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Japanese number superstition

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Posted 05-01-12 at 09:25 PM by Ian

In Japan the numbers 4 and 9 are considered unlucky. The way the word for '4' is pronounced is apparently similar to the way the word for 'death' sounds. Meanwhile, the word 9 also sounds like a word that describes a form of suffering.

Certainly for the number 4, this has been notably skipped in Japanese camera model designations, although it's a bit inconsistent. Canon skipped from Powershot G3 to G5 models, omitting the 'G4', for example. But Canon was quite happy to produced the EOS 40D, 400D and 450D models. Olympus moved its flagship DSLR from E-3 to E-5, skipping 'E-4'. Then again Olympus used the number 4 in its E-400, E-410, E-420 and E450 DSLR camera model numbers. Fujifilm went from its S3 Pro DSLR straight to the S5 Pro - there was no 'S4 Pro'.

In fact I'm struggling to think of an important Japanese camera model name that is based around the number '4'. Can you think of any?

Oh, and if you add the two unlucky Japanese numbers of 4 and 9 together, what do you get?
Views 12546 Comments 7
Total Comments 7


  1. Old Comment
    Julia's Avatar
    Interesting, it looks like it is only four and nine on their own the Japanese do not like.

    Do you think that's where the world gets its Triskaidekaphobia from?
    Posted 06-01-12 at 09:59 AM by Julia Julia is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Ian's Avatar
    Triska-wot?! Doesn't seem to have stopped Nikon going for the D4 name See
    Posted 06-01-12 at 11:01 AM by Ian Ian is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Pops's Avatar
    Triskaidekaphobia --- fear or phobial of the number 13

    Had to look it up .. who the heck uses Triskaidekaphobia in conversation
    Posted 06-01-12 at 02:06 PM by Pops Pops is offline
  4. Old Comment
    yoshi's Avatar
    I found and read this article just today.
    As you write there, the number 4 is usually pronounced either "shi"= such as "she" in English or "yon" and "shi" could also mean "death".

    Number 9 is pronounced either "kyu" (such as "cue") or "ku (such as "co" of "cook") and "ku" also means "suffering, pain".

    On the other hand, the 4 in the number 40 or 400 are almost always pronounced "yon" and rarely "shi = death". So no need to avoid 40/400 etc.

    By the same token, the 9 in the number 90/900 is pronounced almost always "kyu" so no need to avoid it either.

    Nikon is a smarter guy in this rare occasion.

    Posted 10-02-12 at 11:21 AM by yoshi yoshi is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Ian's Avatar
    Hi Yoshi, this blog post was before the Nikon D4 launch and I knew the name but was restricted by the non-disclosure embargo until the name was made public. I was very surprised that Nikon was using the 4 in D4. I also thought it interesting that if you add the unlucky numbers in Japanese - 4+9 = 13, and of course 13 is considered unlucky in the West Thanks for the clarification of 40 and 400, etc.!
    Posted 10-02-12 at 11:30 AM by Ian Ian is offline
  6. Old Comment
    There's no surprise in the D4 - Nikon had the S4 and the F4. Olympus did the OM4, and Yashica had the T4.
    Posted 30-03-12 at 12:25 PM by Jamie Harrison Jamie Harrison is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Ian's Avatar
    Indeed - it seems that some camera project managers in Japan are more superstitious than others! Thanks Jamie.
    Posted 30-03-12 at 12:29 PM by Ian Ian is offline

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