- House Floor plan

Ancient Japanese thought that the plan of a house influenced its dweller's fortune. It is believed by many people still today. Fortune telling by floor plan is called Kaso.

For example, house entrance put on the northeast of the house is called kimon. Ancient Japanese believed that kimon conjure hellish monster Oni. Even today, many people hate to put entrance in the direction.

Omikuji ? Japanese fortune-telling

Omikuji are another form of good luck charm used in Japan. These written fortunes are obtained by drawing lots in the form of sticks from a container; the sticks are then exchanged for long, narrow pieces of paper upon which good or bad fortunes are indicated. These containers can be found at Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples.

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You'll get bad luck if you talk back to someone talking in their sleep. You will have bad luck if you break a comb, strap of gata, zori, or wooden shoe. You should always throw salt where a beggar has just been. If the first person you meet on any given day is a woman, you will have good luck. If it is a Buddhist priest, be prepared for a bad day. A good omen is getting a bird dropping on your head. If you are overtaken by a funeral procession on the street, you will have bad luck. A material (paper or wood) wrapped in cloth brings you good luck if you keep it near you at all times. Since the fish known in Japanese as ?tai? (red sea bream) is part of the word ?medetai? (good luck) and is also red in color, it is regarded as the good luck fish of Japan.

Lucky Days

Weddings are usually held on "taian" days (days of great peace) or "tomobiki" days (friend pulling days). Funerals are also held on tomobiki days because it is like pulling a friend to death. "kichi" is a day of great fortune, and "kyo" is a day of bad fortune because it is the day of the Buddha's death. The fourth and fourteenth days of a month are considered unlucky, while the fifteenth and 28th days are thought of as lucky days. Lucky days are good for starting projects and trips.

Unlucky Numbers

"4" is pronounced as shi in Japanese, which is same to the word "death." "9" is pronounced as ku in Japanese, which is same to the word "pain." So the two are considered as unlucky numbers. Hospitals usually have neither 4th or 9th floors.

Nani doshi desuka

"Nani doshi desuka" is a very common phrase heard when meeting someone in Japan. In English, it means "What (zodiac) sign are you?" Your answer depends on the year that you were born. There is a twelve year cycle with a different sign for each year. However, there are also five elements, which are metal, water, wood, fire, and earth, so the exact combination comes only once every sixty years. The origin of the zodiac is very interesting. It is said that long, long ago, the Great Buddha invited all of the animals to a new Years party. However, only twelve out of the entire kingdom showed up. Buddha was greatly disappointed, but wanted to show his thanks to those who came, he gave each animal the gift of one year. The years came in the order of which the animals arrived to his party. The order of the years are:

Nezumi (rat), ushi (cow), tora (tiger), usagi (rabbit), tatsu (dragon), hebi (snake), uma (horse), hitsuji (lamb), saru (monkey), tori (bird), inu (dog), and inoshishi (wild boar).

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The only fictional character in this is the dragon. Each animal has its own personality and you supposedly share the personality with the animal of the year that you were born. To be the sign of the horse or monkey is considered unlucky. The zodiac tells you what sign you would be compatible with. Personally, I don't find the characteristics of the animal to really be accurate, but for it to have gone on for this long, some people must.


An Omamori is a lucky charm sold at Jinja, a Shinto shrine. Each shrine has a spirit which has one or several powers. For example, Dazaifu Tenmangu in Kyushu island has the spirit of Sugawara-no-Michizane, a famous scholar in 9th century. It is considered as a god of academy, so its omamori is very popular among high school students / graduates who take college entrance examinations. Omamori for easy delivery are also popular.


The Japanese believe in many creatures relating to myths. One of the most famous is "oni", or devil. They occasionally have three eyes and are almost always giant sized. Their colors are red, blue, grey or pink. They have horns. Three toes and three fingers are unusual features that Oni's have. They have the ability to fly, but hardly ever do. They are dumb, cruel, and malicious. Most all myths relate to a religion, whether it is Buddhism, Shinto, or a different religion.


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