Japanese Charms

Japanese good luck charms

24 June, 2011 by

Omamori (御守) are the amulets that are always seen at shrines and temples throughout Japan. Literally meaning “to protect”, these often intricately designed charms are a popular gift item for travelers who will inevitably visit at least some of Japan’s shrines.

Most omamori are usually made of cloth and resemble pouches. They actually enclose tiny ofuda, the paper or wooden blessings boards that are available at the shrine’s amulet office or Juyosho too.

Omamori often have a specific purpose, such as for health, studies or work. Often shrines or temples may also provide generic all purpose good luck charms while certain shrines may offer unique charms which they are associated with such as for a successful relationship or safe pregnancy.

Typical amulet shop at a temple/shrine.

While to the tourist it may seem like you are purchasing the charms, Omamori are actually a streamlined process of donating. For as long as there have been places of worship, people have been making donations in exchange for having their prayer’s supported. Omamori (and ofuda) represent a transparent way of making such donations.

It’s also a pretty handy approach since in Japan at least the visitors’ well wishes are often intended for others. The omamori can be passed on to the intended loved ones.

Like in our Japan Manhole Covers article not too long ago, here’s a collection of some example Omamori. Many more have already left my hands.

From Nikko Toshogu. Generic charm.

General charm from the Nikko Toshogu Sleeping Cat Shrine. Also comes in baby blue and pink.

Nikko has perhaps the most beautiful Omamori I’ve seen so far in Japan.

From Nikko Futarasan Shrine. General amulet.

Also from Futarasan Shrine. For studies.

From Shitennoji. Also for studies.

The Meiji Jingu near Harajuku has the model type for omamori you’ll see at most places, these are the classic cloth ones with a wooden ofuda inside.

From Tokyo's Meiji Jingu. For success.

Also from Meiji Jingu. For happiness.

All smaller shrines and Buddhist temples also have some form of omamori too, but are often kept simpler.

Health amulet from Asakusa Shrine.

Miyajima Omamori.

Little known tidbit: Many Japanese omamori, like most other things, are actually made in China. Not that it should matter. Hesitating to donate because of this fact, will make you a bad person.

Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.


Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.