Lucky Charms for the New Year

Superstitious beliefs are a big part of Japan’s culture. Most Japanese folklore has roots that can be traced to local customs and are meant to offer practical advice from lessons learned throughout Japan’s long history.

Lucky charms are a huge part of Japanese religion and culture. Engimono are lucky charms often given out at New Year events at temples and shrines all around Japan. These lucky charms offer wishes for good luck in harvest, business, health, love, and the like. Many engimono have been passed down over the years. Engimono make popular souvenirs or gift items from a particular area of Japan.

Here are some more examples of popular Japanese lucky charms:

charm2Omikuji –  these paper fortunes are sold at most Japanese temples and shrines. About half of the omikuji predict bad fortune. It is customary to leave the fortune behind by tying it at a designated spot at the temple or shrine. If one receives a good luck paper fortune, it should be kept.

Omikuji. | Andrew

emaEma – these are wooden wish boards found at Shinto shrines. It is from an old Japanese custom of donating horses to shrines. People purchase an ema, write their wish on it, and hang it at a designated area. Wishes from other people make interesting reading.

Ema. | i_yudai

Ehomaki – this is a “lucky direction sushi roll.” Setsubun tradition dictates that one must eat an entire uncut thick sushi roll in silence while facing a lucky direction. There is aspecific direction that is supposed to be lucky, and it changes every year. This was originally an Osaka tradition that quickly caught on with other parts of the country because it was a fun thing to do.

charm1Akabeko – a traditional Japanese craft that originated in Fukushima Prefecture. They are traditional children’s toys that are believed to prevent illness. The toy’s origin can be traced to the story about a cow from the 9th century that helped build Enzoji Temple. According to the legend, the cow became a stone Buddha once the temple was completed.

Akabeko. | Kanko

kitkat1KitKat – a popular chocolate bar in Japan and other countries. In Japan, KitKat chocolate bars have more than 400 flavors. The term KitKat is synonymous to the word “kitto katsu”, meaning “a sure win.” The red packaging of the chocolate bar has also added to the lucky image of the product since red is a lucky color. KitKat is also a popular gift for students during examinations.

KitKat. | jpellgen