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The Basics About Japanese Protection Charms – Types, History, How to Dispose of Them, and More!

Small omamori that are in cloth bags with uniquely Japanese patterns are popular souvenirs, but few people know how to receive them, select them or dispose of them. So this articles offers a comprehensive guide to omamori! It is a must read for anyone going to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple in Japan!

What Is an Omamori?

An omamori is a charm or amulet, like the Native American "dreamcatcher" and Turkish "nazar boncuğu," that protects against evil. A Japanese omamori is usually a piece of sanctified wood or paper in a small cloth bag. There are many different omamori available at each Shinto shrine and Buddhist temple, so that everyone can choose the one that fits their purpose.
The oldest omamori that has been discovered in Japan is a wooden one from the latter half of the 8th century. When walking was the only mode of transportation, it was not easy to get to famous shrines and temples. Omamori developed as a means for people who could not get to a shrine or temple to receive the benefits. However, today it is considered inappropriate to purchase an omamori without praying at the shrine or temple first, so be sure to pay your respects before purchasing an omamori.
There is a small piece of wood or paper in the omamori, but it is sacred so you must not open the cloth bag to look at it or take it out.

Types of Omamori, Recommended Omamori and How to Choose One

Commonly available types of omamori include the "kanai-anzen" omamori to protect the family against accidents or illness, the "gakugyo-seiju" omamori for academic success, the "kotsu-anzen" omamori for safe transport that many people hang in their cars, the "enmusubi" omamori to pray for good relationships and romantic success, and the "anzan" omamori for safe childbirth. Purchase the omamori suited to your wishes. If you want to get one for a friend but don't know what their wishes are, choose a "shingan-seiju" omamori to help realize the person's wishes or a "yakujo" omamori to protect against misfortune.
Some shrines and temples have unusual omamori, such as ones related to computer technology and ones for safe air travel, as well as ones with cute designs. It may be fun to look for a shrine or temple that offers an omamori that perfectly matches your wishes.

Omamori from Ise Jingu with a 2000-year History

The omamori at the historic Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture are extremely popular. There are an inner shrine and outer shrine in Ise Jingu and as each are dedicated to a different deity, the types of omamori available at each also differ. If you get omamori from both, you may be doubly protected!
Popular omamori at Naiku, the inner shrine which is dedicated to the sun deity, Amaterasu-Omikami, are the hexagonal "Omamori (1,000 JPY)" and cute, roundish "Kaiun Suzumamori (1,000 JPY)".
Geku, the outer shrine, is dedicated to the deity for food and industry, Toyo'uke-no-Omikami. In Geku, the "Omamori (1,000 JPY)", a roundish omamori with an illustration of Toyo'uke-no-Omikami's symbol, an ear of rice, and the "Kaiun Suzumamori (1,000 JPY)" in the form of a magatama (an ancient ornament) that was used to ward of evil in ancient times, are popular.

Omamori from Ise Jingu with a 2000-year History

1 Ujitachi-cho, Ise-shi, Mie

Omamori from Izumo Taisha, Famous as the Shrine for Matchmaking and Good Fortune

If you want an enmusubi (matchmaking) omamori, go to Izumo Taisha in Shimane Prefecture! The ”Enmusubi Omamori (1,000)" and "Kaiun Omamori (1,000 JPY)" that are in the same form as omamori of other shrines are recommended, but unusual is the bundle of threads called "Enmusubi no Ito (1,000 JPY)". They are silk threads in a paper bag that can be sewn onto your clothing or placed inside items that you use daily. Omamori that can be sewn on are rare, and may feel as if they will be extra effective.

Omamori from Izumo Taisha, Famous as the Shrine for Matchmaking and Good Fortune

195 Kizuki Higashi, Taisha-cho, Izumo-shi, Shimane

Where can Omamori be Purchased?

Omamori are often available at shrine or temple offices on the grounds of shrines and temples. They can usually be purchased year round at large shrines and temples, but at smaller shrines and temples they may only be available during the New Year or at festivals.
Although omamori are technically "purchased", they should be thought of as being "received". Keep in mind that this means that the omamori are not bought by money, but the deity protects you in exchange for an offering of money.

How to Carry Around Omamori and Dispose of Them

Most omamori are said to be more effective worn rather than left at home, so attach them to an item, such as a purse, that you carry around. If you are leaving it at home, don't put it away, but place it in a visible place as high up as possible.
If you have an omamori that you have carried around for a long time and is worn, it would be advisable to replace it with a new one. However, it is verboten to throw it in a trash can! Either return it to the shrine or temple you received it from, or dispose of it after a purification process. To purify an omamori, place it on top of a white piece of paper and sprinkle it with salt on the left side once, on the right side once, and finally on the left side again. A pinch of salt is sufficient. Dispose of it with gratitude.

Omamori are uniquely Japanese and cute to look at and are wonderful items to remember the mystic atmosphere of a temple or shrine by. Why not look for a lovely omamori that will keep you and your friends happy and protected?

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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