Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Omikuji - The Fortune Paper

Omikuji at Senso-Ji in Asakusa
Omikuji at Godaido Island
When you visit the shrines or temples in Japan, you can probably see people reading a strip of paper or seen it tied on a stand or on a tree branch - those were probably Omikuji (おみくじ) you see.

Omikuji are paper fortunes from a “sacred lottery,” fortunes which foretell one’s good or bad luck regarding something that one is praying about to the god of the shrine they are visiting. The omikuji are usually received by making a small offering and randomly choosing one from a box or by shaking a box containing numbered sticks and taking out the fortunes by the same number, or getting them from a vending machine; hoping for the resulting fortune to be good.
Omikuji vending machine
Two visitors on Fuukurajima, buying a Daruma Omikuji

General fortune is usually written in one of these categories:
大吉 - Daikichi - Excellent luck
吉 - Kichi - Good luck
中吉 - Cyukichi - Fair luck
小吉 - Syokichi - A little luck
半吉 - Hankichi - Semi-good luck
末吉 - Suekichi - Uncertain luck
末小吉 - Suekokichi - Uncertain but a little luck
凶 - Kyou - Bad luck
小凶 - Syokyou - A little misfortune
半凶 - Hankyou - semi-misfortunate
末凶 - Suekyou - Uncertain misfortune
大凶 - Daikyou - Certain disaster
The fortune may also include predictions different subjects about love, lost articles, study, family,money, travel, childbirth; in other words, predictions for all needs.

After reading it, if the fortune is of bad luck, you should fold the fortune into a strip and tie it around a branch of a tree, or pillar or in a special place where the shrine indicates, so the predicted bad luck won’t follow you.

But if the fortune brings a message of good luck you can take it with you or put it on your wallet.

A purported reason for this custom is a pun on the word for pine tree (松 matsu) and the verb 'to wait' (待つ matsu), the idea being that the bad luck will wait by the tree rather than attach itself to the bearer. In the event of the fortune being good, the bearer has the option of tying it for the fortune to have a greater effect or can keep it for luck.


  1. I folded the foutune into a strip even if the fortune was good luck. What a shame.

    I could learn many English words related fortune.

  2. Religion is actually a good business.
    100 yen for one omikuji?!

    In Austria, I visited a church that sold holy water.
    One bottle 5 Euros!

  3. Alamak, your son has been that Austrian church?
    He seems to show us satu botol 5 Euro!? Ha ha...

  4. @cocomino,
    An excerpt from Wikipedia:
    "A purported reason for this custom is a pun on the word for pine tree (松 matsu) and the verb 'to wait' (待つ matsu), the idea being that the bad luck will wait by the tree rather than attach itself to the bearer. In the event of the fortune being good, the bearer has the option of tying it for the fortune to have a greater effect or can keep it for luck. "
    So, worry not. Your luck is increased when you fold and tie it too. ^^

  5. @London Caller,
    The Daruma omikuji at Fukuurajima more expensive woh! 200yen.

    I guess it's a way to raise funds rather than just expect visitors to drop money in the donation box?

    LOL on the comment on my Son's 5 sign. XD
    What do you do with holy water? Drink it? Or use it to bless stuff?

  6. They really have it down to a science. Selling fortune from a vending machine. Love it! I would think if you had to pay, all the fortunes would say something positive...almost like a fortune cookie.

  7. LOL... interesting, they even have vending machine for fortune telling!(in a shrine?!!)

  8. @AVCr8teur,
    Don't you just love all things automated like those in Japan? ^^

  9. @Alice,
    Well, if you think about it, it's just a step up from putting money in a box, shake those fortune sticks for a number which then you take to collect your fortune, right? :)

  10. the vending machine totally rocks, truly one of a kind. it makes me wonder if Japan has v/machine selling lady lingerie.

  11. @LR,
    If they don't,they probably would have soon. ^^

    But if I'm not mistaken, someone did mention about underwear vending machine once.

  12. Fantastic explanation and enjoyed reading all about Omikuji. I remember doing this when I was in Japan.

    Japan Australia

  13. @Japan Australia,
    And I enjoyed researching for it. I gain more knowledge of Japan after returning from my trip, just by finding thins to post here. ^^

    I didn't do this - can't and won't understand them. Maybe I should go look for places that have English omikuji during my next trip. :)

  14. Don't know what the holy water at the church was really for...
    But I think you can use it to ward off vampires!
    Ha ha... I watched too much horror films.

  15. @London Caller,
    I thot you ward off vampires with garlic and a stake.

    I guess that holy water would be pretty handy if you need to do some exorcism! XD

  16. Wow!!! I've never seen the "uncertain" luck omikuji before! I've usually gotten decent/good luck - hope that trend continues! ;)

  17. @Ri,
    I hope so too! Worse than an uncertain luck, getting the disaster ones would certainly suck big time. XD

  18. I think all the ones sold by shrines are good/decent luck these days. Shrines know what's good for business. If they start selling bad luck omikuji, people will go to a different "luckier" shrine instead. :-)

  19. @Anna,
    Or they can sell some counter-charm to ward-off the bad fortune? No? ;p

    In other words, these fortunes should be taken with a grain of salt. XD

  20. Nice! I don't believe in this type of stuff, but I buy one every new year and I'm always disappointed when it's not Daikichi. :(

    I don't understand me.

  21. Being a sensitive and easy to ply type would suck very bad if you got
    大凶 - Daikyou - Certain disaster

    Man...I hope they don't print too many of those ones.

  22. @kyushudan,
    Likewise. I don't believe in this kind of stuff, but when I do get one, I'm gonna be disappointed when it didn't read something awesomely favourable for me.


  23. @Chris,
    I do hope no one jumps off building or railway tracks if/when they got one of those Daikyou.

    That would be too prophetic. o.O

  24. @Lina @Anna

    True (about not many bad luck ones) but I heard that Kiyomizudera has a pretty high rate of bad luck - or at least very, very low rates of anything above "normal" good luck. I was told I was very lucky to be getting "okay luck" every time I went.

    But then again... everyone's going to go to Kiyomizudera anyway, right? ;)

  25. @Ri,
    Interesting... the Kiyomizudera omikuji.

    Everyone seems to go there, but for us three; being at a place with other bus loads of people is yet to appeal us. But I should try and visit it someday, yes? Join the masses... XD

  26. Hrm.. come to think of it I don't think I've ever received an unlucky fortune from a shrine or temple. Though my years there in Japan were pretty lucky. ^.^

  27. @Sarah,
    But where's the fun in it? XD

    I suppose there is no booming business for warding off bad luck at the shrine?

  28. after all these years, I'm still hoping to get a "Bad Luck" omikuji :-(

  29. @Biggie,
    Poor guy. Don't have much luck getting "bad" luck?


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