Folk Beliefs
Protection

Whistling At Night in Japan

Text: You’re  not allowed to whistle at night because you will awaken spirits that will be drawn to your whistling. I’ve gotten in a lot of trouble with that one.

Context: KT was born in Okinawa, Japan and lived there with his Japanese mother and British father for the first nine years of his life. Though memories of his time in Japan are fading as KT ages, he still remembers specific things about life in Japan that were ingrained on his young mind during his early years. The folklore above was shared over lunch one afternoon during which I asked KT if he thought he had any folklore he could share with me from Japan. Most of the material he remembers is because he either got in trouble for going against the superstition or his involvement in the practice scared him.

Interpretation: Superstitions generally entail material that has not been accepted by society/science, but this does not necessarily mean that these practices don’t work.  In the case of the example above, the superstition against whistling at night seems to come from the belief that drawing unnecessary attention to yourself  generally yields unfavorable/unwanted results. At its core, the principle is not unreasonable. KT cited the unwanted thing that would draw near as spirits, but in other parts of Japan, snake attacks, robberies, and abductions are also cited as things that will appear as a result of whistling at night. Essentially, you are disturbing the quiet, and therefore drawing dangerous attention to yourself.

It is important to note that this superstition was largely a result of the silent of the countryside that encompassed most of Japan. However, due to effects of the modernization of Japan and the proliferation of machinery, lights, and noise that now occupies the nighttime air, it is likely to conclude that this superstition will evolve or change completely because of the fact that whistling at night no longer does much in the way of disturbing the normal atmosphere of the night. The principle of avoiding unnecessary attention, which still remains sound in logic, may change to be expressed in different way, possibly a different superstition.

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