O-mamori: Japanese Amulets for Health, Happiness, and Safety

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Omamori (御守 or お守り) are small amulets — usually made of blessed paper or holy wood, and stored in small cloth pouches. They are sold at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan. The Japanese word “mamori” means protection, and these amulets are supposed to shield you from harm or bring you good fortune.

O-mamori: Japanese Amulets for Health, Happiness, and Safety

There are many different kinds of o-mamori, and you can tell the function by reading the kanji embroidered on the outside of the cloth pouch. Some of the most popular kinds of o-mamori include koutsuu anzen for traffic safety, yaku yoke to ward off evil, kaiun to invite good fortune, gakugyou jouju to pass school examinations, shoubai hanjou for good business, en musubi or love charms, and many others.

Some shrines and temples in Japan are famous for particular kinds of o-mamori. For example, Sensoji Temple in Asakusa is famous for its gakugyou jouju, and many Tokyo University hopefuls go there before exams every year. Victory omamori are particularly effective if purchased from the Zojouji Temple due to its connections with the Tokugawa clan. And if you want to purchase love charms, Meiji Shrine in Harajuku is said to have some of the best.

Although there are no hard and fast rules, a bit of etiquette is practiced with the use of o-mamori. Some Japanese believe that o-mamori should be purchased for other people and not for one’s self — otherwise the effectiveness of the charm is lessened; however not everybody believes this so it should be perfectly alright to purchase one for yourself. You must keep the charm with you at all times — in a pocket, hanging from your phone, or tied to your bag.

You must never open the cloth pouch, otherwise the o-mamori’s blessedness will be negated. While it is recommended that you use a particular o-mamori for one year only, it is perfectly alright to use the same one for several years, especially if you live outside of Japan. If an o-mamori becomes old and soiled with use, you must never throw it in the trash — instead burn it in a respectful manner, or bring it back to the shrine where it was purchased so they will burn it for you.

O-mamori are fantastic as souvenirs for your loved ones when you travel around Japan. Not only are you bringing them something that is uniquely Japanese, you also give them a measure of protection and some good vibes from some of the holiest places in Japan.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. YUE says:

    >Usually, o-mamori are purchased for other people and not for one’s self —

    Umm…I think it is alright to buy omamori for your self.(Never heard that it will be less effective)
    I also asked mom and she said “Yes, omamori is more given from someone else, but I did bought myself an Omamori. You go to the Shrine, pray for your wish & buy your self Omamori for your own wish”
    Mom also asked “Where did you get that information? Did someone told you?”.

    I did think if I should comment or not(余計なお世話だったらごめん;), but I think a lot of people reads & get influence from your post, so I thought its better to make clear.

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    1. That’s what I was told by a dorm sister and a male officemate on two separate occasions, but sure — I can fix the post so that people don’t get the wrong idea 🙂

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      1. YUE says:

        Oh I see. Before posting the comment above, I did google some key words too(お守り、自分で買っちゃいけない、とか・笑), just to be sure. But nothing got hit except for other rules.

        Thanks for the fix!

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        1. No worries — thank you also for the clarification ❤

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  2. minamic says:

    Mama Rotch, I also asked my brother’s associate about this, a Japanese buddhist? He said to “use own money to buy own charm”. Or something like that, which made me confused since I read nga that you buy the charms for other people.

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    1. Apparently there is no hard and fast rule? Some people believe that buying your own is better, while others believe that being given one by somebody else is more effective.

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  3. Adette Razon says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I didn’t know about the belief that o-mamori is more effective if it’s purchased by someone else other than the owner. In my case, the o-mamori I currently own was bought by a teammate upon my request. I intended to pay for it but he insisted that it’s his omiyage to me, so I guess in that sense it’s more effective.

    I fully intend to have it burned and replaced when I go to Japan next year; it’s one of the things I’m looking forward to doing.

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  4. Latasha says:

    It’s always a relief when someone with obvious expertise answers. Thanks!

    Like

  5. Marc says:

    Japanese omamori is wonderful.

    Like

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