Omikuji are written fortunes offered at shrines and temples in Japan. Usually, omikuji require a small offering ( ¥100 usually), and are chosen randomly from a box. At Senso-ji Temple (Asakusa Kannon Temple), Tokyo's oldest temple, in Asakusa you can pick up an omikuji to try your luck.
Each shrine and temple has different ways of offering omikuji, but at Senso-ji, you place a ¥100 coin into a a lot on the counter, as a voluntary and expected offering. You are then to pick up a metal box that has a tiny, rounded slot at the bottom where a stick will come out from. You can shake the box a few times, in hopes of receiving a good fortune. After you are satisfied with the shaking, turn the metal container over to drop out a stick with a number - the stick will fall out of the bottom of the container. If you are unable to read the Kanji numbers, do not worry, simply look at the characters and play a little "Eye Spy" as you match the characters to the ones on the drawers in front of you. The numbers will lead you to a specific drawer filled with omikuji, which you can then read and decipher. Some places even offer translations, but sadly, Senso-ji did not have a setup translation available.
After receiving your omikuji, if it is a good fortune and one that you would like to come out, you can take it home with you, as it symbolizes the fact that you are bringing the good fortune back with you. If it is a fortune that isn't as good, and one that you do not want to come true, you may tie the omikuji onto one of the omikuji "trees," nearby, symbolizing the fact that you are leaving this fortune behind and you hope to find a better one.
The experience of receiving an omikuji is definitely one that every traveler in Japan should go through at least once. It is a step towards understanding Shinton Buddhism and Japanese culture, so if you are looking for the full and authentic Japanese travel experience, be sure to test your luck and pick out an omikuji! If you are in Asakusa, make sure to try some Monja-yaki (Japanese pan-fried batter in the Kanto region that is like Kanto-style okonomiyaki) to celebrate your fortune, or to celebrate a future with better fortune!
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