Despite this tranquil escape that many shrines and temples provide, one aspect that we must recommend are the lucky charms available! These include all types of tokens of fortune and good luck, including omamori, ema, and omikuji. Once you know the different types, what kinds of luck they can purportedly bring, and the sometimes cute and unique designs that they have, you’ll love keeping an eye out for these!
Likely the most famous of the fortunes available at shrines and temples are the always nerve wracking but fun ‘omikuji’ type paper fortunes. Nerve wracking because you never know what you’re gonna get, and nobody wants to be told they’ll have bad luck! But fun because they stop and make you think, and the surprise is half of the fun! Plus, if you do receive a fortune of bad luck, rest assured that there’s a way out. You can leave your fortune tied to a tree or designated spot on the shrine or temple grounds, and try your luck again with a new omikuji!
What makes omikuji interesting is that they’re so detailed. The little slip of paper offers predictions on love, health, dreams, and luck for the upcoming year. The differing levels of luck that a visitor may receive are:
Not related to or to be confused with ‘kimono’, the traditional Japanese dress, ‘okimono’ has an entirely different meaning. It can be translated as ‘ornament for display’, or the less elegant but descriptive ‘place to put something’.
Many people, especially if they’ve received an omikuji fortune with a promise of good luck written on it, may want to bring it home with them. And this is where okimono come in handy. Just as the literal meaning of the word describes, they’re a place for displaying or keeping your lucky omikuji fortune paper. And they can be super cute as well! And what’s more, even if your omikuji fortune is not the luckiest, at least you’ll have a cute okimono, which is usually a design exclusive to the particular shrine or temple that you’ve gotten it from. This makes them fun to collect as well!
Okimono are popular especially in order to mark ‘hatsumode’, or the first shrine or temple visit of the year, which is a big tradition in Japan at New Years among both the religious and non-religious alike. Many people collect these cute and auspicious figurines, and each day they serve as a reminder to not lose hope and to keep doing your best no matter what life throws at you.
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Definitely the best place in Japan to get your hands on some cute okimono designs during the New Year’s season is in Kyoto, the ancient capital city. Rich in tradition and filled with history, Kyoto is one place that you just can’t miss on a trip to Japan. Populated with quite a few famous shrines and temples, take a look at some of the okimono on offer:
Visit this beautiful shrine located not far from the center of the city that’s dedicated to the god of learning, Tenjin. This god was said to be born as human first during the Year and Day of the Ox, which is why the okimono available here are in the shape of a cute and lovable ox. It’s said that students in particular should try visit this shrine to pray for good luck to pass their exams. We reckon that an omikuji and okimono pair from here will do just the trick!
This location is an ‘Inari’ type shrine, dedicated to the god of business and a healthy rice harvest. Usually depicted as a fox, Inari shrines are very common throughout Japan but also extremely popular. They’re one of the few shrine types in Japan that have a connection to animals. The okimono found here are in the shape of a fox as well. Did you know that the white color these figures are painted with represent how these foxes are a deity and usually unseen by the human eye?
Well known for the hundreds of cherry blossom trees that dot its grounds, this is a must visit spot during the springtime in particular! With okimono shaped like squirrels, and the omikuji fortune rolled up in its tail, it represents how the squirrel is thought to be the messenger of the deities enshrined here. These deities give blessings of productivity and vitality. And if you see a real live squirrel amongst the cherry blossom trees here, consider yourself extra lucky!
And there you have it, just a few of the many cute and collectible okimono figures that can be found at religious sites all across the country. Let us know below in the comments which ones are your favorite, and if there are any others that you’d hope to find!
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