Everything You Need to Know about Omamori, Japan's Eclectic Amulets
While in Japan, you may see colorful, brocade objects attached to bags, wallets or keys. Although they are pretty, the primary purpose of these satiny, rectangular-shaped pouches is not decorative. They are in fact amulets or lucky charms called “omamori”.
These amulets are usually sold at shrines and temples, and are traditionally hand-made; although, their increase in popularity amongst both Japanese and foreigners has led to their commercial production. Various keychains that look just like actual omamori now can be bought in many souvenir shops; that being said, these keychains don’t contain any spiritual value: Authentic omamori bought in shrines contain a small piece of paper with a prayer inside, while commercial ones don’t. If you don’t believe in the spiritual capacities of omamori and just like their traditional design, the souvenir shop option is a perfect choice for you.
Like the woven look of these fabric omamori? Check out our handweaving experience in Kyoto!
On the other hand, the charms that have prayers are either industrially produced and then blessed by priests or originally hand-made in shrines or temples. In case you like the idea of buying an authentic Japanese lucky charm for yourself or loved ones, you should pay attention to the type of the omamori. Each one has a unique purpose – to protect its owner from some threat, or conversely, to attract positive energy to fulfill a goal. For that reason, you should choose the omamori with the purpose that best suits your personal needs and aspirations. Luckily, most popular temples and shrines now have English descriptions for category of omamori they are selling.
For the adventurous ones out there who may have strayed from typical tourist paths, you might find yourself in a temple with no English translations. But don’t worry! We’ve prepared the following translation guide to help you select the omamori that you want. Here are some common omamori categories:
success (勝守 – katsumori);
health (健康 – kenkou);
love (縁結び – enmusubi);
happiness (幸せ – shiawase);
protection from evil (厄除け – yakuyoke);
traffic safety (交通安全 – koutsuanzen);
boost of luck (開運 – kaiun);
safe childbirth (安産 – anzan);
education (学業成就 – gakugyou jouju).
Once you've selected the omamori of your choice, remember that omamori can also expire: usually they are “valid” for one year or until their purpose is fulfilled. Japanese people usually bring expired omamori back to the shrines or temples where they bought them and purchase new ones. That being said, this isn’t mandatory and you can keep yours for as much as you want if you’ve grown fond of your Japanese omamori! Just remember to schedule another trip back if you want to get a fresh amulet for protective purposes.
Want to learn more about Japanese religion and spirituality? Check out our Shojin Ryori cooking experience, taught by a Buddhist monk!