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A person from a tale says:「 へそをかくせー」 because they see the God of Thunder (雷様) approaching. What does the sentence mean?

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へそ: Navel

を: object

かくせー: imperative of 隠す{かくす}or to hide.

Literally translated, this means:

Cover your navel!

Sounds kindof crazy, but there's a cultural meaning behind it. Frequently, parents will say something to the effect of, "The God of Thunder and Lightning will take your belly button, so cover it up." As far as I can tell, it's an old wives' tale that parents tell their children.

I found the following explanation as to where this saying came from, but it's all in Japanese. I found it on this webpage.

I'll copy one of the explanations here.

先ほどお話した以外にも、おへそを隠す理由があるのです。
おへそを隠そうとすると、どんな体制になりますか?

背筋を伸ばして・・・お腹に手を当てる人はいないのではないでしょうか。
ほとんどの人が背中を丸めて、小さくなると思います。

これは、雷から体を守るためと言われています。

雷は高いところに落ちる性質があります。
よく高い木や塔などに雷は落ちますよね。
おへそを守るために、かがみ・・・体を伏せることで落雷から体を守ったのです。

昔、着物を着ていた時代のお話です。
帯の中にお財布を入れて歩き、落雷にあった人がいたそうです。
その人のおへそは黒く焦げてしまい、おへそが取られたようになってしまったそう。

おへその周りは皮膚が薄いため、裂けてしまうことや・・・電気が体に入って感電してしまいます。

落雷が原因のため、雷様がへそを取った!とかへそが好きと言われるようになったのです。

おへそを隠すのは、落雷からしっかりと守る必要があるからなのですね。

My translation of this is not perfect, but it is sufficient for understanding what was written above.

In addition to the discussion from earlier, there are yet other reasons why someone would cover their navel. When you move to cover your navel, what kind of posture do you assume?

When you stretch your back I doubt you or anyone else would put your hands on your stomach, right? I think that most people round their backs and become smaller when they do so.

It is said that this is to protect your body from the God of Thunder and Lightning.

It is the nature of lightning to strike the high ground. It strikes tall trees, towers, etc. To protect your navel, you stoop over. By covering your body you naturally protected yourself from lightning strikes.

Now lets talk about the time people usually wore kimonos. People would walk around with their wallets in their obi, and it appears that some of those people were struck by lightning. The navel on those people struck by lightning was charred black, making it look like their belly button had been taken.

Because the skin around the navel is thin, it can completely split open or… you can get shocked from electricity entering your body.

Because lightning strikes are the cause of this coincidence, the God of Lightning has taken your belly button! Or at least, that’s why people started to say he likes belly buttons.

So you see, covering the navel is actually done out of necessity to properly protect oneself from lightning.

Next time you go outside during a thunder storm, watch out. You might lose your belly button!

おへそをかくせー!

  • 2
    what a cool expression! – A.Ellett Aug 10 '17 at 17:07
  • 1
    Overall nice translation! A few things. First, in the original text 体制 is a Kanji miss for "体勢". So I think a slightly better translation of that is "...What sort of posture does your body assume?" – Locksleyu Aug 10 '17 at 21:23
  • Also: "お腹に手を当てる人はいないのではないでしょうか。" would be more appropriately (roughly) translated as "(When you try to stretch your back), I don't think there is anyone who puts their hands on their stomach, right?" – Locksleyu Aug 10 '17 at 21:25
  • Also, the last sentence "おへそを隠すのは、落雷からしっかりと守る必要があるからなのですね。" could be better translated as "So you see, covering the navel is actually done out of necessity to properly protect oneself from lightning". This is a little stiff, but more literally correct than your translation. – Locksleyu Aug 10 '17 at 21:31

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