Superstitious or not, it’s fun to buy a fortune. Fortunes are easy to find at shrines and temples in Japan and cost Y100 or occasionally Y200. Some come with a little charm inside for you to carry in your wallet.
Fortunes are usually drawn from an open tray or deep container or come out of a machine. Another option is shaking a round wooden box until a stick pops out of a tiny hole. This stick has a number on the end that matches to a self-serve drawer where you collect your fortune. Otherwise, someone hands it to you.
Finding fortunes in English is more difficult outside of tourist areas. Asking someone if your fortune is good or bad with a thumbs up or down is probably enough! After years of buying fortunes, there isn’t much difference in the details.
After you read your fortune, tie it to the trees or racks nearby.
My first BAD fortune
There are different grades of fortune but they can be grouped into two categories: bad and good. If you draw good, great! What happens if you draw bad??
I have purchased around 30 fortunes over eight years. The majority have been good with quite a few “best” fortunes.
Until 2012. I drew my first bad fortune. In fact, I drew the WORST possible fortune. I tried to laugh it off but couldn’t really. My sister got the same fortune at the same place almost four years earlier. Four is a particularly bad number in Japan so I was doubly worried.
The place was Sensoji in Tokyo. Hitoshi refuses to buy fortunes there. It is notorious for bad fortunes.
When we got home, I told my father-in-law and showed him the fortune. I had broken tradition and kept it, just like my sister had. His response surprised me.
My terrible fortune was not terrible at all! In fact, the fortune showed that I had hit rock bottom and my fortune could only improve. In fact, a good fortune means you are about to encounter some bumps because fortune cannot be sustained. “Don’t worry”, he told me once more.
I thought about what he said and rationalized it to be true to comfort myself.
BAD Fortune – AGAIN!
Earlier this year, I drew my second “worst” fortune at Kiyomizudera Shrine in Kyoto. It was odd timing because we were returning a special 1000 shrine visits charm we bought and had blessed in 2012. Tradition says that when you make a wish on a shrine or temple charm and your wish comes true, you must return the charm. Hitoshi again refused to buy a fortune but I couldn’t resist. Again, my mood sank with my “worst” fortune.
A few days later, we visited Sanjusangendou Temple, also in Kyoto. My heart was set on seeing the complex and perhaps seeing our twins! The legend says that every person has a twin somewhere in the 1000 statues. Hitoshi found mine and we had fun trying to find his and one for baby.
After we exited, we hung out by space heaters trying to warm up. There, by a pillar, were two boxes filled with fortunes. Being an optimist and still brooding about my super bad fortune, I took a chance.
Hurrah! I chose well – the best fortune possible. We decided it cancelled out my bad fortune and I was back to neutral. Hitoshi thought it was best to stop while I was ahead. I was twirling around with glee, my mood changed in an instant.
So, why do I want a super bad fortune NOW?
Let me tell you. In the last two weeks:
- I wrecked my knee leaving me hobbling in pain.
- My 7-year old Toshiba laptop died.
- I had only four visitors to my blog earlier this week!
- Our car got towed from practically under our window after getting three parking tickets for being too close to an alley. Huh?? We didn’t see the tickets since we don’t usually drive the car on weekdays. At first, I thought our car had been stolen!
Please! I need a super ultra bad fortune because I need things to get better!
Have you drawn a good or bad fortune in Japan? What happened next? Are you superstitious like me?