What are some Japanese symbols for good luck

Happiness in Japan

Fuku, U.N and engi

Happiness plays a very big role in today's Japan, which can be seen especially on the New Year. This is the day most Japanese people buy engimono (see the following section engimono), i.e. lucky charms if they visit the shrine for the first time of the year. Especially the lucky arrows, hamaya called, are popular engimonoacquired at that time. Another example would be the frog, which through a play on words has also become a very popular one engimono has become. The Japanese word for frog kaeru か え る also has a second meaning and that is "to return". For this reason, idioms like buji ni kaeru 無 事 に か え る, to German "Come back unharmed" or fuku kaeru 副 か え る, "Happiness returns". A frog figure is also ideal as a gift because you can tell it with the words fuku wo mukaeru 副 を む か え る, which means something like "Go towards happiness", can hand over. Of course it is a taboo to give away real frogs, but there are very many people who own key rings, ceramic figurines or jewelry in the shape of a frog.[1]

The English word "luck" does not encompass all the nuances of the Japanese concept of luck. This can be traced back to the following two factors: the Buddhist concept of karmic causality and the Taoist belief which is based on a cyclical conception of time. Many Japanese use Taoist astrological calendars with helpful tips for events that are part of life, such as weddings, births or funerals, but also for events that mean other "changes" such as building a house or going on a trip. The Japanese often use different expressions for "luck". The most important is probably fuku 福 as it also occurs in the term Shichi Fukujin 七 福神, i.e. the seven gods of luck. This expression is very much associated with the blessings of the gods. Another expression for happiness is U.N 運, which is associated with movement. It can be translated as fate. There is also the term engi 縁 起, which is an abbreviated expression of the Buddhist concept inen seigi is. This term means that direct and indirect causes produce physical results. Through the actions and deeds that people carry out, they have a direct impact on the phenomena that are happening in the world. Divine help is one of the indirect causes that produce good. En refers to the relationship with the deities with which people try to change their fate. Engimono 縁 起 物 are things that are meant to help achieve this. The following is intended to focus on the engimono To be received.[2]


Engimono 縁 起 も の is a Buddhist word and means something like "according to fate / omens, things happen". It is a combination of the Kanji 縁, which means fate or omens and 起, which can be translated as "something happens / something occurs". Engimono were originally not objects, but records in which the miraculous powers of gods and Buddhas and stories about shrines, temples or the origin of the treasures located there were explained. This type of good luck charm was highly valued by the people of the Edo period 江 戸 時代 (1603-1868). Also engi in the idiom of the time engi wo katsugu 縁 起 を か つ ぐ, “shouldering happiness”, comes from such texts. Shinto priests and monks called kanjin hijiri 勧 進 聖, who traveled to many countries and collected donations, carried the lucky charms not in a low area with them when they went around and talked about the miraculous powers of the gods, but on their shoulders, as the texts were important due to their venerable content . Sooner or later it was no longer texts, but the treasures that were found in them were pointed out and soon afterwards it happened that wondrous goods of this kind, especially toys from a certain area with which one asked for divine help, were shown . The following stipulation is written in the collection of cultural monuments: "It is something that one gets from shrines or temples if one believes in the effectiveness of the beckoning of luck." The trade in such lucky charms did not begin today. Already in the Edo period it happened that monks instead of the citizens prayed for something. There was a trade that represented the people's wishes and it is said that it had grown beyond all expectation. The people who traded in lucky charms made lists, chūhō-oboe 重 宝 覚 called, of shrines or temples and their miraculous powers, sacrificed objects that matched the wishes of the people and also sold them. Eventually the shrines and temples began to sell items of their own to be sacrificed, and as a result of numerous efforts in relation to those goods, the goods became diverse o-miyage お 土産 born today.[3]

