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A recent controvery in the Japanese sports world has been about the time and belly honored sport known as sumo wrestling. In the 1970's it was a watershed for U.S. women reporters to enter the locker room, in Japan it's the same with the sacred sumo ring. The ring, ritually purified with salt is thought to be "soiled" by the presence of a female.

So Japan and America may not have much to talk about when it comes to women's issues, however they obviously do when it comes to the salt superstition. Whether it's walking under a ladder, or into a besmirched sumo ring, salt is the only way to get rid of nasty bad luck when it comes to wrestling, or regular Joes.

Another superstition we have in common with Japan is the unlucky number. With ours in the west being 13, we're separated from Japan by a mere eight digits. Their unlucky number is the seemingly innocuous "four", and the reason for this is that the very pronunciation of the word "shi" is a homonym for death. In some office buildings you will not find a fourth floor, and many hotels omit it from their room rosters.

Tolstoy's famous reference to happy families being alike can be stretched to lucky numbers as well. In Japan, as in the West, the luckiest number is "seven".

There are no superstitions about cats in Japan, nor umbrellas. Visitors to the country often gape upon seeing a Japanese person casually carry an open umbrella into a house or office building. There is a superstition about mirrors although it differs quite a bit from the one we have about breaking them. Many people in Japan cover their bedroom mirrors at night for fear that a woman from another world will come through and take them away forevor.

There is also a strange superstition about nail clipping. This type of grooming is only acceptable during the daylight hours. Should you do it after the sun goes down, you will not have the chance to see your parents before they die.

In Japan parents and digits seem to be one and the same. Whenever you see the gaudy contortion of a hearse go buy you are to hide both of your thumbs inside your fists. Both thumbs represent your parents and in hiding them you are protecting them from death. If you dream about someone's death however, that means good luck for that person.

Another sign of good fortune is a tea leaf which stands in your cup. Like the four leaf clover, the rare tea leaf that manages to make like a buoy in piping hot water can mean wealth if not general good luck.
Travellers to Japan may want to get into the habit of drinking this stuff. With nutritional science proving the beneficial effects of green tea as a cancer deterrent, it might be worth it to pay attention to Japanese superstitions. Who knows what might happen?