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Goin’ Japanesque!

8 Unique & Kawaii Lucky Items of Japan

“Engi” is a Japanese word which means an omen for a good or bad thing to happen and has long been used by Japanese people. “Engi mono” is a lucky item we, as superstitious beings, wear or use for decoration in hopes of attracting good luck.

We have many kinds of “engi mono,” or lucky items, in Japan. Here we feature some of them that are especially interesting and/or has a kawaii taste to it. Title photo by flickr

 

1. Rabbit

good-luck-charm-rabbit
Photo by flickr

As rabbits are animals that jump high up, they have been associated with “enhancing luck” and considered to be lucky animals since long ago.

Also, because they are very fertile animals, it is said that they bring luck in prosperity of descendants.

 

2. Owl

good-luck-charm-owl
Photo by flickr

Owls are called “fukuro” in Japanese, the sound of which can be interpreted as meaning “no trouble” or “luck to come” depending on Chinese characters phonetically applied to the sound, so they are often considered to be lucky animals to drive away bad luck and bring good luck.

Also, the owls’ ability to see in the dark is associated with “insight on how to get around in the world” and because the Japanese expression “cannot turn head around” means being in a financial predicament, the owls’ ability to turn their heads around very flexibly is associated with good luck with money.

 

3. Frog

good-luck-charm-flog
Photo by flickr

Frogs are called “kaeru” in Japanese, the sound of which can also mean “return,” so they are considered lucky animals associated with luck with “getting money back” or “returning safely.”

People often put a coin in the mouth of a frog ornament and expect their luck with money and business to be improved.

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Meoto Iwa: A Miraculous Scene that Shines Between the Rocks

 

4. Manekineko (Beckoning Cat)

good-luck-charm-manekineko-002
Photo by flickr

Among some theories about the origin of manekineko (beckoning cat), the following one is especially widely known.

According to the theory, the legend of the beckoning cat comes from the experience of Naotaka Ii, who was one day passing by Gotokuji Temple in Tokyo when he was beckoned by a white cat into the temple and escaped being hit by a thunder

There are two kinds of manekineko; ones raising its right paw is said to bring luck with money and ones raising its left paw, luck with people (guests).

 

5. Paper Dog

good-luck-charm-inuhariko
As dogs relatively do not suffer in labor and deliver a lot of babies at once, they are considered lucky animals to bring luck with safe birth and growth of kids.

“Inu Hariko” is a paper toy in the shape of a standing dog. People send it as a lucky item to their relatives and neighbors when celebrating them for having a new baby born.

 

6. Cow (Akabeko)

good-luck-charm-akabeko
Photo by flickr

Akabeko is a lucky item, which is known as the specialty toy from Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture.

According to a legend, people were having trouble carrying heavy wood for the construction of a building called “Fukuman Kokuzodo” when a herd of brown cow suddenly appeared from nowhere and people used them to carry the wood and successfully complete the construction.

Later, people started to make statues of red cows and expressed their gratitude and worship for the mysterious cows. This is said to be the origin of the cow toy. Today they are valued as a lucky item to drive away bad luck and bring healthy life.

 

7. Fukusuke

good-luck-charm-fukusuke
Photo by flickr

Fukusuke is a lucky toy and there are a multiple of theories about its model. The toy taking a courteous bow is often seen in stores and restaurants as a lucky item to bring in customers and bring success in business.

 

8. Daruma

good-luck-charm-daruma
Photo by flickr

Daruma is a doll modeled after Bodhidharma, the actual priest who lived in ancient China. The doll is given a heavy weight in the bottom part so that it can rise up by itself when knocked down. It is very popular as a lucky item for it reminds people of an indomitable spirit with its movement of bouncing back up every time it gets knocked down.

Brand new daruma dolls are sold with both of their eyes white and blank with the irises unpainted. This is for people to paint only one of the irises black when making a prayer and leave the other one unpainted until their wish comes true.

 

So, we have introduced to you some of the famous lucky items of Japan. Did you find any of them particularly interesting? In Japan, we have many adorable lucky items that are popular as ornaments. If you find any of them during your trip in Japan, we can suggest to buy some as your souvenir.

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KAWATA

About the author

I'm interested in general in all things related to culture and fine arts with a focus on movies, art, and design. I hope to introduce to many people all the different sides to Japan in regards to Japanese culture.

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