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The Informative Guide To Japan Shrine Manners & Omikuji Things To Do

the informative guide to shrine manners in JapanCulture, Etiquette
Culture, Etiquette
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Get God Bless To You

It’s a good chance to buy Ema, Omamori, and Omikuji as following what the Japanese do.

Amulets, Emas, and so on are the lucky charms that confer protection with the power of God. There are various types and shapes depend on shrines.

In general, when the Japanese have a lucky charm, they believe it as a fulfillment of good luck and wishes or protection from bad luck and evil spirits.

Amulets; Omamori (御守)

Oamamori, Amulets, Lucky charms, temple, Japanese temple, Tanigumisan, Kegonji, Gifu, Japan

“ Omamori”(御守) is an amulet, a lucky charm, a talisman, to confer protection upon its possessor.

It is believed that contains the power of the god” in which the spirit of the god resides according to Shinto rituals.

There are many kinds of “Omamori” depends on wishings such as,

Japanese Omamori terms and meanings

  1. Safety of your family
  2. Safety driving
  3. Good health
  4. Success of business,
  5. Academic achievement
  6. Success of love
  7. Safe delivery

omamori, shrine, temple, charm

Never open IT.

As I mentioned earlier, the amulet contains the spirit of God. There are various theories as to why it should not be opened, but it is said that if it is opened, the amulet will no longer be effective and the power of the god in the amulet will be weakened.

The Wooden Wishing Plaque; Ema (絵馬)

Ema, the wooden wishing plaque, Shrines and temples, Japan

“Ema”(絵馬) is a wooden wishing plaque originally from the Shinto custom but today you can Ema at temples (which is Buddhism) in Japan.

The Brief History Of Ema

It is said Kibune Shrine in Kyoto is the origin of Ema’s custom. Since ancient times, horses have been considered to be God’s ride in Shinto, and successive emperors dedicated live horses to the shrine.
However, from the Heian period (794 – 1185), a plaque drawn a horse was dedicated instead of a live horse.
It is believed that the plaque is the prototype of today’s Ema.

Thus, when writing “Ema” in Japanese-Chinese characters, it goes “The picture of horse”.

E (絵) is a picture, a drawing, and Ma (馬) is a horse.

How Ema Work

Today, we write hopes and wishes on Ema and hang up the board.

You can buy “Ema” at a store called “Shamusho” (社務所) where Omamori is also sold. The price range is generally between ¥500 – ¥1,000.

Write your request on the blank side. You can use freely pens that Shrines offer.

Don’t forget to fill out your name so that God can know whose wishes.

There is no rule that you can’t bring Ema home, but it is common to contribute by hanging up the board at a shrine.

If you take it home as a good memory, it’s better to display it in a place higher than your sight.

ema stand, narita anime road

Ema & The board at Narita Anime Deck

If you are Otaku, I found a perfect Ema performance at Narita Airport.

You can leave your Japan trip memories or a message for supporting Japanese Anime & Manga culture.

The Fortune Slip; Omikuji (おみくじ)

omikuji, shrine, temple

omikuji red box, nagoya, shrine

“Omikuji” (おみくじ) is the fortune-telling little piece of paper written about the luck (and unhappiness) waiting for you in every aspect of life, including love, health, friendship, career, and education.

It is a popular attraction when visiting shrines (and temples).

There are several types of “Omikuji” boxes around, it is commonly like a hexagonally-shaped box or a red vending machine.

“Omikuji” (おみくじ) costs 100 yen in most places.

If a shrine has a hexagonally-shaped box, pay for an “omikuji”, and shake a box and pick a stick popped out.

omikuji box

Get a small piece of paper from a drawer written the same number on your picked stick.

omikuji, written in english, shrine

You can get the omikuji paper written in English (and some others) when you visit famous temples and shrines among international visitors.

Omikuji Classified fortune levels from Best to Worst

Omikuji, Japanese terms and meanings

  • DAi-KICHI(大吉) – Great blessing
  • CHU-KICHI(中吉) – Middle blessing
  • SHO-KICHI(小吉) – Small blessing
  • KICHI(吉) – Blessing
  • SUE-KICHI(末吉) – Uncertain luck
  • KYO (凶) – Curse
  • DAI-KYO (大凶) – Great curse

tie a omikuji paper when you pick a bad luck

Tie the fortune paper to a rope or a branch when you picked something “curse”, or keep the fortune paper in your wallet when you picked up something “blessing”.

The several reasons why a bad luck omikuji paper will be tied in the grounds…

  • Receive blessing by connecting with God
  • Leading bad fortunes to good to leave a sanctuary
  • Tie a bad fortune up for not bringing out with you


Now you have learned the manners to visit Shrine (and temples) in Japan.

The Japanese people include me, are willing to share our spirit & tradition with travelers, and don’t mind if you make mistakes.

The most important thing is “paying your respects”.

Again, you will see many Japanese people don’t follow these manners because some just don’t know these or others are lazy to know.

Lastly, use common sense to take pictures.

Generally, inside the main hall (or the main altar) is not allowed to take pictures.

Pay attention the sign in the shrine.

50, Phrase

the informative guide to shrine manners in Japan

Read Next…

Visiting manners between shrines and temples are almost the same, but there are some differences because of these two different religions.

If you want to know the visiting temple etiquette in Japan, read this next.

My Report About Temples And Shrines

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