Start the Year Right with Engimono

Many Japanese believe in good and bad fortune. Superstitious beliefs are a big part of Japan’s culture. Most Japanese folklore have roots that can be traced to local customs and are meant to offer practical advice from past lessons learned throughout Japan’s long history.

Engimono are lucky charms often given out at New Year events at temples and shrines all around Japan. These lucky charms bring wishes for good luck in harvest, business, health, love, and other endeavors. Many engimono have been passed down over the years and these are also popular souvenirs or gift items from a particular area of Japan.

Engimono shops. |  ivva イワヲ

Some popular Japanese lucky charms:

Omamori – a popular amulet or talisman in Japanese Buddhist and Shinto traditions. Sold at most religious sites and dedicated to many different Shinto deities, an omamori is believed to provide protection and good luck to anyone who carries it.

Daruma doll –  spherical in shape with red bodies, white faces, and no pupils. They typically represent Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen. It is customary to paint in one of the doll’s pupils at the beginning of New Year, make a wish, and  if it comes true, to paint in the second pupil. Daruma dolls are supposed to bring good fortune, prosperity, and fortitude to reach goals.

Maneki-neko – “beckoning cat”, typically believed to bring blessings. The figurine is often of a cat with its paw in an upright position as if waving. According to Japanese legend, a landlord witnessed a cat waving a paw at him. Intrigued by this gesture, he came close to the cat when suddenly a lightning bolt struck the exact place he was previously standing in. The landlord believed that his good fortune was because of the cat’s actions. Hence, the beckoning hand became a symbol of good luck. Maneki-neko are mostly found at the entrance of shops, restaurants, and other business establishments. They can serve as other more useful and portable things such as keychains and piggy banks.

7096467125_1fd11bf2a2_zRegional lucky charms:

Shigaraki-yaki No Tanuki (Shiga Prefecture) –  Tanuki means raccoon in Japanese. It is believed to bring blessing for a prosperous business and wealth in the future.

Shigaraki-yaki No Tanuki. | jpellgen

Aka-Fukurou (Tokyo) – Fukurou means owl. Owls are thought to bring good luck. Their red color is supposed to ward evil spirits away.

Shinobi-goma (Iwate Prefecture) – Goma means horse. People of Iwate are known to care for horses. The shinobi-goma engimono is also for wishes for a good harvest.

Akabeko (Fukushima Prefecture) –  Beko means cow. Cows are believed to be powerful and hardworking. The papier-mâché cow with its red coloring is believed to prevent bad luck and keep illnesses away.

Check out this video clip of various engimono by Japan Secret:

Click image or here.