おみくじ Omikuji: A Japanese Fortune Telling Slip

A Japanese language teacher gifted me an おみくじ, Omikuji, from the Dazaifu Tenman-gū, a famous shinto shrine in Fukuoka, Kyushu. She sat down to explain it to me, letting me know that Omikuji is best translated as a ‘Fortune Slip’. As the Dazaifu Tenman-gū is a large and famous shrine, they had English Omikuji available.

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She happens to be a language lover, and has learnt bits of Spanish, English, Portugese, Italian and German (!) and certainly defies the Japanese reputation of not liking, nor being good at, learning other languages.

Her Spanish and English are by far the most developed, and so we natter away switching between languages often. It’s with her that I can share the bizarre similarity of vowel sounds in Spanish and Japanese, which is why I’ll often start a sentence in Japanese and end it in Spanish. To everyone’s utter confusion.  Including my own.

She passes me the slip and explains that there are several levels of Omikuji, the worst being a curse, and the best being a blessing. If you have a curse you should tie it to the purpose made strings tied between wooden poles at a shrine. The Omikuji tied there are taken and burned in a purification ritual, cleansing you of any bad luck.

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Curses are tied to string so that they can be burnt in a purification ritual.

Luckily, my Omikuji is a Middle Blessing. The slip gives me a run down of predictions for health, business, love, money and the other expected categories, followed by a short paragraph about my prospects. Possibly this part doesn’t translate as well as it could. This paragraph of the Fortune Slip is usually a traditional Japanese poem for the reader to think about but in English it has become a slightly cliched translation.

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Better get my cunning strategy ready

I am also assigned a kanji: 結 which is known as むすぶ in hiragana, the Japanese vocabularly for native words, which we would read as “musubu” in English. Roughly translated it means a union of people, not necessarily romantic.On the back of the fortune slip is a golden sticker embossed with the musubu, which i am supposed to put on something I touch often. I pop it on the back of my phone case.

The teacher smiles and tells me it suits me. Again, I whip out a polvorone as a thank you gift. To which she becomes unreasonably excited as she’s eaten some before and has never been able to find them in Japan. I give her a second one for good measure.

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