For centuries, humans have held beliefs in the supernatural and paranormal, and think there are items that exist that are cursed and lucky. What these items are, exactly, differ from country to country. Depending on the history and culture of the area, you’ll find all sorts of items that are thought to bring good luck such as a rabbit’s tail, a statue of a waving cat (Maneki Neko), four leaf clovers, and horseshoes.
In Tokyo, Kyoto and all over Japan, there is one talisman you’ll find for sale in both Buddhist and Shinto shrines. This amulet is called an “Omamori”, and when worn or kept near you, can bestow an array of different kinds of blessings and protection.
Omamori: Lucky Charms from When You Visit a Japanese Shrine or Temple
Under Omamori, there are two branches. The kind that is shaped rectangularly (the envelope/enclose-type, most popular kind) and the kind that is shaped to look like something. The ones that are shaped to look like something are called morphic Omamori. Some of them take the shape of a bell, while on particularly famous one takes on the shape of a fox. They symbol immortality and health and have ties to Shinto practices. Zodiac animals are also examples of what morphic Omamori resemble.
As for the first kind of Omamori; the kind that is rectangular; those Japanese amulets look like enclosed, vertical envelopes or encloses etched with different designs, depending on what they are for. The materials used to make this charm vary. While many of them are made from paper that is occasionally enclosed in plastic, there are also Omamori that are made from different kinds of cloths and fabrics (usually brocaded silk) and even wood. Nowadays, the concept of Omamori has become a commercial fad, so much so that they are sometimes made of materials such as old credit cards and bike reflectors.
Inside the Omamori are prayers that are written on papers or wooden pieces. It is important not to open the Omamori and look at these papers or inscriptions because doing so invalidates the prayer. It all began with the idea of bringing along the energy of gods from either religion with them wherever they would go – a practice that would turn into a trend for years to come.
An Omamori can also be considered a physical representation of a prayer; a hopeful solution to a problem the person carrying it has. Purchasing an Omamori also helps the temple that you buy from. Funds go to the upkeep of temple grounds, as well as the livelihood of the monks or practitioners there.
The History and Origin of The Omamori
Dissecting the word “Omamori” gives you two cuts; “mamori”, which stands for protection, and the “o”, which is an honorific, or “sonkiego”. Think of the o as showing extra respect to the word or item, because in a sense, it is sacred and has holy energy. Before you buy them, Omamori usually goes through a kind of ritual. It conceals either the “kesshin”, which is a Buddhist term for manifestation, or a “busshin”, which is an evolution of a spirit.
It is said that the trend of wearing Omamori began during the Tokugawa period. Both Shintoism and Buddhism were prevalent in Japan, so many aspects of both religions mingled and intermixed. Buddhists would often use amulets, while Shinto believers made use of charms. When combined, the Omamori was born. Though the origin of the Omamori may have come from combining cultures of two religions, it is still considered disrespectful to bring a Shinto Omamori to a Buddhist temple, and vice versa.
Other than that, the rules for Omamori from both religions stay the same. Make sure you don’t open to see what’s inside and don’t rely on it completely to help you achieve that blessing. If you want good grades on a test, for example, you may purchase an Omamori to help you with that.
The Kanji Characters of Omamori
The inscriptions to look out for on your Omamori are 神社、大社、神宮 - these are written on Shinto Omamori. A “Bukkyo” Omamori, or the Omamori used in Buddhist temples have the writings “寺、寺院” on it. Some Buddhist sects don’t believe in the use of Omamori, one of them being “Jodo Shinshu”. They believe that Amida, short for Amitabha, is whom you should completely rely on for the outcome of your fate. Using an Omamori would interfere with this. Be sure not to visibly show your Omamori when you visit a Buddhist temple of this sect, as it is considered disrespectful.
The Meaning Behind the Different Types of Japanese Omamori
The Omamori talismans have seven categories. There’s kaiun, gakugyo joju, kotsu anzen, yaku yoke, shobai-hanjo, anzan, and en musubi. Within each category are more sub categories of Omamori.
• The kaiun Omamori is for good luck in general.
• If you want to do well in anything education or are a student and are concerned about the school-related matter, then you purchase and carry around a gakugyo-joju.
• Kotsu-anzen supposedly protects you from any possible problems or accidents you may encounter while traveling.
• Yaku-yoke wards off any evil that may be lurking around you.
• Want your business to flourish? Pick up a shobai-hanjo Omamori.
• If you or your wife is pregnant, then it’s best they carry around an anzan to make sure there are no complications, and for a healthy and lucky baby.
• Lastly, there’s the kanai-anzen, which helps keeps the peace at home, as well as the well-being of your family’s prosperity.
Special Kinds of Omamori
There are Omamori that cater to specific things, such as love, getting better from illnesses, being safe while operating heavy machinery, securing yourself from digital mishaps, as well as protecting your own pet. They are often so specific, that you must make sure what you’re getting really caters to your exact need. For example, there is a difference between an Omamori that attracts romance for a single person, as well as the Omamori that continues romance between an already existing couple.
