Superstitions, Good Luck, Bad Luck

Sea salt from one of the salt pans flanking the Japan Sea near Wajima.
Good Luck!
Are you superstitious?  Some people will definitely say no but the majority of us are at least a little superstitious.  It is very common in the UK to throw a pinch of salt over your shoulder into the eye of the devil who is said to always be standing behind us ready to cause trouble.  People either do it to ward off bad luck or simply to make up for spilling this precious commodity.

The cleansing properties of salt are recognised in Japan, too, in rather particular ways.  When a person returns home from attending a funeral, for example, they will ask a member of the household to toss a little salt over them.  The intention is simple—warding off bad luck and more specifically to keep death from crossing the threshold.  It must be said that these days such a custom is less common.

A saké cup emblazoned with the name of one of principal brews—Suehiro
Nevertheless, occasionally two small heaps of salt can be seen at either side of an entrance to a house.  They signal the desire to keep bad luck at bay.  You might even see a small heap of salt at the side of a door to a bar.  This is to keep troublesome customers away.  A Japanese friend of mine living in London has four small dishing with salt in them positioned in the four main corners of her apartment.  This is something she learnt from her grandmother as a way of warding off bad luck.

A dish decorated with a draw-string money bag, sometimes called a Shingen-bukuro after a famous feudal lord.
Remember this is all to do with superstitions—something we belief in and yet cannot really be proved.  Salt has real cleansing or purifying properties of course.  Our superstitions just spring from that fact.

Take your pick:  Some of the saké cups for a tasting.
There are many charms and objects in Japan that are said to bring good luck.  Hidetake Wakashima was commissioned to produce some small cups and dishes for the Nakajima Saké Brewery in Wajima.  They were made for visitors to try the various sakés they offer.  Some are decorated with such auspicious motifs as a draw-string money bag alluding to the acquisition of wealth.  Another has a small mallet on it.  Swinging the mallet is said to bring good luck and is associated with the Seven Gods of Good Luck.

The Seven Gods of Good Luck.  From left to right:  Ebisu, the deity of fishermen and tradesmen.  Daikoku, the happy god of wealth and the farmers saint.  Bishamon, the missionary and warrior deity of militarism.  Benten, art, literature, music and eloquence are her strengths.  Jurojin, the deity of longevity who drinks much saké.  Fukurokujin, sees the future and performs miracles for the benefit of mankind.  Hotei, a figure of abundance who has attained the wisdom of Buddhism.
The cups have a variety of pleasing shapes and are lacquered.  The decoration is done using the makie technique, employing precious metal powder and pigment mixed with lacquer.

What a pleasure—taking a nip of saké in a cup wishing me Wealth and Good Luck.  What could be better.

Access the Japanese site of the Nakajima Brewery to at least see the product line.  Oyaji no Tezukuri—Dad’s Homemade Brew—can be throughly recommended:  http://www.notosuehiro.com

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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