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Goin’ Japanesque!

Omikuji: Drawing and Understanding Your Japanese Fortune

A new year has started, but have you gone to draw your omikuji for 2016 yet? Today let’s take a look at the Japanese New Year custom of drawing your fortune at temples and shrines. That being said, you can draw an omikuji any time of the year, not just during the New Year, so feel free to try it anytime you visit the country. Ref: Photo


What is an Omikuji?

The word refers to a type of fortune divination found at shrines and temples that takes the form of slips of paper or wooden sticks. It’s quite common for hatsumode visitors to draw an omikuji to try to divine what the coming year will be like. When you open the fortune, you’ll find predictions and advice regarding your health, work, love life, finances, and more.


Omikuji Ranking from Best to Worse

大吉>吉>凶: The basic order goes great luck (大吉, daikichi), good luck (吉, kichi), then bad luck (凶, kyō). 



A more detailed order might go great luck (大吉, daikichi), good luck (吉, kichi), some luck (中吉, chūkichi), a little luck (小吉, shōkichi), luck later (末吉, suekichi), bad luck (凶, kyō), then terrible luck (大凶, daikyō). However, some omikuji, like those offered at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, don’t have these ranked fortunes written on them. At Meiji Shrine, what you’ll find written instead is a carefully-selected Japanese poem.


After You’ve Drawn Your Omikuji

On a note, you draw your omikuji after you finish visiting the temple or shrine, not before. After you’ve checked the contents of your fortune, you take the omikuji and…


1 …tie it to a tree on the premises.

Doing this is thought to cause your fortune to be “tied” to the presiding gods or Buddhas. It’s said that if you take a bad fortune and tie it using your non-dominant hand, it’ll change the bad luck into good. Most of the time, there will be one tree used for tying fortunes, so take a good look around you before you tie.

2 …take it home with you.

Some people take the view that the omikuji holds a certain power or message of gratitude from the gods/Buddhas, so they take the paper home with the intent of following the advice or admonishments printed on it. A few days later, they’ll return to the temple or shrine to tie it as an expression of gratitude.

3 …take it home if it’s good, tie it to a tree if it’s bad.

In this method, the idea is tying a “kyō” omijuki asks for divine protection from the misfortune written within. If the fortune is good, however, you do the same as the people in example 2 and take it home, bringing it back later to be tied.

*There is no established “proper” method for dealing with an omikuji after drawing it, so we’ve included the most common here.



In Conclusion…

It’s no good getting elated over a good fortune or depressed over a bad one. What’s important is the content of the fortune itself written in the omikuji. The best thing is to learn from the details of your fortune and use it to your advantage. Also, just because you don’t like what you’ve drawn doesn’t mean you’re allowed to draw another one! In the omikuji tradition, this little slip of paper is treated as a piece of advice (or a warning) from the gods themselves.

Related: New Year’s Articles

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