Home > Japanese Culture > The number 4 and 9 are ugly ducklings?

The number 4 and 9 are ugly ducklings?

In Japan, you associate the number 7 and 8 with the auspicious ones. How about a jinxed number?

Most of Japanese people probably think about 4 and 9 as evil numbers because their pronunciations remind you of two bad words. We call the number 4 ‘shi(yon)’, which has the same sound to the word ‘death’ in Japanese. The number 9 is called ‘ku(kyuu)’, which has the same sound to the word ‘suffering, agony, anguish, etc.’ in Japanese.

Sometimes Japanese people omit both letters when numbering somewhere, such as parking lots.

These are photos of parking lots that our company has been renting. You can see the numbers 4 and 9 are skipped.

Incidentally, we have a way to express something by consisting of four kanji, which is called ‘yoji jyukugo‘(four-character compounds). As I wrote at the previous article, the number 8 leads to eight directions; north, northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west, and northeast. The number four, as you’re already aware of it, leads to four directions; north, east, south, and west. When the number 4 and 8 are combined, they are used as both good expressions and bad ones.

One of the worst compounds is probably ‘shikuhakku‘. Here, it is.

This is an idea in Buddhism. In addition to shiku(four types of suffering; births, aging, diseases, and deaths), people have another four types of agonies(the one you feel when you separate from the person you love, the one you feel when you see the person you hate, the one you feel when you are not able to obtain something you want, and all the other suffering).

Let me show you a trivial topic. Just turn shikuhakku into numbers, shi into four, ku into nine, hachi(ha of hakku) into eight, and ku into nine. And then, multiply four by nine, and eight by nine. They should become 36 and 72. After that, add them. It should be 108. They are the number of times when people strike bells at the end of year. It is said that one of ideas why people ring the bells in temples or shrines at the end of year(which is called jyoya no kane).

Categories: Japanese Culture
  1. February 7, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Hi H.P. 🙂

    How are you?

    I heard about this before. South Korea has a similar issue with numbers as well. Writing in red ink too I think.

    • honeypotter
      February 10, 2011 at 8:10 am

      Good morning, girlgeum! 🙂

      Writing in red ink, you have to be cafeful with when you write someone’s name. There seem to be some anecdotes about it.

  2. February 14, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Yes, it’s like writing death.

    • honeypotter
      February 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm

      That’s right, girlgeum.

      I’m not sure, but it is said that people in Japan write their names in red ink on their tumbs in advance before they die.(Actually, I haven’t seen it before, so I don’t know if it is true.) That’s one of reasons why writing in red ink is not good.

      Sometimes I can’t help wondering if I am really Japanese because I don’t know Japan itself and Japanese cultures so much. 😆

  3. February 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Maybe you should take a lesson tour in what it means to be Japanese. That’ll be fun to do. H.P.’s journey to find out what it is to be Japanese. Post it on youtube with your commentary, video clips, and pictures.

    A Day In The Life

    • honeypotter
      February 16, 2011 at 5:16 am

      Ohhhhhhh, that’s a nice idea! Before YouTube or something, I think Facebook would be better because I am able to control who can watch the footages. Girlgeum, will you be starting your page on Facebook?

  4. February 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    No, no Facebook for me. I love my privacy. 🙂

    • honeypotter
      February 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      Ohhh, you won’t have? If you had the one, of course you don’t need to open your privacy so much, I could let you know my ID and show such footages you suggested. Publicizing my guide on YouTube or somewhere is still not ready for me. 😦

  5. February 18, 2011 at 9:55 am


    • honeypotter
      February 21, 2011 at 4:02 am

      Hmmm? 🙂

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