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What is Omikuji? Our Guide to Japanese Fortune Telling

From tarot cards to fortune cookies, there are so many ways to gain an insight into your destiny.  No matter what you believe, learning about different fortune telling traditions from around the world is definitely all part of the fun. Today, we’ll share one of our favourites: Omikuji.

Often found in Buddhist temples and shrines in Japan, this charming fortune telling method involves small pieces of paper with fortunes written on them. In case you ever get chance to visit this marvellous country, here’s our step-by-step guide to reading your Omikuji fortune:

Step One: Find a fortune booth

Omikuji fortunes can be found in booths, often located within or nearby large temples and shrines. These booths tend to be labelled みくじ’ or ‘おみくじ’ but thankfully, most signs include instructions in English as well as Japanese.

Step two: Make a donation

Most booths are unmanned and as a result, you could technically take a fortune for free. However, a small donation is seen as good luck and, in a way, is kind of expected. It’s not worth taking a fortune without paying and becoming cursed with bad vibes!

Step three: Retrieve your fortune

Omikuji booths differ in format and there are various ways to obtain your fortune. Most booths require you to shake a metal canister until a bamboo stick pops out with a number on it.

The number on each stick corresponds with one of numerous drawers which you then retrieve your fortune from.

Other booths require you to simply place your hand in a box and immediately pull out your fortune on a piece of paper.

Step four: Translate your fortune

The majority of booths provide English translations which make it easy for you to learn your destiny without having a good understanding of the Japanese language. However, some are written in Japanese only. If you’re a beginner to the language, the following symbols are common.

Generally, if you see 吉 on your fortune, this is the sign of a blessing.

If you see 凶, this is unfortunately the sign of a curse.

  • Great blessing (dai-kichi, 大吉)
  • Middle blessing (chū-kichi, 中吉)
  • Small blessing (shō-kichi, 小吉)
  • Blessing (kichi, 吉)
  • Half-blessing (han-kichi, 半吉)
  • Future blessing (sue-kichi, 末吉)
  • Future blessing (sue-shō-kichi, 末小吉)
  • Curse (kyō, 凶 )
  • Small curse (shō-kyō, 小凶)
  • Half-curse (han-kyō, 半凶)
  • Future curse (sue-kyō, 末凶)
  • Great curse (dai-kyō, 大凶)

Step five: Follow tradition

It’s tradition for those who receive an unfavourable fortune to fold their piece of paper up into a thin strip before tying it to a nearby wall of metal wires.

In the early days of Omikuji, people would tie their fortunes to pine trees in the hope that the bad luck would wait by the tree rather than following them home and cursing their lives!

Those lucky enough to receive a positive fortune reading are encouraged to carry it around with them.

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