- Juju Kurihara
Japanese Superstition -What You Shouldn't Do in the Night-
Japanese people are quite superstitious. It shows in a table manner too but today, I like to introduce things that you shouldn't
do in the night because of some belief.
My father was older than other fathers of my age and he would tell me or do things that I would see in old films. Things that puzzled other kids in the class many times. They would say either, “I’d never heard of that before” or “That’s not true”. Then I had simply stopped telling them and I myself kept not doing them, until I saw my mother was doing it.
It was one of the things my father told me not to do, cutting nails in the night. One night after having a bath, my mother took the nail clipper out and started to cut. I was very scared and told my mother that she shouldn’t be doing it. She was all relaxed and said, “The nails are softer after the bath and easier to cut.” She added that what my father said was “just a superstition”.
I was shocked by the fact that my mother didn’t believe such a belief while my father seemed to follow it seriously. Later I found that for many Japanese people I’ve met things you shouldn’t do in the night simply don’t make much sense.
However, the reasons why you shouldn’t do are quite interesting. This belief comes from Yin and Yang. The time when the sun is up is Yin and the night is Yang and it is believed that strange phenomena could happen during the night time.
1. Don’t cut your nails in the night
My father never allowed me to cut the nails in the evening. He told me that I wouldn’t be able to see the parents the moment of their death.
In the reality, this legend started because in the early time when people were still using lamps in the evenings. People would cut the nails in a dark room and cut the finger accidentally which caused tetanus. Some people even died back then.
Other reason is, the smell. In the old time, the family spent most of the time near the fireplace. Naturally, they would cut the nails there. The smell of burning nails reminded the people a cremation. The smell of death made people impeding cutting the nails in the night.
2. Don’t whistle in the night
Other thing my father hated me to do in the night was, whistling. He would say, “A white snake will come and eat you”. He couldn’t tell what “white” snake means but since I hadn’t seen a real snake, I was simply scared of white big snakes that can eat humans.
This rumour came from the burglars. In the old time, burglars would whistle between them as a signal. It was believed that people steal because of an evil spirit and that was how whistling had been connected to evil.
Whistling was also used to call gods or spirits during the ceremonies. If someone who had no training whistled, it could attract bad spirits too.
In either cases, snakes are the symbol of the bad spirits, although in Japan, snakes, especially Aodaisho (青大将/ Japanese rat snake) is the protector of homes. Yet, people were scared of its poison and creepy aspect. Also it was said that snakes are very sensitive to the sound. Therefore, it can de
tect the whistle and comes closed to you silently, then since it’s in the evening, it could bring you a bad luck.
3. Don’t clap your hands in the dark
Handclap is a sacred gesture in Japanese religions. People clap hands at a shrine to invite the god and the spirits and celebrate together.
What happens when you do this in your room? It can invite vulgar spirits or the Earthbound spirit. It is believed that it’s easier t
o call evil spirits especially in the dark. If the clapping sound echoes too much, it could be a sign that those bad spirits are already very close. So, don’t handclap just for fun.
4. Don’t look into the mirror in the night
In old Japanese inns or classic Japanese films, the mirrors are often covered. When I was small, kids would talk about looking into a mirror at midnight. They said you would see a ghost. Since then I was so scared to have a bath late.
What with looking into the mirrors in the dark? Mirrors are considered to be a path for the spirits to come to our world. The spirits could be good ones but in the night, the evil ones tend to come. This is why you should avoid looking into the mirror in the dark. In case you need to, turn on the light all the time and if you have a hand mirror, put the mirror side down when you sleep.
It is also said that you shouldn’t face the mirror to your bed. Feng shui also says the same, that the mirror brings an evil spirit to the bed. The superstition explain that your soul would go through the mirror and get trapped inside. Ancient Japanese believed that the mirrors suck the spirits of humans and also they connect our world and the spiritual world. All the superstitious stories about the mirror come from this belief.
One more story about the mirror. You shouldn’t put two mirrors to face to each other and look into them at midnight.
This is called Awase kagami (合わせ鏡), facing two mirrors together and you will see something like this.
What Japanese people believe that will happen?
- You will see your dead face
- You will see different image from this side
- You will call a devil
They are superstitions and there are no scientific proof but in case if you want to avoid any weird experiences or bad luck, it’s better not to do these things.
Nara Prefectural Library: https://www.library.pref.nara.jp/reference/kininaru/1842
An an web: https://ananweb.jp/anan/130566/
28 superstitions you shouldn’t do: https://www.wofs.jp/436.html