What are these ancient Japanese superstitions?

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The unlucky bloke wearing the ritual ring in the picture, by contrast, is not Japanese

Scientists in Japan have discovered a rare form of ring held as an ancient reminder of bad luck that could prevent the user from soiling themselves.

A group of Archaeological Utilisation Research Associates (AURI) in the prefecture of Chiba are examining objects dug up as part of a decades-long excavation.

Dr Yoshio Itamada, at AURI, said that the ring had previously been described as an “impure eye, impure bow or impure finger.

“What is left is the whole thing,” he said.

He and colleagues have noted that the ring’s design dates back 7,000 years and is made from “fresh thyme.”

The bouquet of herbs, says Dr Itamada, may have served two roles: to guard the wearer against the “propagating disease (that) comes from eating or drinking prohibited foods and beverages.”

It’s also said to prevent a “spiritual wound” that happens whenever a person “makes trouble from drinking or eating forbidden foods”.

Showing the ring around to those around him could help the person familiarise themself with its dangers and prevent making more of them.

So does the challenge of wearing it help?

Of course not, said Dr Itamada. “It makes the idea of wearing the ring even scarier than if you just weren’t wearing it.”

“On the other hand, though, having the ring on might help with the difficulty when someone can’t make their shoes clean,” he said.

Image copyright PA Image caption The other problem for those who do wear the ring is the smell of new thyme

The ring, which is apparently still in decent condition, was analysed in 2010 but that data has been described as “misleading” by experts.

Dr Itamada believes there are no items known that date back as far as 7000 years, and the latest findings could alter researchers’ knowledge.

Images courtesy of Ejiro Marukawa/Leping Rao/Yoji Inagaki

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