One thing you notice after living in Japan a while is that the Japanese are pretty laissez-faire when it comes to the subject of religion, with most people blending different traditions at different times of the year, going to a Shinto shrine to pray for good luck in the new year, having a Western Christian wedding and visiting a Buddhist temple to commemorate the passing of their parents. But for some reason, the Japanese seem to have a well-developed sense of superstition, whether it’s closely following horoscope websites or taking extra care during their yakudoshi or “unlucky year,” which is age 42 for men and age 33 for women. Often superstitions are related to language: the number 4 is unlucky because it’s pronounced shi in Japanese, which is also the word for death, and poop is considered lucky because the word for it (unko) is close the word for good luck (unki). Two objects you can see a lot in Japan are red Daruma dolls, with eyes you blacken when your wish or goal has come true, and Lucky Cats, which invite good luck into your home or business. The Japanese are also big fans of omamori good luck charms which bring a specific kind of good luck (safety while traveling, success in studying for a test). My wife has excellent luck, according to her, and she always wins free canned coffee at the convenience stores when they have some giveaway, which annoys her. (“I don’t want to waste my good luck on this when I might need it for something more important later!”)
Coming as I do from a young country, I enjoy the fact that Japan has such a long and rich history. I can hop on a train headed for Kyoto and walk roads that have been in use for centuries…even Kikkoman, the soy sauce company, has been around since the time of Jamestown. Japanese learn about many colorful characters when they study their history, like Date Masamune, the one-eyed feudal lord who founded the now-bustling city of Sendai, built a Western ship and sent some samurai swords to the Pope as a gift, and oh, served as the template for Darth Vader. When Disney wanted to remind everyone in Japan that a new Star Wars film was coming in a few weeks, they didn’t go to trendy Shibuya to promote the film: they partnered with the 1200 year old Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple in Kyoto to show off some amazing Star Wars-themed art.
J-List has great news for everyone: we’re starting a new sale! To help you score some great products from Japan, whether delightful Sailor Moon figures, Japan-only Star Wars products, 2016 calendars or whatever. So during the month of December, you can get $25 off instantly when you order $100 or more, and choose speedy, fully trackable EMS as your shipping method.