People often ask me what you can actually do at a Japanese shrine or temple.
Apart from the buildings that can be very impressive – at least to the Western eye – there are quite a few things you can do.
You can pray, celebrate your wedding, celebrate 7-5-3 or simply receive your blessings.
Especially if you’re into fortune-telling and that kind of stuff, you’ll have a lot of fun.
If you want to receive good fortune, you have several options:
- purchase “omikuji” (fortune-telling paper strips)
- write your wish on an “ema” and hang it up at the temple / shrine
- collect seals for your temple / shrine seal book
- purchase “omamori“
What is an “omamori”?
Omamori literally means something that’ll protect you. They are little lucky-charms.
You can obtain them at almost all Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan. Anyone can purchase them, regardless of their religion. It’s a donation to the temple or shrine.
You can purchase them for personal use. However, many people buy them to give them to family members or friends. It’s very common if someone is pregnant or has a difficult exam to pass, for example.
The most common amulets have a bag that serves as cover which is usually made of brocaded silk. The beautiful designs often feature the deity or a sacred figure of the temple or shrine. It’s not rare that the name of the shrine or temple is sewn into the cover. Inside those bags there’s sometimes a piece of paper or wood with a prayer or invocation. The most common types have a strap attached to them, so you can attach it to your bag.
The more modern lucky charms come in various forms, e.g. card-types (like the one in above photo), zodiac straps, reflection stickers for bicycles etc.
Apart from the standard ones, some temples and shrines have their unique version – which can be pretty much anything. Some have wooden plaques that resemble ema. Others have arrows, tiny swords, animals. The list ist endless.
What kind of omamori should you get?
You can choose what part of your life needs “protection”.
You never go wrong with the “general good fortune” one. But there are also amulets for health, save childbirth, recovering from sickness, safe travelling etc.
Below is a list with the most common types of omamori (御守):
- 開運 (kai-un): general good fortune
- 厄除け (yakuyoke): warding off evil
- 勝守 (katsumori): for success
- 学業成就 (gakugyou jouju): academic success
- 商売繁盛 (shoubai hanjou): for money and business
- 幸せ (shiawase): for happiness
- 健康 (kenkou): health
- 安産 (anzan): save childbirth
- 病気平癒 (byouki heiyu): recovering from sickness
- 旅行 (ryokou): safe travelling
- 交通安全 (koutsu anzen): traffic safety
- 縁結び (enmusubi): for love / finding a partner
As you can see, there’s something for almost every life situation. If not, you can ask the priest / monk to make one, but that’s probably going to be expensive.
The most common omamori usually sell for 500-800 yen.
How to use the omamori?
How you shall use your amulet depends on the type you got.
The ones with a strap you can attach to your bag. If you have one for “safe travelling” you could attach it to your suitcase.
There are stickers and even clip-type amulets for your car. So you can attach them accordingly.
It’s just important to keep them with you, so they can protect you. They don’t bring good fortune to the one who purchased it, but to the bearer. That’s why you can give them away as present (as mentioned before).
Please keep in mind that you’re not supposed to open the omamori bag or else the good fortune will leave you.
It’s important to replace good luck charms once a year – or once the purpose has been fulfilled – to ward off bad luck. You shall bring it back to the same shrine / temple you got it from. Usually that’s done during “hatsumode“, the first shrine visit in early January! You can then purchase a new one for a fresh start in the new year.
No matter if you believe in amulets or not, I think Japanese omamori are great. Just go ahead and purchase the ones you like. With your money, you’ll also help the temple / shrine. There’s no need to stick to the rules. After all that’s only for yourself and your own good fortune – IF you believe in that at all.
Commercialization of Omamori
Japanese lucky charms are beautiful and quite unique, so they make a great souvenir!
Nowadays you can even purchase them in many normal stores or souvenir shops. They often feature popular characters such as Hello Kitty, Anpanman or even Mickey Mouse.
Please note that they have no spiritual power and are just meant as a souvenir – just like a normal strap or key chain.
Have you ever purchased a Japanese omamori?
If so, did you return it to the shrine / temple after a year or did you keep it?