Translated by MATCHA
The Basics Of Japanese Talismans, Courtesy Of Sensoji Temple
Written by OsawaKimie
The types and varieties of talismans or lucky charms sold at temples and shrines across Japan is vast, but there are some important rules to keep in mind when purchasing and using them. Here is the information we learned from Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.
Question 2: How do I dispose of a charm correctly?
Buying a charm is a good thing, so disposing of one shouldn’t be something bad or a hassle. When it’s time to dispose of a charm (usually one year after purchase or if it breaks), then you can take it to a shrine and ask them to dispose of it for free. In Sensoji there's a collection point with 'Accepting expired charms' written in Japanese (古札お納め所). Shrines will stay like this year-round to accept all good-luck items. For those living abroad, you can always try mailing the charms to the temples.
However, there is one thing you need to be careful of. The charm you bought from the god must be returned to that god; you need to take your charm to the same shrine you bought it from. Think of the charm as a part of that god. We must accept and return it with gratitude.
Question 3: What is the correct method of counting charms?
So far we’ve talked about the correct way to take care of charms, but we haven’t yet addressed the way they are counted in Japanese. Since a charm contains the spirit and power of a god, we don’t just say “one or two” like we do for normal items. Instead, it’s counted as “one body or two bodies”, the same way you count Buddhist statues. So when you decide what to order, please say “I would like (insert number) + bodies”. In Japanese, this is (insert number) + tai.
However, in the case of other countries or languages, please just order as you normally would- there’s no need to worry about it.
Question 4: Can I open a charm to check what’s inside?
Charms, which are made to be carried around, are small brocade bags with materials such as wood, cloth, metal, paper, and the like inside (usually with sutras, a prayer, or left blank). A string is threaded through the mouth of a bag and it is sold in a closed state.
Source: Omamori net (Japanese)
Of course, looking at the shape and size of a charm will spark curiosity as to what’s hidden inside. However, looking at what’s within and verifying the charm is seen as “an act of an unbeliever” - meaning that the charm will no longer work, or may even cause bad luck instead. By believing in what your eyes cannot see, your faith is deepened.
Hopefully, everyone can now understand what they need to know about charms. There are many requirements that we must be careful of in order for the talisman to work effectively and to not offend the gods. Above all, the most important one is to always carry the charm with you. If you keep the charm with you at all times, then you can be under the god’s protection and part of his or her favour at any time you need it.
Sensoji’s Expired Charms Deposit
Address: Tokyo, Taito, Asakusa 2-3-1
Other Languages: English, Chinese, and Korean
Nearest station: Asakusa Station (all relevant lines)
Access: 5-10 minute walk from all Asakusa Stations
Religious Information: Buddhist
Phone: +81 (0)3-3842-0181
Website: Sensoji Temple