Japanese Way of Fortune Telling – Omikuji Culture

January in 2021 has already passed and I am always surprised how time flies by so quickly! So, how are you doing these days? Unfortunately, COVID-19 has shown no sign of weakening in Japan as well and we are forced to endure the severe situation for a while…

By the way, I am going to talk about Japanese specific culture this time. As you know, Japanese people have a custom of first visiting shrines or temples at the begging of the year for wishing to make our year better (We call the custom “Hatsumode” in Japanese). I have many opportunities to visit shrines/temples in a year since I started to be a volunteer tour guide, but most Japanese visited there at least once a year at the timing. One thing people like to do there is “drawing a fortune slip (Omikuji)”. It is a kind of fortune-telling and written some advice to you from God on the small sheet of paper for 100-200 yen per one try. How to get it depends on each shrine/temple, but basically, it is divided 2 ways; you put your hand in the box containing tons of fortune slips and pick up one of them, or you shake an cylinder which contains many wooden bars and then turn over it and pick up a bar from it. The bar has a specific number, so you get the fortune slip with the same number of the bar.

The Grade and contents of fortune slips

A fortune slip has several fortune grades as follows; Kichi(吉)means “Goodness” “ Happiness” and “Kyo” means “ badness” “woe”

1: Great blessing – Dai-kichi(大吉)
2: Middle blessing – Chū-kichi (中吉)
3: Small blessing – Shō-kichi(小吉)
4: Blessing – Kichi(吉)
5: Future blessing – Sue-kichi(末吉)
6: Curse – kyō(凶)
7: Great curse – Dai-kyō(大凶)

On the slip, you can see the fortune summary at first, then advises of each specific item such as “good/bad direction”, “your wish/desire”, “a person being waited for “, “lost articles”, “Travel/trip”, “Business/job”, “Studies/ Exams”, “Relationships”, “Marriage”, “Moving”, “Childbirth” and “Health/Illness” and so on. You can just refer to items which you are interested in and leave/ignore items that you are not interested in.

When you got a fortune slip more than “Future blessing”, you bring it with you, however, in case you got “Curse” or “Great curse”, you tie the fortune slip to a tree branch or the special fence at the shrine/temple and leave it. It means bad luck has kept in a shrine/temple and turn it into good luck by leaving a slip there. You may want to draw another slip until getting the good one, however, it is not a good idea. It’s just some advice for the short-term future, so you don’t need to worry about it so much. Your luck is always moving and changeable according to the timing and situation.

I always draw a fortune slip whenever I visit shrines/temples because each one has a specific style. My way of enjoying drawing is keeping all of the fortune slips in a year, then I look back for the year at the end of the day with slips whether the advice is appropriate or not for me.

There are various designs of fortune slips according to each shrine/temple

I am going to introduce some unique fortune slips which I drew in the past below.

A. Sensu (Japanese fan) fortune slip at Kanda-Kyojin
A form of the fortune slip is Japanese fan and it seems easy to bring with you. There is no fortune summary, but my fortune grade is “Middle blessing” and has some advice for each item. For example, my wish can come true if I am making an effort, I have many opportunities to meet good guys, but the relationships don’t make deeply, I should d not consider illness as a small thing, I spend more money than expected by pilling up small expenses and so on. Kanda-Myojin is a shine in Tokyo near Akihabara and famous for the god of business. Therefore, so many business people visit there at the beginning of the year for wishing their performance going higher. Additionally, the shrine became one of the sanctuaries of Japanese animations.

B. Floating on the water fortune slips at Kifune Shrine in Kyoto / Yaegaki Shrine in Shimane
It is also unique because we need to float the paper on the water for seeing our future fortune and advice. In the case of Kifune Shrine in Kyoto, the letters are gradually emerging on the surface in almost 30 seconds after putting it on the spring water. There is no fortune summary, but my fortune grade is “Middle blessing” (again!) and there is some advice; my wish come true if I have longed for, my lucky direction is west-east, I may have rain during my travel but not bad, my lost item is at the high place… I heard that the fortune slip is popular among visitors because it wins well, however, I am not sure in my case. At least, it is fun for entertaining and memory of my travel.

I also had a similar type of fortune slip in Yaegaki Shrine in Shimane. It is quite unique one to see advice. When we float it on the pond at the on-site pond called “Mirror pond (Kagami no Ike)”, put one coin on the paper together. The advice gradually emerges on the paper. It tells me that the problem will settle down soon and the north and east directions are good for me. There are no fortune grade and summary on the paper. Furthermore, the fortune slip can predict your love relationship at the same time. If the paper sinks very quickly, it means your relationship/marriage goes well soon, if not, your relationship/ marriage will take time. If the paper sinks near your side, you will have a connection near around you and if it sinks far from you, you will have a connection with a person who lives far away. In my case, I remember the paper sank relatively quickly and near my side, but I have already get married to my husband at that time, so probably the slip told me our marriage went well so far!?

C. Snapper fortune slip at the Nogi Shrine in Tochigi
The fortune slip is highly entertaining because we need to fish the one among many snappers in the tub by a fishing rod! First of all, “Snapper”, especially the red one is a symbol of good fortune in Japan. When you have some ceremonies and good things, we have prepared for red snapper for celebrations. I remember it’s 500 yen per one and a little expensive compared with other ones, but it is OK for me as the interior item and the reason I chose the black one was just looking cool. My fortune grade is “Great blessing”!! Some other shrines/ temples provide a similar kind of fish sips, so you may also encounter them somewhere in Japan. FYI, Nogi Shrine locates in Nasushiobara, Tochigi prefecture, enshrines Shogun Nogi. The shrine was very neat and well-organized with a comfortable atmosphere. Please visit the site if you want to know more about there →

D. Online fortune slip of Atago Shrine
Now, we need to refrain from gathering people in one place, so it is not welcomed for us to visit shrines/temples for a while. But you can draw fortune slip if you visit the web page: Atago Shrine virtual Omikuji
Unfortunately, there is no English version, but you can understand the contents thanks to google translation, so why don’t you try it if you are interested in it? FYI, Atago shrine locates in the center of Tokyo near Tokyo Tower area, which is famous for the god of successful business and career. I also sometimes visited there when we ask the god to get a good job in the past.

My strange experience of fortune slip drawing in the past

The first case is that I have drawn the completely same fortune slips 2 years in raw when I visited the shrine near my house on the first visit of the year. It is quite rare to get the completely same slip because there are 50-100 different contents at each shrine/temple. The slip told me that “I should not be misled by temporary bad luck and quietly wait for the good timing for me while keeping my main role” I might have been swayed by the situation at that time and try to do something different which was not suitable for me.

The second one is what happened when I visited a shrine this year on new year’s day. When I drew the slip, the same categories were written but the contents are totally opposite. It was about travel and one told me that my travel will be good, but the other told me that I will have a hard time while traveling due to being restless. It is also quite rare that there are 2 same categories in one slip, and it was the first time for me to encounter such a case and which should I believe!?

When you have a chance to visit Japan, why don’t you try to get it for your luck and memory of the trip?

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