What is Omikuji?: Complete Guide to Japanese Fortune Slip

omikuji Cultural tips

If you visit shrines or temples on New Year’s Day, you may see a lot of people lining up and receiving a small rectangle paper. People seem to read it carefully, and some people smile and others frown. What are they exactly doing there? They are reading a fortune slip called Omikuji, which is a popular thing to do all year round, but especially popular on New Year’s Day to test the new year’s luck. This article is going to feature the secret and attractions of Omikuji. 

What is Omikuji?

Omikuji is a paper slip with the result of fortune-telling written on it. Many Japanese shrines and temples offer this omikuji to tell your fortune and give you advice on how to improve your life in the future. It doesn’t just tell you whether you will have good or bad luck in the future, but it also describes your various fortunes in detail, such as your luck in money, health, romantic relationships and so on. Omikuji vary in price depending on the shrine or temple, but the average price is between 100 and 200 yen for one omikuji. Omikuji is also called “messages from god” because they tell you how to spend your time in the future with a piece of paper, and you can get it at sacred places like shrines and temples. 

omikuji

How to draw an omikuji 

  1. Pray at a shrine or temple first 

First of all, you should pray at a shrine or a Buddhist temple before you draw omikuji to pay respect to the deity that is enshrined at the site. If you don’t know how to pray at a shrine, read this article where we explain how to pray at Japanese Shinto shrines

  1. Visit Omikuji corner

There’s a place offering omikuji and other lucky charms at the site. Some shrines and temples offer more than one kind of omikuji, so you can choose the one you like best or try them all. 

  1. Pay your omikuji fee

When you get to the omikuji place, pay your omikuji fee, the average cost is between 100 and 200 yen, but if you are not sure, ask a Miko, a shrine maiden directly. 

Some shrines and temples offer omikuji with a box. After putting your money in a box which is similar to an offertory box, you can stick your arm into a box full of omikuji papers and draw only one piece. 

  1. Receive your omikuji result

After you paid, a shrine maiden hands you a hexagonal tube box. It contains omikuji sticks, and a number is written on the tip of each stick. When she hands you the tube box, shake it until a stick comes out. When you see your number written on the stick, tell it to the shrine maiden. Then she will  give you a piece of paper which shows the result of your fortune. 

How to read your omikuji result

On the Omikuji result sheet, you will see a word such as 大吉 (daikichi) and 小吉(shōkichi) etc which indicate your overall luck. If you read more deeply, you will find detailed information about your luck in various areas such as love, health, and money. It’s usually written in Japanese but some popular shrines and temples that attract a lot of international tourists offer omikuji papers that explain your luck in English as well as Japanese.

Overall luck symbols are varied and here we explain regular symbols that you can usually find. Some shrines and temples have classified a category of overall luck more than this chart.

A category of overall luck
KanjiHow to readMeaning
大吉DaikichiGreat blessing
中吉ChūkichiMiddle blessing
小吉ShōkichiSmall blessing
KichiBlessing
末吉SuekichiFuture blessing
KyouBad fortune
大凶DaikyouGreat bad fortune

After drawing omikuji, you may see a lot of pieces of omikuji paper are often tied to a branch of a tree growing in the shrine or temple instead of being thrown away or taken home. This is done in order to “tie your wish to the life force of the tree”, that means that you ask the life force of the tree in the shrine or temple to help you make your wish come true. Some shrines and Buddhist temples have offered a fence to tie your omikuji instead of a tree so as not to damage it. In this case, you should tie your omikuji on the fence. It is common to tile omikuji when you draw an omikuji with bad luck, and people tend to put it on the wallet when it is good luck. Of course, you can take your omikuji home which is totally fine! 

shrine omikuji

The unique variety of omikuji

Some shrines and temples in Japan offer very unique omikuji. While a regular omikuji is just a small sheet of paper handed to you, a unique omikuji comes in a package with a variety of designs. These packages vary in design depending on the shrine or temple, and some people make a collection of omikuji just for these packages. Here we introduce some shrines and temples that offer attractive, unique and cute omikuji!

Shika-mikuji & Hakushika-mikuji (Kasuga Taisha Shrine)

Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara Prefecture is a beautiful shrine in bright vermillion. It is designated as one of the World Heritage Sites, and many people from all over Japan come to visit here. There are two kinds of omikuji in the shape of deer you can try. Nara Prefecture is home to many deer, known as a holy place for them. Deer are said to be “God’s messengers” and are regarded as a sacred animal and being protected. You can see deer not only inside this shrine but all over Nara Prefecture. The first one is a handmade wooden deer with a piece of omikuji paper in its mouth which costs 500 yen each. The second one is a white deer omikuji, which costs 600 yen each. Both of these are very cute, and it is highly recommended for you to get these as your souvenir!    

Shimaenaga-mikuji (Obihiro Shrine)

Obihiro Shrine in Hokkaido has attracted many visitors for their very cute omikuji. This shrine is known for its bird-shaped omikuji, which is made based on the motif of  shimaenaga (Long-tailed tit), an adorable white bird found only in Hokkaido from autumn to spring. Inside this bird-shaped package, there is your omikuji result. Even here in Obihiro Shrine, you can watch actual shimaenaga birds flying. This omikuji is sold for 500 yen and their round black eyes with an eyebrow are so cute and surely captivate your heart!

hokkaido shimaenaga

Nagomi-kuji (Hasedera)

Kamakura, in Kanagawa Prefecture, is the center of many historic temples in Japan. It is also known as a famous tourist destination that attracts many people from all over the world. Among them, Hasedera offers “Nagomi-kuji”, a cute omikuji in the shape of  Jizo which will make anyone who sees it feel warm. They cost 500 yen each and the smiling face of Ojizo-sama will surely make you smile too!

There are countless designs of omikuji such as other animal shaped omikuji and a red round shaped daruma omikuji in Japan. When you visit a shrine or temple, it’s fun to take a look at what they have.

Omikuji tells you not only the luck of the year but also tips to avoid bad luck in your daily life. Even if your result is not good, you can bring the slip as your memorable souvenir. If you come to Japan during the New year holiday season, why don’t you try your luck at Omikuji?

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Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture, and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education of Japan and got her Master’s degree in March, 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.

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