The myths that Japanese kids are taught.

February 4, 2015 Juju Kurihara 1 Comment

I must´ve been 9 or 10 years old. After the school, I was walking to the bus stop with a classmate, Tomo-chan who lived quite close to my house. Then a black car passed in front of us. It was a hearse. Tomo-chan quickly told me, "Hide the thumbs!!". As she nearly screamed, I rapidly followed the order. The car went and Tomo-chan told me that I could now open the hands. 

thumbShe explained me that it´s important to hide your thumbs to protect your parents from death. In Japan, each finger represent a family member. The thumbs are father. Since the hearse carry dead people, in order to avoid any bad luck to our parents, we are taught to hide the thumbs. 

Since then, it became my habit and this is not just me. I´ve heard many Japanese people were taught when they were small.

It seems like people are taught to hide the thumbs in other occasions. When they walk in the night to protect you from being tricked by a fox (In what era did they learn this?) or to protect you from epidemics. 

Ancient Japanese people thought thumbs were where they had contact with spiritual things. They were the gate for the bad spirits and that was why they needed to hide them for the protection. 


Now I think there are many myths that Japanese kids are taught and they keep believing even they are grown-ups. I found it´s interesting. Even this hiding the thumbs when you see the hearse, many Japanese adults admit that they still do it "just in case".  




The second typical myth is if you lie down soon after eating, you will become a cow. 

Now I think it was a silly thing to believe but as a child, "become a cow" sounded really scary. 

This is just to teach children some manner. Especially in old time, Japanese people ate at the lower table sitting on the floor. It was easier to just throw yourself out directly on the floor. Perhaps people considered that as a bad manner and picked up poor cow as a bad example.

Regardless of whether becoming a cow or not, if you lie down or sleep soon after eating, it could trigger you to gain weight. Sumo ​wrestlers only eat twice a day after the hard training. They eat and eat and sleep so that they can grow bigger. Many health magazines recommend us to finish eating dinner at least three hours before you go to bed. So, not only having a bad manner but also for your digestion, it´s not so good to lie down immediately after eating. 





And the last, "Hide your belly button when thunder starts rumbling".

Japanese kids are taught that kaminari sama (雷様/ the thunder God) collects belly buttons and you should hide it. I wonder what he does with so many belly buttons. It sounded quite scary as a child but now as an adult, it´s another silly myth. 

However this story has a logic. When you hear the thunder, it´s a sign of the rain is coming. When it rains, the temperature rapidly drops. The children who play without shirts could get a tummyache because they get cold. "Hiding the belly button" comes from this consideration for children. Of course for those who have sensitive tummy, this is a good advice.


Are there any myths that you were taught when you are little in your country? If you do, please tell us.


1 Comment

  1. RJ 3 years Reply

    I’m sure everyone in the US has heard this one as a kid when walking on the sidewalk: “Don’t step on the crack or you’ll break your mother’s back!” So much anxiety.

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