Salt is Sacred in Japan; You will see it often
Often seen in small mounds at Restaurant Entrances
Have you noticed a little mound of salt at the entrance of a restaurant during your visits to Japan?
Salt was always a very important part of the Japanese diet and the ancient salt fields you see across Japan will attest to its importance in keeping Japanese people strong and healthy. Salt from the Setouchi area in Japan is still available and you will actually see salt from various locations in Japan sold at the local gift shops when you go outside big cities.
Salt is considered a purifier too. So the salt at the entrance of the restaurant or the salt given out at funeral services in subtle tiny packets can cleanse you of possible less-than fortunate circumstances and make sure no ill-feelings attach themselves to patrons entering an establishment. It reminds me a bit of the tealeaves we grow outside our homes and doorways to keep the bad spirits away.
Another story told to me recently by my friend in Asakusa is that since wagons in Japan used to be powered by oxen, and basically only the wealthy could afford to travel that way, store owners would put a small mound of salt outside their front door to attract the oxen for a little lick. A little lick turns into a longer wait and by that time, the wealthy person using the wagon would disembark and have a few bites at the restaurant.
So when you see some salt at the entrance of an establishment, don't step on it, even more than that, don't try to taste it either. Just remember how the substance purifies and how ancient business owners used it to attract clientele.
Former Deep Japan Writer