Why Japanese Hate 4, 9, and 49 as Unlucky Numbers

The majority of people living in English-speaking countries abhor 13 and 666 as unlucky numbers.

Such bad luck numbers exist in Japan too. The representative examples are 4, 9, and 49, all of which many of us Japanese hate.

Unlucky Bad Luck Numbers in Japan

Many Westerners abhor the number 13 derived from the 13th superstitions and the number 666 in relation to the Christian religion.

But have you ever heard about the reason why 4, 9, and 49 are unlucky numbers in Japan?

Number 4

Actually, the primary reason we hate 4 as an unlucky number is because of one of its Japanese pronunciations “Shi”. 

The pronunciation, “4 (Shi)” is associated with the word meaning death “死 (Shi)”, which is pronounced the same way as 4 in Japanese.

Therefore, in Japan, the bad luck number 4 is hardly used as the room number of hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, and apartments. 

In contrast, funeral dealers like using number 4’s combinations in their telephone numbers, like 4444.

Number 9 

As with number 4, the primary reason we abhor number 9 is because of one of its Japanese pronunciations “Ku”. 

The pronunciation “9 (Ku)” is associated with the word meaning agony or torture “苦 (Ku)”, which is pronounced the same way as 9 in Japanese.

So in Japan, the bad luck number 9 is also avoided as the room number of hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, and apartments.

Number 49

As you can guess by now, we hate the combination of 4 and 9, 49 as well, for the numbers 4 and 9 can both have the bad meanings shown above.

By the way, Japanese Buddhists usually hold a memorial ceremony 49 days after a person’s death, but this has nothing to do with the reasons above.

This is because, in Buddism, it is believed that the soul of a dead person departs this world for another 49 days after the person’s death.

(Reference Page: Wikipedia 忌み数)


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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