Tokyo palm reading surprise?

In a time when religion’s influence on politics seems to be ever more insidious, and extremism is undeniably on the rise, the Japanese indifference to such matters is refreshing to say the least. And yet despite such a distinctly pragmatic approach, superstition still abounds. A factor that for many people arguably plays a much bigger role in temple and shrine visits than any particular belief.

Then of course there is the fairly common sight of fortune tellers and palm readers plying their trade on the nation’s streets. Now how much people believe what they are told is impossible to say, but at 1,000 yen a go, it’s probably more than a simple bit of fun. But how much more is anybody’s guess, although it’s clearly enough to keep a sizeable number of people in work.

Speculation aside, however, this man was at least being told something interesting for his money. Good or bad it’s tough to say. True or not, much less so.

Japanese palm reader


  1. says

    I take from your last sentence you’re among the non-believers? 😉 I’ll always concede that there are plenty of phonies willing to take your money, but I remain open to the possibility of specially able individuals. In any case, this relaxed attitude is, I think, far healthier than pro- or con- fanaticism; and his expression is priceless!

    • says

      Yes, I’m very cynical when it comes to such things. To be honest though, I’d love to be proven wrong, but it’d require some pretty compelling evidence.

      Unfortunately, as great as the Japanese attitude is, it hasn’t made politics any better. They’ve merely swapped men of faith, with men of privilged backgrounds…

      But yeah, such issues aside, his expression is great. It would be nice to know what prompted it!

  2. Theresa Amlong says

    The skinny skinny arms are heartbreaking. I sure hope he was getting good news concerning his improved health.

    • says

      To be honest I hadn’t thought much about it as I see a lot of naturally very thin people. And he didn’t strike me as anything other than healthy. But yeah, on closer inspection, he does seem very skinny.

  3. says

    You should see how much palm reading is important in Korea. They cannot take any important decisions without seeing a palm reader. In Japan it sounds more like a game.

    • says

      Interesting. I had no idea it was taken so seriously in Korea. In that case, then yeah, it does seem very much like a game in Japan. Never heard of anyone basing decisions on it.

  4. says

    You actually captured really well the process of the cold reading that is at the basis of palmistry: the facial expression and body language of the punter and the reaction of the girl gives the bloke enough information to come up with his predictions. Some of the cold readers are getting so good or have a natural ability, they believe in themselves but they always just telling people things they already know or believe.

    • says


      Hadn’t thought about the girl also giving off hints, but yeah, that makes total sense. Having watched Derren Brown a few times, it’s easy to see how people can be fooled. Not to mention how good cold readers can be.

  5. Bernadette says

    I took a class on Japanese religion and culture once. The prof explained that Japanese people (in his experience, of course) don’t like to be considered superstitious. But, as I’ve recently been told, each person’s experience is different. Do you find this is true as well, Lee?

    • says

      Interesting. Personally I’ve always considered the Japanese to be quite superstitious on the whole, although when I’ve asked people I’ve got fairly mixed answers back. Never got the impression that to be considered superstitious is especially bad though.

  6. Bernadette says

    $12 (USD) isn’t a lot to pay for palm reading, though. I have a friend that charges $20 a pop for tarot readings. And he gets a lot of business!

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