A Guide to Omamori Charms: Main Types, How They Work & More
A Guide to Omamori Charms: Main Types, How They Work & More
Did you know that Japanese culture has its own special kind of good luck charm? They're called omamori. Omamori are beautiful, brightly-colored amulets traditionally made from brocaded fabric. They contain prayers and inscriptions that bring luck and protection to people carrying them. Curious to learn more? Read on for a complete overview of omamori, their significance, and how to use them.
Omamori Charms

What is an omamori?

Omamori are Japanese amulets used for luck and protection. Inside each amulet are prayers or religious inscriptions, typically written on paper or small pieces of wood before being sealed inside the omamori. Omamori are typically rectangular, with a cord or string that can attach to personal belongings—though many temples and shrines include unique details in their designs. The term “omamori” is the honorific form of the Japanese word “mamoru” (守る), which means “to protect.”

Omamori Meanings & Significance

All omamori attract luck, but often have more specific purposes too. A few of the most common meanings for omamori include happiness, monetary or business success, protection from evil, and safety. There are also omamori for love and relationships. Some omamori get even more specific, designed to provide things like protection for travelers or protection against specific illnesses. Types of omamori include: Anzan. This omamori offers protection for pregnant women and grants luck for an easy, safe pregnancy. En-musubi. This is designed for both single people and couples to ensure love and a successful marriage. Gakugyō-jōju. This is for students and scholars, offering luck in education and passing exams. Kaiun. This omamori is symbolic of general luck and improved fortunes in the future. Kanai-anzen. This is designed to preserve the safety, well-being, and prosperity of family in the household. Kenko. This omamori is for health; it’s meant to protect you from disease and help you live a long, healthy life. Kōtsū-anzen. This omamori offers protection for drivers and traffic safety. Shōbai-hanjō. This is a money talisman, promoting good fortune in business and financial matters. Yaku-yoke. This omamori offers protection against and avoidance of evil.

Shrines and temples can also make special omamori by request. If you want a specific type of omamori, you can request to have a priest make one at a temple or shrine. The temple or shrine in question could even start making that type of omamori regularly if they get a large number of requests for it—so don’t be afraid to ask if you can’t find an omamori that fits what you’re looking for.

Omamori Designs

Omamori are traditionally small, rectangular, embroidered pouches. They tend to be made from brightly-colored brocaded silk, sometimes with the logo for a specific temple or spirit stitched into them. Still, not all omamori follow the traditional style exactly; some look more like typical pouches (rather than rectangles) or feature shapes and motifs such as flowers, nature, and zodiac animals. While most omamori have a cord that can attach them to another object, some have stickers or suction cups to attach to cars or bicycles instead, while others are small enough to fit into a wallet or serve as a phone charm.

Some Japanese stores sell commercial versions of omamori. Not all omamori are strictly spiritual anymore; now, gift shops in Japan sell generic or even pop culture-based omamori. For instance, you might see characters like Hello Kitty or Mickey Mouse on an omamori, or omamori with sports designs—or even smaller omamori made for pets! You can opt to buy these more modernized omamori if you prefer.

History of Omamori

Omamori became popular in Japan during the 17th century. The current version of omamori originated during the Tokugawa period as a blend of Shinto and Buddhist religious practices. Shinto omamori get their power from an enshrined kami, called a go-shintai (御神体), or “sacred body of the kami.” Buddhist omamori get power from the gohonzon (御本尊), or “venerated object” within. Shinto omamori are dedicated to kami (神), or “divine spirits,” which is why they’re believed to get their power from go-shintai. Instead of prayers, Buddhist gohonzon inside an omamori often have phrases or images in them.

How to Use an Omamori

Carry an omamori on or close to your person at all times. Most omamori are believed to work best when they travel with you and remain close, so they can protect you and bring you luck wherever you go. Thus, you can use the strap on a typical omamori to attach it to a bag handle, wallet zipper, keychain, or similar easily transportable object. You can also carry one inside a pocket, purse, backpack, or wallet. However, keep in mind that omamori with specific meanings are sometimes meant to be kept in other places. For example, an omamori for family safety in the household could be kept at home. An omamori for travel safety could be kept in your car or tied to your bicycle. An omamori for protection during childbirth or a joyful marriage could be kept near your mattress, or somewhere else in your bedroom. Plenty of people native to Japan use omamori, but tourists and visitors are also welcome to purchase them—so feel free to invest in one if you’re interested!

Omamori aren’t meant to be opened to preserve their abilities. If you have (or get) an omamori, don’t open it, even if you’re curious about the prayers or writing inside. It’s believed that opening an omamori will release the blessing it contains, leaving the omamori unable to function. And don’t worry if your omamori starts showing a little wear and tear over time; that’s considered a sign the omamori is working! Traditionally, it’s believed that omamori should be disposed of and renewed every year—specifically around the New Year. However, others prefer to hold onto an omamori as long as possible—and, ultimately, it’s up to you whether you choose to keep your omamori indefinitely or renew it.

Where can you get an omamori?

Most Japanese temples and shrines sell different types of omamori. Larger shrines and temples typically have more options and multiple variations of each type of omamori, while smaller ones carry a few of the most common types. You’ll usually find omamori for sale in a gift shop area or office, and they’re priced by the level of complexity in their design. You can expect to see an omamori priced anywhere from ¥300 to ¥1000, but most will likely cost between ¥500 and ¥800.

Discard old omamori at a temple or shrine after a year. Omamori are designed to last 1 year, as it's believed that keeping them longer uses up the blessing and brings bad luck. Old omamori are traditionally burned as a sign of respect, but you can bring yours to the temple from which you got it for proper disposal instead. Many shrines and temples leave out a box for old omamori around the New Year. However, larger temples may accept discarded omamori all year long—and some will even let you mail your omamori to them for disposal instead. If you want to dispose of the omamori at home, you can conduct your own memorial service using Japanese white paper and salt. For the service, place your old omamori on the white paper and cover it with salt. Express thanks to the omamori for its protection, then wrap it in the paper and discard it.

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