One of the most fascinating things about Japan’s is just how deep-rooted its historical traditions are entrenched in activities that we see today. Many of the cultural aspects of Japan that you experience nowadays have been carefully and beautifully preserved from thousands of years ago. This includes the intriguing concept of Omikuji, small pieces of paper that predict your fortune!
Omikuji has been around for hundreds of years. During New Year, when the Japanese people visit temples and shrines to pray for well wishes for the following year, they also take the opportunity to draw Omikuji. They often use this as an indication for their fortune for the year.
Omikuji, however, can be drawn at any time during the year, and you will often see people doing so during festivals and such. Traditionally, it was written in only Japanese, but over time, the readings have been developed into many different languages, and you will find some temples and shrines sprinkled all over the country which offer translations for foreigners.
If you’re not a big believer of fortune telling, we recommend you try this anyway as it is a fun and exciting way to experience Japanese culture.
History of Omikuji
Omikuji has been around for hundreds of years. It is believed to have started as early as from the Muromachi Period (from 1336-1573), during which they were created based on collections of Chinese poems. Today, when you receive an Omikuji, it will most likely feature a poem as well.
In the past, Omikuji is said to have been used for such things as predicting huge events such as government outcomes or even choosing successors!
These days, it is generally used to predict the overall fortunes of individuals. Most Omikuji will get a bit more specific about health, work, love, business, study and travel.
Where Can You Find Omikuji in Japan
You can draw Omikuji from almost any shrine or temple in Japan, big or small. You most likely would have seen or come across them before, as they are these small white papers with Japanese writing on them, sometimes tied around branches or trees at a temple site.
To draw Omikuji, you will need to donate a small fee. In the past, people used to donate five yen, as the words “five yen” in Japanese (go en) sounds like the word connection or relationship in Japanese with an honorific prefix (go-en). Thus, donating five yen is a possible cause for building a good relationship with the spirit.
These days, the usual donation is around 100-300 yen. There is usually a box or donation acceptor where the Omikuji is.
A Step-By-Step Guide To Using Omikuji
When you’re ready to draw Omikuji, hold the cylinder (sometimes square pillar) box which has long thin sticks, called Mikuji-bo, and give it a little shake. You will then slide one of the sticks from the small opening.
This stick will have a number which will decide your fortune!
Take note of the number and place the stick back into the box. From there, head to the nearby cabinet that is marked with numbers and take your Omikuji out. You’re done!
These days, some temples and/or shrines will also offer alternative ways to draw your Omikuji. Some places provide a bucket or box and you simply select one from the lotto. Other places will offer vending machines or gachapon-style machines which might also come with an extra charm!
When you receive your Omikuji, determine whether it is a blessing or a curse.
If it is a blessing, people usually keep it and take it with them.
However, if it is a curse, people usually leave it behind on the temple grounds. You will notice nearby that there are trees or low scaffolding nearby with paper tied to them. Those with cursed Omikuji fortunes will tie them to these sites to leave behind the bad fortune.
List of the Blessings / Curses
Reading your Omikuji is where many foreigners may run into trouble. However, here is a basic explanation as well as some simple phrases you can refer to.
Omikuji shows your overall fortune for the future in an order. You will have ‘Dai-Kichi’ on one end, which means excellent luck, and ‘Kyo’ on the other end, which means worst luck. In between, you will encounter ‘Kichi’ (general luck), ‘Chu-Kichi’ (middle luck), and ‘Sho-Kichi’ (small luck).
Below are the most common blessings (or curses!) you may come across.
List Of The Aspects Of Life Covered
As mentioned earlier, Omikuji provides an overall prediction of general luck as well as more specific guidance on your fortune in specific aspects of life. Below are some examples of phrases you may come across when reading your Omikuji.
Temples & Shrines With English Omikuji
If you’d like to visit a place where English translation of the Omikuji is definitely available, check out these following sites:
- Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo
- Narita-san Shinsho-ji Temple in Narita
- Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura
- Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto
- Kushida-jinja Shrine in Fukuoka
Omikuji is quite a fun way to receive a souvenir from visiting a shrine. It’s one of those items that you can easily take back with you and reflect on, especially if you receive a good fortune!
Are you ready to read your fortune? Make sure you allocate enough time at your next temple or shrine visit to draw your Omikuji!
If you want to learn more about Japanese lucky charms, you can also read our articles about Omamori, Daruma, Furin and Maneki Neko.