Omamori Charms – All You Need to Know About these Japanese Lucky Amulets

Omamori charms are deeply significant Japanese amulets or talismans. They are designed to protect you and bring luck into your life. They are hugely popular during exam season and around the time of New Year. The omamori charms originate from Shinto and Buddhist beliefs, the 2 major religions in Japan. It was suggested that the religious figures would put the power and blessings of the gods into each of the omamori charms. This would then protect the wearer from evil spirits and keep their motivation levels high. 

What are omamori charms?

Omamori charms are prayers and sacred messages written down and wrapped inside a protective casing. There are 2 main types of omamori charms – the talisman type and the morphic type. The talisman is shaped like a rectangle and contains sutra on paper covered with the decorative cloth. The morphic charms are the shape of another object. For example, The Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine is an Inari shrine in Kyoto. Here, they sell kitsune omamori charms, shaped like a fox. Other common shapes include a bottle gourd, a mallet, and a bell. These all have specific symbolism in the Shinto faith. Modern omamori charms can take on a lot of different designs. The original charms were commonly made from either wood or paper. These were then covered in brocaded silk to protect the prayer written inside. These were made by shrine maidens (miko) and then blessed by the priest.In modern times, commercialism has hit and you can also find phone straps, window stickers, and smaller charms too. These tend to be made in factories, but are still blessed by a priest before they come to you.Traditionally they would just feature a simple design on the silk covering. Now, you can find designs that feature anime and cartoon characters! Some shrines will make their own omamori charms, such as the Grand Shrine in Ise and the Koganji Temple in Tokyo.They will cost somewhere between ¥300 and ¥1,000. They can be purchased by anyone, regardless of their religious and spiritual beliefs. They are commonly looked upon as a souvenir from famous temples and shrines.

What are the different types of omamori charms?

Education and Learning – 学業成就 “gakugyou-jouju”

This is popular with students and is designed to help you acquire knowledge. It is often seen on the schoolbags and keychains of Japanese students. There are specific omamori charms designed to help you with important tests too. These omamori charms tend to be kept on pencil cases too.

Happiness – 幸せ “shiawase”

This is a general talisman that can be bought for yourself and your loved ones. It works subtly, reminding you to remain positive and on the path to happiness.

Kitsune Wallet Protection

This omamori charm is designed to protect the money you already possess. People with money issues may place it inside their wallet to discourage further spending.

Others will use this charm as protection against thieves. This omamori charm is made with the design of a fox.

Liar Bird

This is one of the most rare omamori charms, being released only at Yushima Shrine on January 25th each year. It is made entirely of hand-crafted wood and is popular among students. It is believed that the bird absorbs all of your lies and secrets, transforming them into guidance and honesty.

Love – 縁結び “enmusubi”

There are lots of different love omamori charms. Childbirth omamori charms are referred to as anzan. They are designed to ensure a safe and quick delivery for the baby and mother.Couples will commonly get a pair of love omamori charms as a physical symbol of their relationship. They tend to be pink and blue.You can also get kanai-anzen, or family charms. They are designed to be a set and tend to be given by parents to their children. Children’s versions commonly feature Hello Kitty and other character designs.Single omamori charms tend to be simple love charms but are designed to take a while to work. This is believed to create a longer and happier relationship with the right person. Married couples will purchase an omamori charm for them to share as a couple. They are bigger than other love omamori charms and tend to be white. The front often has a picture of flowers or a crane.

Luck – 開運 “kaiun”

This is a good choice if you are unsure of which omamori charm to get. It is just generally designed to bring luck into your life, and there is no need to set a specific goal.

Money – 商売繁盛 “shoubaihanjou”

This is usually yellow and shaped like a money bag. It is designed to bring you money and financial prosperity. Some shrines have omamori charms dedicated to specific financial events such as business deals and investments. Some are more generally designed for good luck in finding money, good deals in the store, or inheritance. These charms are generally kept in your wallet.

