Kyoto Voice Top Image Okimono Omikuji

Kyoto's Cutest Omikuji Fortunes

by E.Nunley

One of the fun activities you can do at most shrines and temples is purchasing an omikuji (sacred lot), a piece of paper that gives advice and predicts your future prospects in various categories such as travel, business, love, health, luck, and more.  At their most traditional these omikuji are selected by drawing a stick with a number on it from a container and then telling that number to a shrine/temple staff who will then give you the corresponding fortune on paper.  In recent years, however, it has become popular to make omikuji available in other forms, particularly as okimono (ornaments for display).  This means that no matter how your fortune turns out, you’ll still have an interesting trinket to take home with you.  Kyoto is home to some of the cutest and most interesting omikuji around, so take a look at a few we’ve featured here to see if any strike your fancy!

Three-legged Crows at Kamigamo Shrine

Omikuji Kamigamo Shrine Crow Fortune 01
  • Place: Kamigamo Shrine
  • Offering: ¥500
  • Language: Japanese

The three-legged crow called yatagarasu, who in legend guided the first Emperor of Japan to where he would establish the kingdom of Yamato, is considered by some to be the founder of the Kamo clan, who in turn founded the Kamo Shrines in Kyoto: Kamigamo Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine.  In honor of this connection, Kamigamo Shrine has omikuji available in sleek three-legged crow form, with the Kamo Shrine’s aoi hollyhock symbol on its breast in green.  Designed by one of Kamigamo Shrine’s priests, the black crow is painted with a gold beak, eyes, wings, and most importantly, its three cute, little feet!

Daruma Dolls at Sanbō-ji

Omikuji Sanpō-ji Daruma Fortune 02
  • Place: Sanbō-ji
  • Cost: ¥300
  • Language: Japanese

Bodhidharma, a 5th/6th century monk credited with bringing Zen Buddhism to China, is a popular figure in Japan, and in addition to being featured in countless works of art is the model for the popular good luck talisman known as daruma dolls.  Daruma are round figures of the bearded Bodhidharma swathed in crimson, and the daruma at Sanbō-ji temple in northeastern Kyoto contain a fortune hidden within their wooden bodies.  You can select the daruma omikuji of your choice from the bins, and looking closely will reveal that there are actually a variety of expressions and faces to choose from.  Though some parishioners leave their daruma behind in lines throughout the temple precincts, we can’t help but want to bring these lucky Bodhidharmas home. 

Princess Dolls at Ichihime Shrine

Omikuji Ichihime Shrine Princess Fortune 02
  • Place: Ichihime Shrine
  • Cost: ¥800
  • Language: Japanese

The premier shrine for women in Kyoto, Ichihime Shrine is a small shrine near Kyoto Station tucked between residential buildings.  Famous for prayers related to women, such as making a good match, conception, and safe childbirth, Ichihime Shrine has a daruma-like omikuji they call the hime mikuji (princess fortune).  Painted with a delicate abstract face and a bright flower/sun on the front, these round princesses will hopefully bring you good fortune!  Some people choose to write their wishes on the back of the dolls and leave them at the shrine. 

Sacred Pigeons at Iwashimizu Hachimangū

Omikuji Iwashimizu Hachimangū Pigeon Fortune 02
  • Place: Iwashimizu Hachimangū
  • Cost: ¥500
  • Language: Japanese

Though you might not associate doves/pigeons with the sacred or the powerful, these birds, called hato in Japanese, are considered the sacred messengers of the god of warriors, Hachiman.  Iwashimizu Hachimangū, located on top of a mountain in Yawata, just south of Kyoto, is one of the largest Hachiman shrines and home to charming bird-shaped omikuji.  Pleasantly round ceramic doves in white with gold feathers, they hold your fortune in their little talons.  We hope it wings a good fortune your way!

Oracle Squirrels at Hirano Shrine

Omikuji Hirano Shrine Squirrel Fortune 01
  • Place: Hirano Shrine
  • Cost: ¥500
  • Language: Japanese

Hirano Shrine is famous in Kyoto for its gorgeous cherry blossom garden that contains over 400 trees and 60 different species of sakura. Enshrining several deities with influence over vitality, productivity, hearths, and the cleansing of jaki (ill will/energy), their omikuji is shaped like a squirrel, which is considered to be the deities' sacred messenger.  With the fortune curled up in its cute, fluffy tail, this Risu no Otsuke also holds a pink cherry blossom in its paws.  Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll see a real one in Hirano Shrine’s sakura

Sacred Oxen at Ayako Tenmangū

Omikuji Ayako Tenmangū Cow Fortune 02
  • Place: Ayako Tenmangū
  • Cost: ¥500
  • Language: Japanese

Tenmangū shrines are some of the most popular in Japan.  Enshrining Tenjin, the god of learning, Tenmangū shrines are particularly popular with students during exam season.  Kyoto has several Tenmangū shrines, but the cutest okimono fortunes have to belong to Ayako Tenmangū, which is located near Kyoto Station.  Cattle are the sacred messenger of Tenjin, who as the human Sugawara no Michizane was born in the Year and on the Day of the Ox.  Stone statues of oxen are a must at Tenmangū shrines, and people often rub them for good luck.  Maybe if you pet this one before checking the fortune inside it will give you a good one!

Messenger Foxes at Araki Shrine

Omikuji Araki Shrine Fox Fortune 01
  • Place: Araki Shrine
  • Cost: ¥500
  • Language: English or Japanese, (Chinese and Korean in progress)

Inari shrines are the most populous of all shrines in Japan, dedicated to the kami (deity) of business and agriculture. Kitsune (foxes) are regarded as the sacred messengers of Inari, and Araki Shrine, a small Inari shrine located next to the larger Fushimi Inari Taisha, offers fox-shaped omikuji available in English or Japanese.  These adorable little foxes are white to represent that they are a supernatural creature normally unseen by the human eye, with “Araki Shrine” stamped in crimson on one side, and a rice stalk painted on the other.  There aren’t that many English fortunes available, so this is a rare chance!

Rabbit Messengers at Okazaki Shrine

Omikuji Okazaki Shrine Rabbit Fortune 02
  • Place: Okazaki Shrine
  • Cost: ¥500
  • Language: Japanese

Okazaki Shrine is one that has a reputation for blessing couples with children, with one of the enshrined deities being known for such prayers.  The shrine’s location was populated by wild rabbits in ancient times as well, which were revered as the messengers of the local ujigami deity.  Thanks to this connection the shrine is full of rabbit paraphernalia and charms, including their omikuji fortunes.  Available in white or pink, these cute bunnies can be placed with their brethren on the shrine grounds or taken home with you.  Whether you’re hoping to conceive or not, rabbit lovers will surely enjoy Okazaki Shrine!