- Hi! I’m Cristy Burne, author of the Takeshita Demons books and Star Author for July.
- I write scary adventure books featuring Japanese demons (called yokai), and right now I’m researching quirky Japanese superstitions.
A great place to find superstition is in proverbs. Here are a few you may recognise:
- Step on a crack, marry a rat
- An apple a day keeps the doctor away
- Cross my heart and hope to die
- Don’t judge a book by its cover
- Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight
Let’s check out some awesome Japanese proverbs.
(and don’t forget to enter our Make-a-monster Competition: invent a demon and win a prize!)
1) If you give a boy’s name to a girl, or a girl’s name to a boy, they will grow up healthy and strong
You may wonder why your parents gave you such a weird name. Well, maybe this is the reason? Switching boys’ and girls’ names is a way to confuse (and hopefully avoid) the demons who bring disease and bad luck.
2) If you scowl at your parents, you will turn into a sole.
You know the old saying “If you make a face, the wind will change and you’ll be stuck that way”? Well, this is the Japanese equivalent. Basically, it’s a warning to be nice to your mum and dad. Because if you don’t, you’ll turn into a flat fish with both eyes on one side of your face. (Don’t worry: you will still taste good served with chips!)
3) When a weasel cuts across your path, he will bewitch you if you don’t throw a stone at him.
In Japanese culture, animals like weasels, foxes and badgers are known to have magical powers over humans, including the ability to shape-change, and they love to trick you out of your money. Throwing a stone is a quick, easy way to make sure you stay safe.
4) If you put spit in your eyebrows, the fox will not bewitch you.
Here’s another simple way to stay safe from demon foxes: simply spit into your own eyebrows and mix well. (This belief comes from the idea that saliva is powerful and can help your eyes to see the truth behind magical spells)
5) If you kill a cat, it will haunt you and your family for seven generations.
Yikes! Better be nice to your cat! In Japan, cats who grow very fat and very old are also thought to turn into giant, man-eating cat demons. So your only hope for survival is to own a dog instead.
6) If your sandal strap breaks, evil is heading your way
This is a great reason to check your shoes and shoelaces before you head out on a dangerous mission. (If you’ve read The Filth Licker, you now know the secret double meaning behind Cait’s broken shoelace…)
7) If you pick up a comb, you will pick up suffering.
This superstition comes about because the Japanese word for comb is “kushi”, which is made up of two sounds: “ku” (the Japanese word for “suffering”), and “shi” (the Japanese word for “death”). So, instead of bending straight down to pick up your dropped comb, it’s better to stand on it first. Standing on the dropped comb drives out any evil spirits that are in it, making it safe to pick up. Phew!
8 ) A person who uses red things will only suffer a light case of smallpox
This proverb was around before the smallpox disease was eradicated thanks to vaccination, but it shows clearly that red was a colour of protection in Japan. Why red? It’s the colour of flushed, healthy cheeks. It’s the colour of warmth and cheerfulness. And it’s also the colour that many sick people wore in old Japan, to protect themselves from disease. (Red is also the colour of the first Takeshita Demons book…no coincidence there! Miku needs all the help she can get!)
What do you think?
Do you know any spooky or strange proverbs or superstitions?
Would you walk under a ladder?
Go out on Friday 13?
What would you do with a 4-leaf clover?
Do you believe in superstitions?
Let me know in the comments (and watch out for shape-changing foxes and cats!)
And….don’t forget to enter our Make-a-monster Competition: invent a demon and win a prize!
Happy writing and reading!
Author of the Takeshita Demons series