The Importance Of Salt In Japanese Culture

Can you think of a more familiar item in the kitchen than salt? You can find it anywhere around the globe. Neither we, nor, for instance, Canadians, nor Japanese, can do without it. The latter, by the way, have a notably close relationship with it. Why is salt so important in Japanese culture?

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Japan is a land of contrasts, where centuries-old traditions coexist with modernity. The Japanese are famous for their numerous innovations, as well as the fact that they continue to honor their ancestors’ ceremonies. Some of which are associated with salt.

Salt Rituals In Japanese Culture

The Japanese grant salt many mystical properties, such as warding off evil spirits and attracting good luck. If you need to purify something of negative energy, sprinkle it with salt. Even during a memorial service, there must be a vial with it on the altar.

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The traditional Japanese sport — sumo — also involves salt. The Japanese toss it into the ring before a match to purify it. They also sprinkle it on the threshold of various establishments to attract customers and ward off bad luck.

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Interestingly, the Japanese leave salt even in bathrooms and toilets. They believe that evil spirits can enter the house through ventilation holes or opened windows, and therefore, they must secure their home.

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Hence, they leave small bowls of salt or make little pyramids. More often than not, they are triangular, but variations are possible. Often, such pyramids sit in other parts of the house, as well.

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According to legend, there once lived an emperor in Kyoto who had a huge harem. Ergo, choosing with whom to spend the night was very much difficult for the man. The emperor does what the emperor wants; therefore, he entrusted the impossible choice to his horse: whomever’s door it would approach would be the chosen one for the night.

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One of the women decided to sprinkle salt in front of her door so that the horse would linger there. Therefore, the emperor spent night after night with the clever young lady. Hence the belief that salt attracts customers.

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That is why, in Japanese culture, they revere salt, and you can even find it in the bathroom. Honestly, what an amazing country!


I am an English major with a love of languages and fiction, and with an incurable travel bug. In my free time, I read fantasy, drink copious amounts of coffee, and like to go see movies. Culinary art means everything to me. My main hypostasis is the taster, though. The music school has taught me to appreciate the symphony of airy meringues, to create harmonious overtures of light snacks, hard rock of meat, fish, and vegetables on the grill. Choir classes have accustomed me to hear and feel the people nearby and create perfect harmonies of sounds.

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