In Japan, numbers are assigned specific meanings and are often used in cultural contexts. One number that stands out in particular is the number 4. There is a common belief that this number is associated with death and misfortune. In this article, we will explore the origins of this belief, its impact on Japanese culture, and whether it still holds true today.
The origin of the belief
The belief that 4 is associated with death is believed to have originated from the Chinese language. In Chinese, the pronunciation of the word for “four” sounds similar to the word for “death”. This belief was then passed down to Japan, where it became ingrained in their culture. The number 9 also has a similar association with death due to its pronunciation being similar to the word for “pain”.
The impact on Japanese culture
The belief that 4 is associated with death has had a significant impact on Japanese culture. Many buildings skip the fourth floor entirely, jumping from the third to the fifth floor. The number 4 is also avoided in gift-giving and other social situations. For example, it is considered bad luck to give gifts in sets of four.
Exceptions to the belief
While the belief that 4 is associated with death is widespread in Japan, there are some exceptions. In some regions of Japan, the number 4 is actually considered lucky. This is because it can be pronounced similarly to the word for “to exist” or “to live”.
Is the belief still relevant today?
Despite being deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, many younger generations do not hold to this belief as strongly as their parents or grandparents did. The younger generation tends to view it as an outdated superstition rather than a fact.
Other numbers with cultural significance
In addition to 4 and 9, other numbers have cultural significance in Japan. The number 3 is considered lucky because it is believed to represent harmony, while the number 7 is associated with good luck and success.
Similar beliefs in other cultures
Beliefs about numbers being associated with good or bad luck are not unique to Japan. In many cultures, certain numbers are thought to hold special significance. For example, the number 13 is considered unlucky in many Western cultures.
How the belief affects business
The belief that 4 is associated with death can have an impact on business in Japan. Many businesses will avoid using the number 4 in their branding, as it may deter customers. Additionally, some products may be marketed in sets of three instead of four.
Breaking the belief
There have been efforts to challenge the belief that 4 is associated with death in Japan. Some buildings have begun including a fourth floor, and some products are now sold in sets of four. However, these efforts have been met with mixed reactions from the public.
The role of education
Education has played a role in shaping attitudes towards the belief that 4 is associated with death. Younger generations who have received a more global education tend to be less superstitious than older generations. As education continues to spread, it is likely that this belief will continue to diminish.
In conclusion, the belief that 4 is associated with death has had a significant impact on Japanese culture. While many younger generations do not hold to this belief as strongly as their parents or grandparents did, it still plays a role in daily life. As Japan continues to modernize and become more globalized, it will be interesting to see how this belief evolves over time.
– “The Meaning of Numbers in Japan”. Japan Talk.
– “Superstitions in Japan”. Japanese Lifestyle.
– “Why is the number four considered bad luck in some East Asian cultures?”. The Conversation.
Why is 4 the number of death?
Summary. Cantonese-speaking Chinese people associate the numbers 4, 14, and 24 with death because the words for these numbers sound like the words for “death”, “must die”, and “easy to die”, respectively.
What is 4 in Japan?
Japanese numerals consist of both Sino-Japanese and native Japanese numbers. For the number 4, both “shi” and “yon” are used, while “yottsu” is the native Japanese equivalent. The number 5 is “go” in both systems, and for 6, “roku” is used in Sino-Japanese while “muttsu” is the native Japanese equivalent. The number 7 can be “shichi” or “nana” in Sino-Japanese and “nanatsu” in native Japanese.
What does 444 mean in Japanese culture?
In many cultures, the number 444 is seen as a positive symbol, but there are some cultures where it is considered bad luck and even feared by some people. This is because in languages like Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese, the word for number four sounds like their words for ‘death’.
Is number 4 bad luck?
The number four is viewed as an unlucky number in Chinese culture due to its similarity in pronunciation to the word for “death”. Therefore, Chinese buildings typically don’t have a fourth floor, similar to how American buildings may not have a 13th floor. Additionally, Chinese drivers will avoid license plates that end in four.
What is number 4 in mythology?
Both Greek and Egyptian mythology have linked the number four with creation. This number was symbolized by the four winds, four seasons, and four mythological deities. Stringing together numbers can signify various things such as new opportunities or an abundance of love.
How do you talk about death with a 4?
When explaining death to children, it is important to use clear and direct language such as “dead” or “died”. Avoid using vague or euphemistic language like “passed away” or “gone to sleep”, which may cause confusion and fear for children. It is important to use concrete terms to clearly communicate that their loved one has passed away.
The impact on architecture
The belief that 4 is associated with death has also impacted the design of buildings in Japan. Many buildings will skip the fourth floor, and some elevators will not have a button for the fourth floor. Instead, the fourth floor may be labeled as “F” or “Floor 3A”. This practice is so common that it is rare to find a building in Japan with a fourth floor.
The use of homophones in Japanese
The association between the number 4 and death is largely due to its pronunciation in Chinese. However, homophones also play a role in Japanese culture. For example, the number 8 is considered lucky because it can be pronounced similarly to the word for “prosperity” or “wealth”.
The impact on travel
The belief that 4 is associated with death can also impact travel in Japan. Some hotels will not have a room with the number 4, and some airlines will not have a seat with the number 4. This may make it difficult for travelers who are not familiar with this belief and inadvertently book a room or seat with the number 4.
Breaking the taboo
While many businesses and individuals still avoid using the number 4 whenever possible, there have been others who are trying to break this taboo. Some businesses have started using the number 4 in their branding and marketing, and some individuals have even started using it as their lucky number.
The importance of respect
Regardless of personal beliefs about the association between 4 and death, it is important to respect Japanese culture and customs when visiting or doing business in Japan. This means being mindful of gift-giving practices, avoiding using the number 4 when possible, and being respectful of cultural beliefs and superstitions.