Happy New Year!
As we finally enter 2021, people across Japan who are still confident enough to risk crowds are heading out to local shrines and temples to make their wishes for the New Year. Even though the country has a famously low number of people who identify as religious, there are still many traditions that people like to get involved with, especially if there’s the chance for a bit of extra luck.
Since all our fortunes could do with some improvement, let’s take a look at a few of the most popular ways Japanese people increase their chances for a life full of blessings!
Known in Japan as a Maneki-neko (literally beckon cat), this welcoming feline is generally found in restaurants, shops, hotels, bars, and anywhere else hoping customers will walk through the door. They’re often mistaken as being Chinese in origin, but Maneki-neko first turned up in the mid-1800s in Japan. Whether they came from Tokyo or Kyoto is still a pretty heated debate though. These cats are actually the inspiration behind the Pokémon Meowth!
Make a small offering at a shrine, take a stick at random from a box, and you’ll receive corresponding Omikuji, a slip of paper which details your upcoming fortunes. But be careful! Until you open up your Omikuji you won’t know which of the twelve different types of predictions it contains. These range from Great Blessing all the way down to the dreaded Great Curse.
If you do have the misfortune to receive an Omikuji you’d like to get rid of, the custom is to tie it up to a pine tree or wire fence provided at the shrine where you bought it. In Japanese ‘pine tree’ and ‘wait’ sound the same, so hopefully that bad Omikuji will leave you alone and hang around at the shrine instead.
Believe it or not, poo is considered a lucky token in Japan. Thankfully it’s shown through cute little key chains or souvenirs displaying little golden poops, rather than a more realistic representation. On the island of Odaiba in Tokyo bay there’s even a poo museum, dealing in all kinds of toilet humour and the cutest poop you could ever want to see.
Where did these magical properties come from? It’s another terrible pun, which is impressive dedication to bad comedy. In Japanese ‘poo’ (unko) sounds similar to ‘luck’ (un), enough of an excuse to sell millions of lucky golden poop charms. There’s even a reference to gold poo in Zelda: Breath of the Wild when you receive an unpleasant smelling reward from the friendly korok Hestu.
One of my favourite good luck charms, Daruma are round little balls of bright red, painted with a furious stare and enormous eyebrows. They’re based on a legendary Buddhist monk who got too into mediation and lost his limbs and eyes, with different stories coming up with various gory reasons as to why such an unfortunate event happened.
Unlike the other ways to improve your fortunes on this list, Daruma are a little more hands on (despite having no hands). Draw a pupil into the blank eye of your Daruma when you decide on your wish, and fill in the second once it’s come true. In this way, Daruma are like weirdly aggressive checklists. If your wish doesn’t come true, you can also take out your frustration by burning the doll.
We at HYPER JAPAN wish you all the best luck in the New Year, even if you do need to rely on supernatural means!
Image Source: Wikicommons/Unko Museum Tokyo