Omikuji (おみくじ): What You Need To Know About Fortune Telling In Japan

Wondering what is Omikuji?

Curious about “Daikichi” (大吉) and “Daikyo” (大凶)?

Curious about where to find this type of fortune telling in Japan?

Our ultimate guide to Omikuji will teach you everything you need to know…


Fortune Telling with Omikuji

Omikuji are special strips of paper found around Japan that are believed to tell your fortune. An English phrase that can be used to describe Omikuji is  “fortune-telling paper strip.”

Many refer to them as the lottery of fortune-telling as it has the kanji for lottery, which literally means “sacred lot. “

This is especially accurate because the way you receive the Omikuji feels kind of like a lottery.

Originally, you would have to shake a box until a bamboo stick falls out. You then present this stick to a priest or Miko who would give you an Omikuji according to the number on your stick. 

The Omikuji itself is a tightly folded piece of paper that you must unfold in order to read. The paper is quite large once unfolded all the way and there is a great deal written on it.

However, the first thing people tend to check is the more “general” category of your fortune. Some are exceptionally lucky while others carry terrible news. 

After the more generalized statement, there will be specific information about different areas of your life – love, work, health, success, etc. The problem, though, with Omikuji is that they can be quite difficult to understand.

They are written in poem form, many of which are based on the “100 Chinese Poems” which was written by Tendai, a Buddhist monk. 

For this reason, you’ll need to ask someone who understands the language fluently to explain it to you.

Despite the fact that they can be hard to read, they are still extremely popular with tourists who come to visit Japan. 

In the beginning, Omikuji were merely decision guides. People would make plans and decisions and they wanted to hear from the gods if their plan was going to work or not.

This is how they were born, and they have evolved from here. 

See Also: What Is A Shinto Shrine? What You Need To Know


Where Can You Find Omikujis?

Omikujis are typically found in Japanese shrines and temples. In the past, receiving your fortune would have to be done through a priest.

These days, they are usually located in a box on the temple or shrine grounds. You can access an Omikuji for a small fee. 


When Should You Get an Omikuji? 

Most people treat Omikujis like the lottery.

They will get one whenever they happen to be visiting a shrine or temple, or perhaps at times, they will retrieve one at random if they’re feeling lucky. 

Others who take it a little more seriously will go before a major life event, an important exam, a big sports match, or a business decision. 

Other than that, almost everyone will go for Omikujis during “Hatsumode” which takes place at the beginning of January.

Some people go a little crazy here and draw as many as it takes for them to get the highest possible level of luck. 

They also tend to be a fairly interesting tourist attraction. Visitors will go to the shrines or temples and pick one just for fun. Most don’t believe in the religious or superstitious aspect. 


How to interpret Omikuji? 

For those who are not fluent in the Japanese language, an Omikuji will be extremely difficult to understand.

You might have to get someone to translate the bulk of the fortune for you, including all the little details.

This list contains all of the “general” statements you might get.

These tell you what type of fortune you’ve received – good, bad, medium, etc. 

They are all variations on two things – blessings and curses. “Kichi” means blessing, and “Kyo” means curse. 

  • Great blessing (dai-kichi, 大吉). This is the best Omikuji you could possibly get. It is said to bring you great and abundant blessings in the coming year. 
  • Middle blessing (chū-kichi, 中吉). This is still a great Omikuji to get. This predicts that you will still receive blessings, but they will be a little smaller than the great blessing. 
  • Small blessing (shō-kichi, 小吉). Still better than a curse – this means you will receive very modest blessings. 
  • Blessing (kichi, 吉). Lower still than a small blessing, but a blessing nonetheless. 
  • Half-blessing (han-kichi, 半吉). Lower than a blessing – you will receive only half a blessing. 
  • Ending blessing (sue-kichi, 末吉). This represents a blessing that will become apparent later.
  • Ending small blessing (sue-shō-kichi, 末小吉). Similar to above, this is a small blessing that becomes apparent later on. 
  • Curse (kyō, 凶). This is an unlucky Omikuji to get. If you see someone at the shrine or temple who seems upset, perhaps they have just received a curse such as this. 
  • Small curse (shō-kyō, 小凶). Worse than a regular “curse” but still not so bad as it’s only small.
  • Half-curse (han-kyō, 半凶). With this, you are said to receive only half a curse, which is better news than even a small curse. 
  • Ending curse (sue-kyō, 末凶). Similar to the ending blessing, but it’s a curse that you will discover over time. 
  • Great curse (dai-kyō, 大凶). This is the worst possible fortune you can ever receive. This is said to bring great curses on you in the coming year. 

These are the basic meanings, though sometimes certain temples will have different variations. Some temples will only offer certain types, and some will order them differently.

If you are confused about where you stand with your Omikuji, the staff of the temple or shrine you’re at will be able to help you. 

See Also: The Ultimate Guide to Tenrikyo


List of Fortunes – Specific Aspects of Life

Once you’ve determined the general category of your fortune, the details of it will fall into one of many “aspects of life.” It won’t simply give you generic statements or vague predictions.

It offers you details that focus on one aspect of your life. From romance to business, there are many options: 

方角 (hōgaku) – Auspicious/Inauspicious Directions

This is one type of fortune that isn’t as specific as the others. It will provide directions that will either point you towards success or deter you from it – depending on if you got a blessing Omikuji or a curse. 

願事 (negaigoto) – One’s Wish or Desire

Everyone has wishes and desires in their hearts. This type of Omikuji will address these.

