A Guide to Japan's Sanpaku Eyes Superstition

Published January 19th, 2023

Japanese culture is full of symbolism, tradition, and cultural nuances. There is also a great deal of superstition. Learning about Japanese Culture, and getting a handle on common superstitions can make fitting in easier.

The famous Sanpaku Eyes are an old method of "telling the future." They are thought to predict individual traits. While it might not be totally scientifically accurate, it's long been a part of Japanese superstition.

Here's a simple guide to the meaning of Sanpaku Eyes and whether you have them yourself...

What are Sanpaku Eyes?

Sanpaku Eyes are eyes where the sclera, or whites of the eye, are visible in at least 3 places. In Japanese, sanpakugan literally means, "three whites."

The term comes from Oriental or homeopathic medicine and is more common than you may realize. Think about it. Most people you interact with only have visible whites, or sclera, on the sides of their iris.

However, individuals with Sanpaku eyes have white either above or beneath their iris. This often gives the impression of someone having their eyes open very wide.

Now that you understand what they are, let's find out why the Japanese find them significant.

Face Reading

You've heard of palm-reading or other superstitious forms of predicting things about people. Well, face-reading became popular in Western culture. It's a method of analyzing the inner workings of individuals.

This practice originated with the world-famous Japanese educator George Ohsawa. According to many Asian cultures, the shape of a person's eye can indicate something about their fate.

What Does the Sanpaku Eye Reveal?

Ohsawa claimed that Sanpaku eyes indicated something dark. He believed that they offer negative connotations about the nature of the individual who possesses them.

People who have Sanpaku eyes are often considered unfortunate and viewed as potentially troubled. According to superstitions, in Japan, a Sanpaku eye means you are ill-fated. Your destiny carries misfortune.

Yin and Yang Sanpaku Eyes

The infamous serial killer, Charles Manson possessed the Yang version of Sanpaku eyes. He is often referenced when describing the slightly manic look of individuals with a Yang Sanpaku eye where the white is visible above the iris.

Yang may be less common than the Yin version of the Sanpaku eye. Many practitioners of Oriental or alternative medicine believe that Yang Sanpaku eyes indicate a serious mental condition that could be indicative of erratic behavior or violence.

Aggression or mental or emotional imbalances are often associated with Yang Sanpaku eyes. Hilary Clinton is another famous individual that is sometimes associated with the look of a Yang Sanpaku eye.

Yin, of course, is what many Japanese speakers refer to when describing Sanpaku eyes with white below the iris.

While still associated with unbalance and foreboding, white beneath the eyes can have a slightly less negative connotation at times. Many famous celebrities like Sylvester Stalone have Yin Sanpaku eyes and it is viewed as provocative or mysterious in a sexy way.

Still, both Yin and Yang are not the look associated with someone cheerful and well-balanced.

Interestingly, there are many famous people who have Sanpaku eyes. Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Diana Ross, Princess Diana, Robert Pattinson, Billie Eilish, Jennie, Mila Kunis, Michael Jackson, and others are among the group.

The Science Side

While most people view the white under-eye as a common physical trait, there may be more to it than mere superstition. Many who work in alternative medicine believe that white under or above the iris is actually indicative of a physical or mental illness that is causing the body to be out of balance.

These practitioners believe it indicates that the spirit, mind, and body are not at one. As a matter of science, this notion may not be totally incorrect.

Many individuals who struggle with substance abuse or various mental health concerns exhibit some degree of the Sanpaku eye. Their eyes often have white above or below the iris and this is supported by some scientific evidence.

For example, extreme exhaustion, chronic or exorbitant stress, and the influence of drugs and alcohol all affect the optic nerve. Often, this results in a contraction that pulls the iris upward and exposes white below the iris.

Understanding Japanese Culture Today

While George Ohsawa's interpretation of the Sanpaku eye is slightly different from the original belief, it is the most prevalent today in modern culture. Becoming familiar with these sorts of cultural nuances may not make or break your experience with the Japanese people, but it can definitely help you feel more aware.

If you are interested in learning Japanese, getting to know the culture is an important step to becoming fluent. Things as simple as knowing the background of the Sanpaku eye adds color and context to your conversations with natives.

You are more likely to feel at home and comfortable in daily conversations with Japanese speakers when these subjects are not new to you.

Fit in, Learn the Language

Now that you know what Sanpaku eyes are, go take a look in the mirror! For all you know, getting a better look at your own eyes may reveal something about your nature or destiny.

For more helpful insights into Japanese culture, join a language group today! Practice conversing with native speakers. Ask questions and learn helpful info to enable you to meet your Japanese language goals.

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