Using Japanese beliefs in superstitions

April 27, 2003

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LYNN NEARY, host:

Commentator Sharon Moshavi was recently in a quandary. But she didn't turn to her family for advice. Moshavi lives in Japan , and decided to do as the Japanese do and seek some more cosmic insight into her life.

SHARON MOSHAVI: @

My Japanese friend Junko and I like to call 1) _________ other up and complain, and lately we've had plenty 2) _________ complain about: work problems, men problems, medical issues, as 3) _________ as run-of-the-mill existential crises. One day, Junko decided our 4) _________ of bad luck was more than just coincidence. `We're 5) _________ a yakudoshi,' she said. `A what?' I asked. `A 6) _________,' she said, `an inauspicious year. It can affect women 7) _________ their 30s,' she explained, and she knew exactly what 8) _________ had to do about it. We had to be 9) _________. This is Japan after all, where taxi drivers hang amulets 10) _________ their rear-view mirrors to ward off accidents and people 11)_________ Shinto priests to bless their new cars. Junko, a 12) _________ career woman, believes in all of these things wholeheartedly.

13) _________was ready to throw logic to the wind and 14) _________ myself purified when another friend, Yuko, stepped in. `Forget 15)_________ the purification,' she said. `What you need is a 16) _________ fortune telling,' the Japanese version of going to a 17) _________. In Japan , people choose their fortune-tellers with the care 18) _________ Americans take in choosing a surgeon. People here take 19) _________ superstition very seriously.

I realize that in my heart of hearts I 20) _________ taking it seriously, too. I was actually scared. Of 21) _________ it's absurd, of course it's sheer chicanery. If I 22) _________ a good fortune--you know, I live to be 23) _________ hundred and win the lottery--I'd laugh it off. 24) _________ what if my fortune was terrible? What if I 25) _________ about to hear that I was going to die 26) _________ horrible early death? I was face to face with 27) _________ inner irrationality and I didn't like it one bit.

28) _________ only way to win that battle, to prove such 29) _________ was indeed nonsense, was, of course, to go and 30) _________ the fortune-teller. He turned out to be a small 31) _________ who looked exactly like a carnival barker in a 32) _________ pinstripe suit and white-on-white tie, but he had a 33) _________, almost professorial manner. On place mat-sized paper, he sketched 34) _________ charts that looked like EKGs. My future didn't hold 35) _________ especially bad, he said. Emboldened, I pressed for more 36) _________. Would my novel get published? Would I have children? 37) _________ gazed at the charts and he said I would 38) _________ to make the most of my opportunities.

I was 39) _________ and, to be honest, annoyed by all his vagueness, 40) _________ I also felt something else well up inside my 41) _________: relief. There was no wonderful news, but no horrible 42) _________, either. For the first time, I felt the power 43) _________ charm of superstition. Of course, it demands relinquishing a 44) _________ amount of control, not an easy thing for a 45) _________ freak like myself. I think I'm like many Americans. 46) _________ believe in our unlimited powers. We take credit for 47) _________ success and accept the blame for our failures. Maybe, 48) _________ maybe, it isn't up to us. Maybe it is 49) _________ in the stars.

A comforting thought, but what if 50)_________stars conspire against you? My friend Yuko has an 51) _________ for that one. `You just try another fortune-teller and, 52) _________ necessary, get another. As many as it takes,' she 53) _________, `to find a fortune you like.'

NEARY: Sharon Moshavi lives and wonders about her future in Japan.

Questions

1. What did Sharon's friend Junko recommend they do about their "bad luck?"

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2. What did her friend Yuko recommend?

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3. According to Sharon, how do Japanese people think of fortune-telling?

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4. Did the fortune-teller give Sharon clear answers to her questions? Explain.

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5. How did Sharon feel after talking to the fortune-teller?

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