Omikuji Fortunes

Tourists who come to Japan, and see Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines will often seen small fortune-telling boxes called omijikuji (おみくじ). There are various ways of drawing a fortune, such as drawing sticks out of a box, or pulling folded paper out of a bundle, but in each case, the idea is that you are inclined to draw out the fortune that reflects your year. It’s a tradition that dates back to the earliest days in Japan, when the Kami were asked for guidance and advice regarding various aspects of life. Speaking from experience, you can find omikuji all over the place: Buddhist temples, Shinto Shrines, the Disney Store in Shibuya Ward (Tokyo) and so on.

Here’s the omikuji I picked up in January 2011, after visiting Hachimangu Shrine for Hatsumode (first shrine visit of the new year):

Omikuji 3

Like most omikuji, it contains a fortune (in this case 吉, kichi or “luck”) followed by a famous poem that pertains to that shrine or something else appropriate. The poem in this case is:


I haven’t found a translation or source for this in Japanese. Would appreciate any information on who wrote the poem or what source it comes from. Below the poem are particular fortunes for each aspect of your life (travel, school, love, etc):

Omikuji 2

Also here is another omikuji fortune from the previous year I got at Yushima Tenmangū Shrine (got 大吉 or “great luck” that year):


From my cultural guidebook, it states that over 70% of the omikuji fortunes in Japan are hand-rolled in a small factory in the town of Shūnan in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The book quotes the words of one representative:


Omikuji are not fortunes. They are encouragement from the gods. (pg. 155)

Coincidentally, my omikuji this year from Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura warned me that:

  • If I don’t study hard, I’ll fail an exam this year (good advice), but I am not thrilled about the threat of failure either.
  • Moving isn’t advised this year. That came before the earthquake happened, but I have wondered if the advice was just a coincidence. I had considered moving to Japan this year, work permitting, but clearly that’s out now.

Anyhow, research shows that from the earliest days in Japanese culture, divination was very important for making decisions by rulers, and it’s interesting to see how this has carried on into the modern era as a tourist attraction or idle curiosity.

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6 Comments on “Omikuji Fortunes”

  1. cocomino says:

    凶がでたら、もっとがんばれ。大吉がでたら、その調子。くらいのことを言われてるのかもしれません。I leaned a lot. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Doug 陀愚 says:


    それそうですよね。皆は自分の運命を作るのです。仏教のダマパダという経典はお釈迦様がはじめに「誠実な心で幸運が来ます。不誠実な心で不幸が来ます。」とおっしゃりました。変な日本語を使ったらすみません。Glad to help. :)

  3. Robert says:

    It’s interesting that furigana is used on all the kanji. (I’m reading about Japanese literacy at the moment)

    My most interesting omikuji was when I drew two omikuji at a shrine, one in Japanese and an English one also. They were both the same fortune. I couldn’t help wonder if all the omikuji had same fortune though.

  4. Doug 陀愚 says:

    Hi Robert,

    Wow, what are the odds? I assume it’s some kind of histogram where 20% are 吉, 20% 凶 and so on, so getting one fortune is unusual enough, but getting two of the same fortune from two different “buckets” woudl be that much more unlikely. If I was more of a nerd and had more time, I’ve probably try to figure it out, but oh well. :)

    …..anyway, either you look at it, it’s pretty interesting and who knows? ;)

  5. Stephen says:

    If the Kami had a good understanding of statistics they would be broke. Worst fortune I have had is 吉 so either I am the luckiest person in the world or the Kami know economics.
    Enjoying the blog as usual

  6. Doug 陀愚 says:

    Hi Stephen, for the record I do know people who received worse than 吉. So maybe you are lucky. :-) But yeah, I’ve wondered about the economic considerations too.

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