This post is also available in: Chinese (Traditional)
We are not sure about their roots, but they are part of an old tradition and have been believed for a long time. Surely they come from old wisdom and experiences.
It is a sign of good luck to have a tea stalk floating erect in your tea.
This is one of the most common superstitions in Japan.
Since it is very rare that tea stalks get mixed in tea, people started to believe it is a sign of good luck.
This is called “Chabashira” (tea pole).
Poles are essential in supporting house buildings, so it is believed that it is good luck to see a pole standing firm.
It will be rain if we hang “Teru teru bouzu” upside down.
Teru teru bouzu is a paper doll which Japanese children make to pray for fine weather. They usually hang it by the window like the picture above, but it is commonly believed that it will be rain if they are hung upside down.
So when children wish for rain, they sometimes will hang them upside down on purpose.
When baby teeth come off, put the upper tooth under the floor, and throw the lower tooth on the roof to make your permanent teeth grow quickly!
I think no one knows the reason we do this, but surely many people still believe it and hide/throw their baby teeth. When I was a kid, my parents threw my teeth without any doubt.
Throw the lower tooth on the roof
Put the upper tooth under the floor
Hide your thumb when you see a funeral car, otherwise you won’t be able to be with your parents at their funeral.
When I was small, I always hid my thumb when I saw a funeral car.
This superstition is said to have been created by older people to stop kids from being rude and point their fingers at funeral cars.
There are combinations of food which give you a bad stomachache.
There is no scientific basis and I do not know where it comes from, or whether it is true, but there are certain food combinations that Japanese people avoid and believe give bad stomachaches.
1 : Umeboshi and Unagi
The most common bad combination is unagi (eel) and umeboshi (pickled plum). Japanese people avoid eating them together. There is a hypothesis that the reason why this is a bad combination is that unagi is seen to represent an expensive Japanese meal, while umeboshi represents a poor meal and so they fight each other.
2 : Tempura and watermelon
It is said that the reason is watermelon includes a lot of water while tempura includes a lot of oil. The water and oil do not mix and reject each other.
3 : Bamboo shoots and black sugar
It is said that they were once both luxury foods, and people tried to avoid being too extravagant.
I have introduced a few superstitions, but there are still many more. Some are believed all over Japan, while some are from only specific areas. They sometimes sound very silly and have no scientific basis, but surely many people have and continue to believe them.