Omikuji: discovery of a ancient form of Japanese Divination

Japanese temples are places of prayer and meditation filled with traditions of the past.

Among all the astonishing historical or cultural elements that you can find there, the omikuji occupy a special place. If you have ever had the chance to visit Japan, you cannot have missed it: these little pieces of paper are found in almost every temple or altar in the archipelago, so much so that they have become one bigger symbols.

To put it simply, omikuji are predictions about your future and bring you specific intentions that can help you. In order to get one, you actually have to draw a number, which will show you a drawer in which your blessing will be found.

From their amazing history to the right way to use them, we will now try to learn more about these lucky little pieces of paper.

Contents :

So, what is an omikuji?

Description of the use of omikuji in a Japanese temple

Different types of omikuji

Reflection on divination in Japan

Wooden omikuji plaques with blessings written on them.

So, what is an omikuji?

In the introduction, we described omikuji to you as a piece of paper containing a wish or blessing.

In fact, the term can also refer to the “clairvoyance” technique at work behind it all.

You should know that the Japanese have believed in the forces of chance since the dawn of time. It was therefore only natural for them to set up such a divination system.

In short, the tradition of omikuji is almost 1000 years old. It actually began at a time when the Japanese used divination on a daily basis and regularly sought advice from the gods and kami. (This is the name given to spirits in Shintoism, the traditional religion of Japan.)

Initially, omikuji was only used by chiefs and kings, particularly when it came to appointing high-ranking officials or ministers.

The history of Japan is definitely fascinating. As such, fans of the country's history would do well to take a look at our Japanese jewelry and lucky charms !

In any case, this divination technique was initially considered something very serious (and this is still the case).

It also seems that the tradition originally originated in China. Traces dating from the Muromachi period (1336 to 1573) show us omikuji covered with Chinese poems.

Today, the messages omikuji bring us are somewhat lighter.

There you will find information on your health, your financial success or your romantic situation.

Although most of the time the blessings will be written in Japanese only, some temples (the more touristy ones unfortunately) also offer English translations.

Three Japanese lucky charms: a Maneki Neko figurine, omamoris and a daruma doll

The magical power of Japan

by these ancestral Japanese lucky charms

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Description of the use of omikuji in a Japanese temple

As we told you, just about every temple in Japan offers omikuji. The reason behind this is simple: these little pieces of paper have a deep religious meaning.

Before you can enter a temple (whether Buddhist, Christian, or Shinto), you will first need to purify yourself.

This can take several forms depending on local traditions but, most of the time, simple washing of hands and face with clean water is sufficient.

Once this is done, you can then enter the temple proper.

There, you can pay a monk for the right to draw a piece of wood containing a number called “ mikuji-bo ”. (After all, monks have to live too. With a price ranging between 100 and 300 yen, omikuji are still more than affordable.)

Once you have your number, you can walk towards a wall full of drawers. You can then open this corresponding to your number.

A bit like a lottery, you will then find your omikuji inside and, with it, the energy and blessings it carries.

The fact of drawing a number at random shows us the importance of luck in this custom.

If, like us, this kind of idea speaks to you, you like our collection dedicated to clairvoyance and the divinatory arts as a whole.

In short, you're going to need some luck!

We haven't told you about it yet, but there are certain omikuji containing negative omens, or even downright curses.

However, don't worry if you draw one of these bad cards. There are in fact special areas called “ musubidokoro ” where you can leave your disastrous message.

If you see a tree or post with hundreds of omikuji nailed to it in the grounds of a Japanese temple, it is probably one of them.

Posts covered with paper omikuji.

Different types of omikuji

You will now have understood that the tradition of omikuji is something very old and deeply rooted in Japanese culture. From Tokyo to Osaka, via Kyoto and Sapporo: sanctuaries throughout the Japanese archipelago will offer you some.

From Imperial Japan to the present day, different types of blessings have emerged and some monks even enjoy adding their personal touch in the form of poems or thoughts.

Besides that, there is a fairly strict classification from best to worst.

There she is :

  • Dai-kichi: the great blessing
  • Chu-kichi: the middle blessing
  • Sho-kichi the little blessing
  • Sue-kichi: the blessing to come
  • Sue-kyo: the curse coming
  • Sho-kyo: the little curse
  • Chu-kyo: the middle curse
  • Dai-kyo: the great curse

Here we see two terms appear: “kichi” and “kyo”. Looking at the list, finding a translation for them shouldn't be too complicated, right?

In addition to these fairly general types of omikuji, most temples like to add extracts from religious texts, details about what the future holds, or any other information that might be relevant.

Certain predictions could thus be "thematic", for example by addressing sumo wrestlers or manga creators. The omikuji messages will then be written to correspond to their activity.

For a businessman, his prediction will show economic interest. A geisha will receive advice on her beauty and the right kimono to wear. And so on.

Several Japanese divination books on a desk.

Reflection on divination in Japan

Magic and divination are an important part of shamanic religions. This is true with omikuji but the reality goes far beyond this practice.

Every shrine of Japanese culture can be connected to it in one way or another. If Mount Fuji is so sacred, it is because of its place in these traditions. The famous Ise Sanctuary also stems from it. The Emperor's Square too. Anyway, you get the idea.

Shintoism (from Shinto, “the way of the gods”) which we spoke to you about earlier is no exception to the rule.

Traditional spirituality of the Japanese, it seems that Shintoism is as old as Japan itself. In any case, there are temples and altars several millennia old all over the archipelago.

To put it simply, this tradition is based on the existence of “kamis”, kinds of sacred spirits which express themselves through nature. Forests, mountains, winds and rivers are thus the expression of kamis.

It goes even further: Shintoism is an animist religion, which means that it places a soul in everything. Yes, the land of the rising sun believes that even natural elements have a soul. Your relationship with could therefore well define your future...

If you want to delve deeper into the subject, here is some additional information on the Shinto tradition.

In short, this idea could partly explain the powers hidden by omikuji. In any case, this is an interesting avenue.

Aside from this, Japanese folklore has seen the emergence of other methods of divination.

Here are a few :

  • Kiboku : this is a type of clairvoyance where turtle shells are used to read the future.
  • Tengen-jutsu : a bit like the Chinese or European zodiac, Tengen-jutsu is based on the stars and your birth element to teach you more about yourself.
  • The Dobutsu Uranai : very comparable to the previous one, the oracles of the Dibutsu Uranai are comparable to horoscopes.
  • The Mi Kayu Ura : more original, this form of divination is based on reading... in the grains of rice or beans!
  • The Mato-i : this is the place where an arrow lands which gives us the information to interpret.

There you go, this article is now finished. We hope that it has kept you interested throughout and helped you understand what omikuji really is.

If you have any questions, or simply wish to discuss with us, you are welcome in the comments section below the article.

You can also send us a message via our contact page. We are open to discussion and will be happy to answer you!

author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.