OWL Magazine Korea

Japanese Shrine Fortune-Telling: Omikuji

Japan, especially among other Asian countries, has a well-developed indigenous belief system. Uniquely, shrines are established based on the Shinto faith, represented by distinctive red torii gates. Shinto shrines, often recognized by their torii gates, serve as iconic symbols of Japan.

Shrines in Japan enshrine various deities, including historical figures who have left a significant mark on history. There are even shrines rumored to enshrine figures like Thomas Edison. To learn more about Shinto, you can check the link below:

“Omikuji: Fortune-Telling at Japanese Shrines”

Within Japanese shrine culture, there exists a practice known as “Omikuji,” a form of fortune-telling. It involves drawing lots with fortunes written on them at shrines or temples. Historically, during crucial national events, consultations with the divine were sought, and the practice of drawing lots, known as “Jibikuji,” was employed. Over time, this evolved into the modern practice of Omikuji.

In simple terms, Omikuji involves drawing a paper with a written fortune. The cost of one Omikuji draw is typically around 100 to 200 yen.

“How to Draw Omikuji”

The process of drawing Omikuji involves the following steps:

  1. Shake a container containing Omikuji sticks, called “Mikuji makidai.”
  2. Retrieve a stick from the container, which bears a number written in kanji characters.
  3. Remember the number and open the drawer corresponding to that number to reveal the fortune.

“Why Are There Many Tied Papers at Japanese Shrines?”

When exploring Japanese shrines, you may notice bundles of tied papers. This is a common sight at places where Omikuji can be experienced. The reason for tying papers is straightforward: individuals tie their drawn Omikuji to a shrine railing or designated area if the fortune is unfavorable.

This act stems from the belief that carrying an unfortunate fortune with oneself is of no benefit. The concept behind this practice is rooted in the Japanese idea that tying represents binding connections. Tying the drawn Omikuji to the shrine signifies severing ties with the negative fortune.

This concept of tying is also portrayed in the anime “Your Name” (“Kimi no Na wa”), where it is introduced as the concept of “Musubi.”

“What Do Omikuji Contents Include?”

Omikuji typically contain the following information:

  1. Number
  2. Summary of the fortune
  3. Kichi-Kyō: An explanation of the fortune’s auspicious or ominous aspects. Generally, negative fortunes are kept to a minimum.
  4. Waka or Hanshi: Expresses the fortune for the year in poetic form.
  5. Individual Fortunes: Covers aspects such as wishes, health, love, marriage, childbirth, business, academics, exams, relocation, etc.

If you happen to visit a shrine in Japan, trying Omikuji at least once can be an enjoyable cultural experience. However, since it is a part of Japanese culture, having some understanding of Japanese may be helpful to comprehend the contents of the fortune.