Jul 30, 2019

Exposed stomachs, air conditioning, and health superstitions in Japan

One thing I've found particularly interesting since living in Japan? The unique superstitions you'll find here, particularly in regards to health. The most notable one I've encountered is the idea that having an exposed stomach will make you sick, and that your belly should be covered at all times or the end of the world will come.

And no, it's not me prancing around with my belly out - it's been brought to my attention when I've been out with my children. My kids love it when my husband gives them piggyback rides, and sometimes when that happens their t-shirts rise up a little bit. We've had cashiers at supermarkets and other stores act as if they've witnessed indecent exposure when they've seen part of a toddler's stomach.

There are actual garments available here called haramaki, which you could liken to a stomach warmer - it's basically a band of fabric worn around your tummy to make sure it's not exposed. They're not just for kids either, but adults too. I've also noticed many pairs of pants or pajamas come with high elasticated waistbands designed to replicate a haramaki and keep your stomach covered.

Exposed stomachs, air conditioning, and health superstitions in Japan photo

An example of a kid's knitted haramaki on Amazon Japan. You'll find plenty of options for kids and adults online and in stores.

The reason this superstition troubles me so much is because each summer I come across multiple news articles where people pass away because of a reluctance to use air-conditioning or even fans - particularly overnight - seemingly because of this belief that having an exposed or cold stomach will make you sick.

Another one I find interesting is the interest in blood types here, and how there's a belief that your blood type has a correlation to your personality. There's an entire Wikipedia article about it that breaks it down in more detail, but essentially blood types (A, B, AB and O) are meant to have links to personality traits. I'm A+ for my blood type, and based on this theory I'm meant to be reserved (yes), sensible (mostly!) and patient (not at all). Apparently the numbers here of people who actually know their blood types are dramatically higher than other places in the world, too. 

If you have Japanese family/a Japanese spouse, how do they feel about exposed stomachs? Do you know your blood type? If so, check out the Wikipedia link about the blood type personality theory and let me know in the comments if you think it fits you or not!



After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!

1 Comment

  • TonetoEdo

    on Jul 31

    My guy wears a version of the haramaki every day. It covers his middle, and is meant to keep his lower back and kidneys healthy. I wear undershirts no matter the weather as my way of adapting to the bare midriff taboo. In winter I wrap a woolly thing around me when I'm at home. I usually wear high-waisted long underwear in winter. I've thought about knitting haramaki....