Success – 勝守 “katsumori”

This is one of the most popular of the omamori charms and is likely to be found everywhere. When you get it you will focus on one goal, and the charm is said to guarantee it will become reality.They commonly feature an arrow design, symbolic of aiming for your goal. There are some temples that are known as spiritual power spots. Many people opt to get this omamori charm at one of these sites.

Sexual health “kenkou”

In April there is a fertility festival at Kanayama Shrine called Kanamara Matsuri. People will flock here and purchase an omamori charm to commemorate their experience. This is a site where couples struggling to conceive will often visit. Shrine donations are sent to HIV and AIDS support charities. This is particularly significant when you take into account the rising case numbers among Japan’s population. This site also features many phallic statues to encourage a conversation to begin about sexual health.

Traffic Safety – 交通安全 “koutsuuanzen”

You will often see these omamori charms inside taxis across Japan. They are liked by commuters and people preparing to take their driving tests.

They can be personalized and will often include bus or train numbers to increase the power of the protective charm.

Ward Away Evil Spirits – 厄除け “yakuyoke”

This is another very popular omamori charm. This charm prevents potential evil spirits around you from affecting your success.

If you are feeling unhappy or insecure after something bad has happened, you are likely to carry this.

Where can you get omamori charms?

You should go to a temple or shrine to get your omamori charm. Each one will have many different types of traditional omamori charms.

They will also have a design that is unique to that location.

Where should you keep omamori charms?

Omamori charms should not be kept inside your bag. Do not become concerned if your omamori charm appears a little worn or damaged. This is believed to be a good thing, as it symbolizes the charm has done its job in protecting you. Some omamori charms are designed for a certain area of your life, such as the traffic safety omamori charm. These should be kept in corresponding locations, for instance, the traffic safety charm should be kept in the car.

How long can you keep omamori charms?

Generally, you will be told the expiration date of your charm by the priest or miko you acquire it from. This is often about a year, or until the charm’s purpose has been fulfilled. Once your charm has expired, you should return to the place you bought it from. There, it is disposed of alongside others using a sacred fire. This is known as o-takiage (お焚き上げ) and is believed to remove all of the collected bad luck and purify the air.Returning your old omamori charm to a different shrine or temple is considered to be an insult to the first one’s deity. This could potentially have a harmful impact on your life. During the New Year period, many shrines and temples will have drop-off sessions for old omamori charms.Some families will choose to keep omamori charms that they feel are particularly significant. These may become heirlooms, passed down the generations. Just be aware that it may not be as effective.

Can you get more than one omamori charm?

Yes, you can get as many as you like. As with anything in life, moderation is key. Too many omamori charms and it may dilute some of the magic they contain. Focus on what is important to you in your life. What do you need to concentrate on, what do you need help with? Choose the omamori charm that speaks to you most strongly, as this is likely what you need at this time.It is believed that you should not keep Shinto omamori charms with Buddhist omamori charms. This is because they may cancel out the effects of one another. It is good practice to ask the priest for potential interactions while purchasing.

How should you look after omamori charms?

It is expected that your omamori charm will become damaged and dirtied over time. As we mentioned above, this is seen as the charm protecting you from harm. If it does get dirty, you should not attempt to wash it. This is believed to wash away the protective elements of the charm. This will allow all of the negative spirits that have been kept at bay back into your home. If the string attaching the charm to your bag breaks, we would advise keeping it inside your bag rather than attempting to repair the string.

Can you look inside the omamori charm?

No, you should never open your omamori charm. This is believed to release the blessing, meaning it no longer protects you. It will still look pretty, but it will be essentially worthless.This idea comes from the fact that Shinto shrines are sacred and protected areas. To enter them, you must pass through a torii gate. This is symbolic of a transition from the mundane to the sacred. The cloth surrounding your omamori charm is believed to be a symbol of this torii gate, holding the sacred charm inside.