I like to think of myself as a rational human being most of the time, but I have to suppress a shudder if someone opens an umbrella indoors, and I’d probably comment if a black cat crossed my path.

Most people are like this, and most superstitions are harmless. But some bleed into obsession, and I learned of one this week that is so powerful it caused a decrease in Japan’s birth rate. It comes around once every 60 years and last happened in 1966; the next time will be 2026. It is the superstition centered around the year of hinoeuma: the fire horse.

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