During one of my recent lessons, I had my students make superstition manga (comic books).  I basically gave them three panels to tell a story and encouraged them to use as much English as possible.  It was one of those fun intercultural lessons I get to do every once in a while.  I taught them about some superstitions from North America and Western Europe and they explained some of the local superstitions in their comics.  They include:

  • seeing a white snake is good luck
  • whistling at night (especially at midnight) invites ghosts and snakes
  • if you cut your fingernails at night, one of your parents will die
  • if you find a tea stem in your cup of tea, it’s good luck
  • touching a crow wing is unlucky
  • having crows live in your chimney is also unlucky
  • a four-leaf clover is lucky but a five-leaf clover is a harbinger of lost love
  • stepping on an earthworm means it will rain soon
  • if you don’t finish your rice, you’ll go blind
  • when you hear thunder, hide your navel
  • if you count the moles on your face, more moles will appear
  • if you treat your parents badly, you’ll get a toothache
  • drinking milk will give you long legs
  • drinking vinegar will make you more flexible/soft
  • a pillow that faces North is bad luck

Pretty interesting, eh?  Keep in mind these are superstitions.  I’m sure if my students don’t cut their nails at night it’s not because they think it’ll kill their parents, they’re probably just being polite.

A teacher I worked with said that a few of the superstitions listed above only pertain to Aomori.  Superstitions in Japan, just like every thing else it seems, vary from region to region.  In some places whistling at night invites mice and in other places thieves.  In Aomori you get ghosts or snakes.


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