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22 Apr 2003
As this is Friday the 13th (in Japan), I thought that broaching the subject of superstitions would be a good idea...

In your opinion, what makes a superstition what it is? Are you superstitious? If so, why and what superstitions do you believe in? If not, why?

I personally like a lot of the Japanese superstitions because they are mostly benign in nature, although some are not. But I wouldn't stake my life that they are all called superstitions.

Maneki neko
Tanuki statues
Tying new year fortune papers to branches to ward off the bad luck foretold in the fortune
Rubbing certain statues, in certain temples, in certain locations to ward off ailments of the flesh

Another example, in French according the the popular saying (superstition) seeing a spider in the morning brings sadness. The same saying exists in Japanese, but it's opposite, saying that morning spiders bring hope and luck...

I'm far from being an expert, so all opinions are welcome and appreciated.
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My rational opinion on superstitions is that they're made up by people who have way too much time on their hands. Probably in the pre-TV area. They hold no scientific basis.

However, i do believe people can "read" nature to predict what might happen in the next few days. But i suppose that's more to do with astrology then superstitions.

My girlfriend is from Thailand, which means i'm confronted with superstitions quite often. She was very worried when she saw a mirror at the footend of the bed. I believe it's bad luck in Thailand to point your feet at people.
If you are interested in Japanese superstitions, there are a whole heap that are kinda cool.

My fave is TeruTeru Boozu

Which are hung by children to ward off rain before an important event..

I have a heap more with their explanations on my site.. :D
I'm not really sure about many superstitions but I think these are correct for Indian ones. Well I get shouted at if I break one!

Sneezing when someone walks out of the door is bad.
If you are going on a journey - such as a plane journey you have to have a pinch of sugar.
It is bad luck to eat meat on certain days of the week. In my case it is Tuesday
It is bad luck to brush your hair at night

I'm not sure whether these are true, and why it's all bad luck. However I can say that I really do not follow them at all!
In the Philippines.. there are many superstitions...
I'll give you some examples..
1. it's bad to bring a pillow outside the house at night. <i don't know why>
2. It's bad luck if you break a mirror or you're keeping a broken mirror.
3. It's bad luck to take a bath on a Friday.

..and so on and so forth..

Luckily my family are not superstitious! :)
Bad luck to take baths on Fridays too eh? (even after a hard week of work, had a couple drinks... etc )... interesting!
And speaking of superstitions in Japan, I've seen a show on TLC (the learning channel) a couple years ago - talking about trees that contain "spirits" and cannot be chopped down. Those who tried to chop them will end up in tragedy or death. That is the reason why there are so many roads that actually go 'around' these trees to avoid them being chopped or even touched.

Are there actually these "spirit" trees in Japan? (is this TLC over-exaggerating; or are there actually legends about these mysterious trees?)
Here`s a superstition all Japanese go by (myself included), though I would say its more of a custom than a superstition:

Never put utensils (especially chopsticks) totally vertical in your food. Its a sign of total disrespect. This is only done at the passing of a loved one.
Also bad juju is passing food from chopstick to chopstick.. This is a big no-no. This is also only done at the final farewell of a loved one.

These two things have much more detailed explanations, and if you were to attend a Japanese Buddhist funeral it would make sense. But if you do visit Japan, keep them in mind.
Most UK superstitions originate from Paganism, for example when they say "touch wood" this has something to do with the pagan belief that the spirits of the deceased enter the trees.

When they throw salt over the shoulder this has something to do with the pagan belief that evil spirits sat over ones shoulder and the salt would make them go away or kill them or something.
How about this one...

When my husband's grandmother died, the buddhist monk put a hammer,a nail and a broom on top of the closed coffin. After attending to the guests, I went into the room (where the coffin was) and was astounded to find all those things!

What the hell is happening, I said to myself as I clear away those things.Howcome they forget these things here? (nobody was in the room at that time). Satisfied with my work, I left the room.

Minutes after that, I heard a shierk. They're gone!
It was the monk's assistant.

It was only later that I learned This Custom------ :?
The hammer and nails (so that the dead would not come out from the grave)
The broom (so that the cats would not disturb the grave)

This is a true story.The facts are kind of hazy though coz it happened a long time ago, during my first year in Japan when my Japanese was closed to zero.
Superstition? It's bad luck to leave your house without your keys! If that ain't bad luck, I don't know what is!
Lina Inverse said:
I think they're nonsense :D

Most westeners don't believe in superstitions,I for one,don't.But one has to respect the customs/traditions/superstitions of the country they live in,be it a temporary or a permanent stay,that's common sense. 😌

Japan,like any other Asian countries has lots of them.

During the obon season(respect for the dead/all souls day), my husband would get mad if I kill a bug. They believe that they are the alternates of the departed loveones. Imagine just watching a cockroach (quite common here) pass you by and you can't lift a finger or harm it or else two or three people would shout, don'tttttt!

We also light osenko or incense from the entrance of the garden up to the entrance of the house to guide the spirits so they wouldn't get lost.
Obon lasts three days.On the third day,we put away the senkos(lighted for three days so you can imagine the smell of the house),close the altar to signal the dead to go back to their rightful places.

Years back,we used to bring the obon decorations(foods,lanterns) to the nearest sea to let the waves carry them away but it is no longer very much practised these days because of ecological problems/campaigns.

I think I'm lucky though for these experiences. Very interesting :)
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