巳 snake ・ 辰 dragon ・ 卯 rabbit ・ 寅 tiger ・ 丑 ox ・ 子 rat
亥 boar ・ 戌 dog ・ 酉 rooster ・ 申 monkey ・ 未 sheep ・ 午 horse
At the temple shop we offer many types of omamori including these Chinese Zodiac charms. Each charm is woven with the image of the zodiac animal on one side and a depiction of the appropriate Buddhist patron deity. These charms are for general luck and well-being. They are available in two colors for all animal signs: indigo and red.
The Chinese characters used to write the names of the animals as you see above are characters used specifically to refer to the zodiac. When referring to the common rabbit, monkey, or tiger (and all of the other animals) different characters are used than the ones you see above. The English translations are written in order from right to left, top to bottom as they are in the display at the temple shop. Take the time to remember the character for your zodiac animal (and maybe those of your loved ones!) and it will make it easy for you to find the omamori, or other zodiac-related goods, you seek!
Here you can see the weaved images of the patron deities for the first three signs (left to right: rat, ox, and tiger). On the left is the Thousand Armed Goddess of Mercy for Year of the Rat and the other two are color variations of Akasagarbha (Kokuzō Bosatsu), the patron deity for both the Ox and Tiger.
To make a wish or prayer on goma-ki: choose your preferred prayer, pay the small fee by putting coins in the box, write your name and address on the piece of wood, and leave it on the table. It will later be burned during a monthly ceremony called Goma Hō held on the 21st and again on the 28th. When your prayer is put on the fire it will be communicated to the gods and your request will be granted. In front of Daikoku-do and at the Middle Gate you will see a table with wooden slats with words printed on them, these are goma-ki that are used for writing prayers/wishes. There are blank goma-ki on which you can write your own request, but there are also pre-written versions with common prayers. The options available at Ninna-ji are explained below.
As seen in the photo above from left to right:
学業上達 (gakugyō jōtatsu) progress in studies
目的達成 (mokuteki tassei) achievement of goals
交通安全 (kōtsū anzen) traffic safety
心願成就 (shingan jyōju) realization of earnest wishes
家業繁栄 (kagyō han’ei) prosperity of the family business
諸難消防 (shonan shōbō) extinguish difficulties
縁談成就 (endan jyōju) successfully find a marriage partner
病気平癒 (byōki heiyu) recovery from illness
事業発展 (jigyō hatten) business development
身体健康 (shintai kenkō) full-body health
商売繁盛 (shōbai hanjō) prosperous business
家内安全 (kanai anzen) safety of family members/ of the household
When you visit temples and shrines in Japan you will usually see statues in twos along either sides of pathways and within gates. If one statue has its mouth open and the other its mouth closed, you are looking at agyō (mouth open making the sound “ah”) and ungyō (mouth closed making the sound “un”) statues. At shrines you will often see animals such as foxes or lion-dogs (shishi or koma-inu), at temples Deva Kings are most common though there are lion-dogs at temples as well. These statues are meant to protect the temple or shrine. There are several possible reasons behind the open and closed mouthes, you can read an explanation of some of the possible meanings here in this article on Niō Guardians.
Below you can see the guardian statues that stand watch in Chū-mon. Now that we’ve gotten the introduction of agyō and ungyō statues taken care of, expect some posts introducing other versions of this pair from around Ninna-ji!
Omamori (お守り) are charms or amulets available at temples and shrines. The word contains part of the word for “protect” (mamoru 守る), and they are meant to protect the bearer from misfortune and bring good luck.
Temples and shrines in Japan offer omamori for all of your luck needs, whether it be for academic purposes, health, romance, or safe travels. The charms that offer these services are usually pocket-sized and come in all sorts of shapes. Omamori are generally considered to be effective for one year, and many people will return the omamori to the place where they acquired it for proper disposal after a year has passed.
Many omamori contain pieces of paper with blessings or prayers written on them. Opening the charm to see the paper, however, is thought to void its protective powers.
You can see many people hanging these charms from their bags and cell phones in Japan. Omamori can make great souvenirs, and even if you don’t consider yourself a superstitious person, having a good luck charm couldn’t hurt.
Ninna-ji has all kinds of charms, including several that are original designs, such as the Otafuku charm. Look forward to some up-coming posts introducing different types of charms available here at Ninna-ji!
Some visitors bring stamp books with them and ask at Goten or at the little building next to Kon-do for a stamp to commemorate their visit. The picture above is of a monk completing a page at Goten where the chrysanthemum seal is used. The Japanese notes the name of the temple along with date. You can see the completed version below.For visitors who have left their books at home, there are also completed stamps available on single pieces of paper which can later be pasted into a stamp book. Both options cost some change, in the case of Ninna-ji, ￥300.
Of course if you happen to be in the market for a stamp book, you can find them at many temples and shrines. The stamp books available at Ninna-ji can be seen in the picture above.
Stamp books for the purpose of collecting stamps at shrines and temples are usually not bound like normal books. Between the front and back covers there is a long piece of paper that is folded like an accordion. The folds demarcate the individual pages. Take a look around the next time you visit a temple, you might see a stamp book to start collecting stamps in! If you can’t find them, you can ask for them in Japanese: the word for the stamp book is “goshuinchō” (said “go-shoe-in-cho”) (御集印帳 or 御朱印帳) to ask for the stamp, just leave off the “cho.”