April 16, 2006
by Rieko Tsubata
Do you have wishes? What are they? Wealth? Health? Happiness? Love? In Kyoto you can find colorful talismans — lucky charms that grant your wishes. Japan’s ancient capital has so many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, and therefore numerous kinds of talismans that you can buy from these places of worship.
In general, Japanese traditional talismans are made of brocade cloth, like small bags, and inside there is a sacred label or text. You must never open the talisman to see this. If you do, it is said that an evil will be brought upon you. Talismans usually cost between 500 to 1,500 yen. One of important things about most of them is that you always have to keep them around you. Talismans are called omamori in Japanese. The verb mamoru means “to protect” so an omamori secures you from evils, so long as you bring it with you everywhere, all the time. In addition, it is said that the functional effect only lasts about one year, and then you must bring it to a shrine or temple to burn it at the end of the year, and buy a replacement with fresh power.
There are many kinds of talismans. Some, for example, are for keeping you healthy during your life, others for getting you closer to someone special; some charms are for safety in traffic, others for academic success or easy childbirth, and so on. There are also unique talismans. One kind, for instance, smells sweet because of some incense contained inside. Moreover, talismans are not always made of small bags; some are stuffed dolls or stickers. Some are plastic with key chains. I will introduce you to some omamori, classified by the wishes they fulfill and where in Kyoto you can buy them.
◆Jishu Shrine. This is the most famous Shinto shrine in Japan for the accomplishment of love. The priest of the shrine receives many letters every day from satisfied visitors. They write, “I was proposed to by a wonderful man” or “The man of my dreams became my boyfriend.”
Luck or Purification
◆Nonomiya Shrine. A woman wearing a kimono is printed on the talisman. It brings you happiness and fortune. There are also omamori straps for mobile phones.
◆Kamigamo Shrine. This charm also drives out evil spirits. It is especially for moving to a new home or building a new house.
◆Heian Shrine. This omamori drives out evil spirits, and improves your body tone. It is a lucky charm in the form of a mobile phone strap. There are four different shapes.
Facing Up to Troubles
◆Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine. This charm is for people who want to break up with their partner, or free themselves of the habits of smoking, drinking alcohol, or gambling.
◆Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine. The Japanese historical figure Sugawara Michizane is enshrined here. It is said that he was a genius at learning, so many people gather at this shrine to obtain talismans for study.
Marrying “into the Purple”
◆Imamiya Shrine. Keishoin, mother of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the fifth Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate was the humble daughter of a greengrocer, but she married “into the purple”. If you share her good luck, you might become rich through marriage, too.
◆Shiramine Shrine. It is said that your athletic capabilities, especially in soccer, will improve with the purchase of talismans here. This shrine was built to the sacred deity of kemari, which was a popular sport among former nobles in China and Japan during the Heian Period (794-1185 AD).
◆Suzumushi Temple.This Buddhist talisman can grant your wish, whatever it is!
Thus there are mysterious, wonderful and special talismans all around Kyoto. Which one(s) do you want? Go find them! And good luck to you!!