Japanese Lucky Charms: A Guide to Omamori for the New Year

In Need Of Some Luck?

What is an omamori and what can it do for you?

Omamori are essentially prayers or sacred inscriptions inside small, colorful brocade pouches sold at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples all across Japan. In Japanese “omamori” (お守り, 御守) means “to protect” or “protection.”

Introduced to Japan via the Buddhist practice of selling amulets, omamori can be found at any temple or shrine with a small shop. Omamori can be purchased by anyone regardless of their religious beliefs, and, in modern Japan, are considered a perfect souvenir from famous shrines and temples. They typically cost between ¥300 to ¥1000 per amulet, though some come in sets of two, depending on their purpose.

The different types of omamori

Originally made from paper or wood, nowadays you can find omamori of all types—including stickers, car window decals, keychains, phone straps, credit cards, small metal charms, and ones featuring Hello Kitty, Mickey Mouse, and popular anime characters. Some shrines and temples have partnerships with sports teams or famous Japanese brands, too.

 

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The types and designs of omamori vary from place to place, and many of the higher-in-demand ones can even be found being resold online for higher prices. This practice, however, is strongly frowned upon by shrine and temple priests, and according to some, can bring the opposite of good luck to both reseller and purchaser.

Japanese Lucky Charms- A Guide to Omamori for the New Year 2

Ask yourself: Do I feel lucky?

Some shrines and temples also have highly exclusive charms that may only be available at certain times of day, or during certain festivals each year.

Every shrine and temple has its own deities and purposes and as such, each has its own focus. Generally speaking, these focuses will determine what the “best” omamori from that shrine/temple is, but according to a Shinto priest I’ve spoken with: “the ideal omamori will call out to you—you will know which one you need when you see it.”

That being said, the most common types of omamori are as follows:

  • Katsumori (勝守) – success; to win/succeed at something you have hoped for
  • Shiawase (幸せ) – happiness; to help you achieve happiness in life
  • Kaiun (開運) – good fortune; the general “good luck” sort of talisman
  • Yakuyoke (厄除け) – warding off evil/ill fortune; prevents bad luck from hindering your goals
  • Kenko (健康) – general good health
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Popular omamori include charms for love, success at work, and health.

More specific but common types of omamori are:

  • Anzan (安産) – for a safe and easy pregnancy and childbirth
  • Kotsu-anzen (交通安全) – traffic safety; protection for drivers and travelers in vehicles
  • Kanai-anzen (家内安全) – safety and well-being of your family; prosperity in the home
  • Gakugyo-joju (学業成就) – for success in studies, passing exams (for students and scholars)
  • Shobai-hanjo (商売繁盛) – success in business, financial matters, and career growth
  • En-musubi (縁結び) – love; to find a partner (1 charm), or to protect a relationship (2 charms)
  • Byoki-heyu (病気平癒) – “get well soon”; only for those currently ill or recovering from illness

There are also unique to a given shrine or region types of omamori too, such as ones to protect against bears (kumajo 熊除 found more in northern Japan), pet omamori (ペットお守まもり), IT/digital security talismans (joho anzen kigan 情報安全祈願), ones for specific hobbies, beauty, and sexual health.

Omamori store in a shrine in Kyoto

You can buy omamori at most shrines and temples.

Important rules for omamori

The first and most important rule of omamori is to not open them. If you open them, all the power they have to protect you “escapes” and they are essentially worthless (if still beautiful to look at).

Where should I keep it?

 

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Omamori should either be worn on your person, on something you have with you often or kept close to what they will protect. For example, if you want to improve your financial fortunes, money luck charms should be kept in a pocket of your wallet.

Ones for education should be hung off school bags or pencil cases, and ones for becoming pregnant should be kept under your pillow, futon or mattress.

 

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Should I get one or multiple charms?

This depends; are you looking for protection in a single area of your life or many? If only for a single area, then one will suffice.

If you need more protection than that, then you can have multiple charms. You can keep omamori from the same shrine or temple together, ones from one shrine with another, or ones from one temple with another. You can also keep omamori with other religious items, such as rosaries, Star of David charms, Hamsa, and so on.

However, keeping Shinto omamori with Buddhist omamori may cancel out their effects. If you’re concerned about possible interactions, then you should ask the staff at the shop if they can be kept together safely. There is a saying that “virtuous deities will not find conflict with others” so you needn’t worry too much.

 

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What should I do if it breaks or gets dirty?

The Shinto priest also told me, “This is what you should expect of your omamori—it becomes damaged, gets lost, dirtied because it is protecting you.”

If you can no longer hang the omamori from its string, it’s perfectly all right to put it inside your bag in a pocket instead or have it in a drawer/on a shelf at home.

Do not try to wash your omamori whatever you do—you’ll be washing away the protective power and letting all the bad luck it has blocked out back into your home.

How long can I keep it for?

There are two trains of thought here. Some people believe you can keep omamori forever and never have to worry about them changing in strength. Some families even pass antique omamori down through the generations too.

On the other hand, some believe that a heavily damaged omamori or one that has been in use for a year should be replaced. This ties into the Shinto belief in renewal, wherein shrine buildings and so on are rebuilt every twenty years or so.

In this case, the omamori have to be taken back to the shrine/temple they were purchased from to be disposed of properly. You can’t give them back to a different shrine/temple because it is considered an insult to that deity, and they might not be very happy to help you out in the New Year as such.

Omamori drop off box Guide to Omamori

Drop off your old omamori at the shrine or temple where you got it.

Major temples and shrines will have an “old omamori drop off” (koshinsatsu osamedokoro 古神札納め所, or furufuda osamedokoro 古札お納め所) all year round, while smaller ones will only have one during the New Year celebrations. If you aren’t sure, simply tell someone at the shrine/temple that you have old omamori and they will help you out.

During the first, second or even third week of the New Year, these old omamori and other returned items will be burned in a ritual fire known as a o-takiage (お焚き上げ) within the shrine or temple grounds that will purify and remove all bad luck that they have gathered over their use.

Hopefully, this guide will help you to find the perfect omamori to protect you! We wish you all the best of luck for 2020.