A blessing will bring good news and happy predictions, while a curse will be quite the opposite of what you want to hear. 

待人 (machibito) – A Person Being Waited For

This one is a little bit more cryptic. Sometimes, people have to wait for each other.

This type of Omikuji will address this in your life and give some insight into what’s going on. 

失せ物 (usemono) – Lost Article(s)

We all lose things once in a while. Sometimes it’s something small like a piece of paper or a sock.

Other times it’s something more important like a wallet or technology. This type of Omikuji may speak of the fate of your lost articles. 

旅立ち (tabidachi) – Travel

Traveling can be an exciting adventure but it also has the potential to go very wrong.

An Omikuji about travel can give you some predictions about travel that superstitious people may want to take heed of. 

商い (akinai) – Business Dealings

Business sometimes requires big decisions and even risks.

A business-related Omikuji will offer some details and predictions about current or future business dealings you might be involved with. 

学問 (gakumon) – Studies or Learning

Many people are passionate about their studies and love to learn as much as they can. These people might be extremely pleased with a blessing Omikuji related to their study efforts. 

相場 (sōba) – Market Speculation

Many people have investments and therefore, paying attention to the market is important to them. These Omikujis will offer fortunes related to the market. 

争事 (arasoigoto) – Disputes

A dispute can be anything. These can be between friends, lovers, business partners, or family. They can be over anything.

Sometimes it’s physical, other times it’s more of an emotional dispute.

These Omikujis will offer predictions about disputes you may have in your life. 

恋愛 (ren’ai) – Romantic Relationships

These Omikujis will offer predictions about your romantic relationships. Whether you’re in one or want to be in one, the fortune will be related to romance. 

転居 (tenkyo) – Moving or Changing Residence

This can be a big deal for some people. Some people might draw an Omikuji before making a big move in hopes of getting something lucky or encouraging. 

出産 (shussan) – Childbirth, Delivery

This is a very scary experience for some. It’s another thing that might prompt someone to draw an Omikuji before doing it. 

病気 (byōki) – Illness

A blessing Omikuji may speak of healing and recovery, while a curse might suggest an illness is coming your way. 

縁談 (endan) – Marriage Proposal or Engagement

This is one that many single people hope for. However, getting a curse Omikuji on the topic of marriage proposals can be extremely upsetting for those who are superstitious and believe in Omikujis. 


What to Do After Reading Your Fortune?

Once you understand what your Omikuji is saying, you might wonder what to do with it.

You can keep it, of course, especially if you’re on a trip and you want it as a souvenir. But, if you’re at all superstitious, you might want to follow the customs. 

If what you’ve received is not a good fortune, the custom is to leave it behind. Specifically, you should tie it to the branch of a pine tree.

There is a good reason for this. In Japanese, the word “pine” is similar to the word “wait.” So, the idea here is that the bad luck will wait by the tree rather than staying with the person who received it on their Omikuji. 

Sometimes, there won’t be a pine tree available, so you can just tie them to anything that’s there. The theory is the same. 

If you receive a good fortune, you do have the option of taking it and keeping it close to you at all times. This is what many will do who truly believe in the fortune.

Some choose to also leave their good fortune behind. This has a different effect than leaving behind a bad one. 

Rather than waiting at the tree, the good fortune that was left behind is said to cancel out the bad fortune of another. For this reason, it is seen as selfless to leave your good fortune behind. 


FAQs:

Question 1: What is Omikuji?

Omikuji is a popular method of fortune-telling in Japan. Receiving them is similar to a lottery draw – it’s all random and you never know what you’re going to get. 

Many people believe in them to some degree and take them seriously.

Others do it for fun or to see what kind of luck they’ll get.

Its also a popular thing for tourists and visitors to try, although they will have to get someone who knows the language to translate them. 

English Omikujis do exist, though they are extremely rare. 


Question 2: What Are “Daikichi” (大吉) and “Daikyo” (大凶)?

Omikujis can bring you incredible luck, or they can go the other way and place a curse on you.

There is no telling which one you’ll get – its completely random. There are many possibilities, all with different levels and types of good or bad fortune. 

“Daikichi” (大吉)

Daikichi and Daikyo are the two opposite ends of the spectrum.

Daikichi means a great blessing, and Daikyo means you’ve received a great curse. The blessing or curse will be in the area that is described in the rest of your Omikuji.

This can be many different things – from romance to your career. 


Question 3: Where Can You Find an Omikuji?

Omikujis are found at most shrines and temples around Japan. These days, they are located in a small box that requires you to pay a small fee to receive your Omikuji. 

In days past, you would have to draw a small stick with a number on it first. You would then have to bring this stick to a priest of Miko, who would then give you your Omikuji.

The growing popularity of the fortune-telling phenomenon has prompted these quicker and more convenient methods. 


Question 4: What to Do When you Draw Bad Predictions?

While there are traditions and customs attached to Omikujis, there are no strict rules or anything you’re required to do. Most tourists and visitors will keep their Omikuji as a souvenir from their adventure to Japan. 

However, if you are more of a superstitious type, the suggestion is to leave the paper describing your fortune on the branch of a pine tree.

“Pine” is similar to the world “wait” in Japanese, and in fact can be turned into a pun. This is what started the custom of leaving the bad fortunes on pine trees. 

The idea here is that the bad luck will “wait” with the tree rather than following the one who drew the unfortunate lot. 

Leave a Comment