If there exists a group of people that have a specific want or need, those people can come together to petition for an Omamori to be made to encourage or bless that want or need. That Omamori will then be sold by the hundreds. Also, if you go to the right booth, you may even have a special Omamori be made just for you.
How to Use An Omamori
Once you’ve bought the Omamori you want, it will serve you for only one year, and no more than that. To use them, you can either wear them every day as a necklace, or you can tie it to your bag. Don’t worry if the Omamori gets accidentally torn, bumped, or discolored, that’s perfectly fine – if it’s never opened. The wear and tear that is visible on an Omamori shows that it’s doing its job of taking the
Once the year has ended (usually New Year’s) you must remove the amulet and send it back to the temple where you bought it from, where they properly get rid of it. Then, you can buy a new one to start the year off.
Because there are so many people who come to return their Omamori at the end of the year, big temples have drop boxes to make it more convenient for everyone. In case you’re in another part of the world and want to get your Omamori to the temple for sure, you can always try to mail it to the nearest Shinto temple. If you want to get rid of your Omamori yourself once it’s through its due date, you can burn it, or keep it (though some people say it’s not good to keep it as it has retained the bad luck that it kept you from receiving that year). Whatever you do, don’t throw it away in the trash can – that is disrespectful.
Buy One for Yourself - Where to Find Japanese Omamori For Sale
You don’t have to be a Buddhist or have a devout faith in Shintoism to buy an Omamori. Omamori is openly sold to people of all ages, races, and from all levels of society and beliefs. There is no discrimination to whom they can be given to, so don’t worry about any exclusivity issues you may have thought came with buying an Omamori.
If you really want a prime traditional Omamori, the most authentic experience for you to acquire one would be to go to an actual Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple in Japan, where they usually have an Omamori booth. There, you can pick out which ones would suit you best, after studying the different kinds of Omamori that are usually sold. Sadly, not everyone has the means or time to grab a ticket and fly all the way to Japan just to buy this protective and lucky talisman.
There is a way around it, though - if you live in America and would like an Omamori, you can ring up the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America, which has an array of different Omamori you can choose from that cost $5 to $15 per piece. For more information, you may visit their website.
You may also opt to buy an Omamori online. There are many of them to choose from on eBay, but because people sell second-hand objects on this site, the newness and credibility of the Omamori being sold here can be questionable. Then again, that only applies to traditional Omamori. Commercial Omamori, most of which are what you’ll probably find online, don’t necessarily have to follow the same rules. You can buy these and give them to friends and family as mementos or small tokens to wish good luck.
The Price of A Japanese Omamori Amulet
Make sure to have at least 500 to 1,500 yen with you if you want to buy an Omamori. That’s around $13, roughly – but often, Omamori amulets are sold at $15. Just beware of those who are selling them at too high a price, guaranteeing they work.
You Can Make Your Own and Sell Them
You can go for selling modern Omamori and not follow the rules that traditional Omamori go by. This can make you quite a bit of money. You can make Omamori from practically anything if you have the creativity and a market to address.
It’s perfectly fine to follow the concept and design of it, and those who are from the Buddhist and Shinto religions won’t find it disrespectful unless you outright make fun of the practice or make it about a lewd theme. You may find that some people make Omamori and sell it on Etsy, an online retail crafts site, for more than the usual traditional Omamori goes for – up to 3,000 yen.
It’s important to recognize, however, that these are just tokens that look like the real thing, but aren’t. They are free to design their crafts as any such way and sell it for any price.
DIY Steps on How to Make A Japanese Omamori
To make an Omamori, you’ll need a ribbon, fabric (or paper), scissors, paper, and if you’re working with fabric, a needle, and some thread. Once you have everything ready, cut out the rectangular panels on the fabric (or paper) that make up your Omamori pouch. Attach the panels by sewing them together – make sure the seams are inside so they don’t show when you flip the Omamori inside out. Make sure to even out the panels when you add the tilted angle at the mouth of the pouch.
Poke a hole through the top of the bag. Write a specific prayer that you would like to help you through the year for a cause. Once you’re done, fold the paper, and slip it into the bag. Seal it well with a ribbon knot, which you can glue shut once it’s knotted.
How to Tie A Japanese Omamori Knot
The way most Omamori are knotted is through a knotting style called “tassel knot”. There are many videos on YouTube, as well as suggestions on Pinterest that can show you how to properly create a tassel knot to complete your DIY Omamori.
Anyone can make an Omamori, but it’s great to be able to contribute something to a temple or shrine by supporting their crafts. According to feedback, temples and shrines get really packed during August; summer months – but June and July aren’t such a bad time to visit despite the rains. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt to have an amulet that protects and blesses you at the same time. Whether it does its job or not, it’s a part of Japanese culture that is respected and cherished.