Whistling at Night In Japanese Culture


Informant is the uncle of the Interviewer from the mother’s side. Informant has lived in Hawaii for all their life and has worked as a police officer for 6 years.


Informant discusses Japanese superstition of whistling at night. Interview takes place at the Interviewer’s grandmother’s house during a family dinner gathering.


Informant: “Like um, whistling at night, it’s a superstition. That’s like an old wivestale, folklore, supposed to be, in Japanese culture, summoning the dead, stuff like that, that’s all. 

Interviewer: “I mean that one’s good, yeah. I’m stealing that from you now, so I’m gonna write about the whistling at night. So that’s just, summoning the dead in japanese culture, do you know where that comes from or?”

Informant shakes head

Interviewer: “Yeah I don’t either.”

Informant: “I mean it could be just Hawaii, might not even be in Japan, cuz I mean, uh, the whole Japanese culture in Hawaii dates back to like sugar plantation days, it could derive from then.”


Hawaii is a melting pot of a bunch of different cultures and traditions, but it’s been a melting pot for so long that ethnic groups have developed cultures and traditions that do not exist in the original population. Large amounts of Japanese immigrants came to Hawaii over a hundred years ago to work the sugarcane fields, and in this time have diverged greatly from mainland Japan. While whistling at night is a common trope in a surprising amount of cultures, but the traditional Japanese version holds a slightly different meaning. Whistling was supposedly used as a communication method for folklore monsters or criminals, so whistling would attract unwanted attention. It’s interesting how the same action can have two different outcomes but equally negative connotations in two, on paper, identical racial groups.