Transfer of spiritual power to the engimono

Yet how is spiritual power based on engimono reduced and transferred and how did it come about that they still use something distant from spiritual places? In Christianity, the sanctity of wearable objects is based on the spirituality of the original from which they are derived. The power of the original can be transferred through words, touch or mimetic design. Engimono are provided with their power in a similar way. Rice spoon, so-called Shamoji 杓 文字[4], from Miyajima 宮 島, for example engimonowhich are distributed all over Japan starting from this island. Miyajima is one of the main places dedicated to the worship of Benzai-th, one of the Seven Gods of Luck. The rice spoons are connected to the spirituality of this deity through contact. According to local myths, the rice spoons were made from sacred trees that grow on Miyajima, as the island as a whole represents the embodiment of Benzai-th. Nowadays, however, the rice spoons are made from imported wood. By stamping the characters for "Miyajima" on the handle, they get their authenticity. Most of the others engimono are also associated with a specific region of Japan through words or symbols. Another example is the Kotohira fans associated with the Kotohira Shrine on Mount Konpira in Shikoku 四 国 and sold through local commercial networks across Japan. The sale of engimono but is often not limited to the shrine or the region from which they come. The wooden bird statues, uso called originally as engimono from the Dazaifu shrine in Kyushu are now sold by a great many shrines associated with this deity. Though considered local objects of the Kyushu region, they can be purchased across Japan. This fact also means that engimono not necessarily associated with a particular sacred place to be effective.[5]

  • Ornate Shamoji

  • Shamoji with gods of luck

Engimono and kamidana

An important characteristic of engimono is that you don't wear it on your body, but rather set it up at home. There are two places in the house that are traditionally associated with religious and spiritual cult. For one thing, there is butsudan 仏 壇, the Buddhist house altar, which is mainly used to worship the ancestors and the recently deceased. The kamidana 神 棚 on the other hand is the Shinto house altar, in which the gods are worshiped who protect the house and which is also closely related to the happiness of the family. The following is a brief example of the connection between kamidana and happiness are explained.

The Miyada family lives on Miyajima Island. Mr. Miyada is the chairman of a company that sells kitchen utensils, and Ms. Miyada is a housewife. Hangs over her kitchen door kamidana in which there are 3 objects. The first object is an arrow the couple bought at a local shrine, the second is a wooden cone-shaped object that otama, Called "The Seed of Life". This was a gift Mr. Miyada received at a local Shinto festival. Then there is also a wooden rice spoon with a picture of a rabbit and the text kaiun ("Open for better luck"). Every year Mr. Miyada's company produces such spoons with the appropriate animal zodiac sign. Like the other kitchen utensils, they are sold and distributed to local souvenir shops. The engimono however, they are mainly sold around the New Year. All three objects in that kamidana who are Miyadas engimono. They represent the three main characteristics of the material culture of happiness. The first characteristic is that the objects have a temporary character. Two of the objects in the kamidana the Miyadas are closely related to the New Year, one of which is an annual festival held at a shrine. Another characteristic is that many engimono as the otama can be received as a gift. The last characteristic is that the engimono fulfill a purpose or a task through their physical quality: they either invite happiness or they scare away evil. The arrow shoots at evil, the seeds of life plant happiness and the rice spoon creates happiness. A very large part of the engimono are tools or utensils. There are those too kumade 熊 手, the bamboo rake that brings happiness together. The task of engimono is thus closely related to everyday practices.[6]

Seasonal change in engimono

But not only in kamidana are different engimono found, but also in hallways and in the tokonoma, the alcove of a room that serves a decorative purpose. The objects that are mostly to be found here are closely related to changes over time. For example, you can find representatives of the signs of the zodiac, objects in demon form that are supposed to protect the house or things that are related to the seasons. In the year of the rabbit, you will probably find rabbit statues that are adorned with plum and tangerine branches in February, for example. You can also find postcards or photos with seasonal images, such as fireworks in summer. Many housewives also make and sew things that go with the seasons themselves. For example, suitable flowers are painted or fruits are made from scraps of cloth. These examples clearly show that the everyday life of the Japanese is often influenced and determined by the change in time.[7]

The combination of engimono

In principle, it is assumed that a larger number of engimono also brings more luck. This is because that is believed to be a engimono each is effective in a certain area and a larger number thus covers more areas. Furthermore, there are no rules that say that you have certain engimono should not combine with each other. Popularly, however, it is said that it is better to sign up for an odd number engimono to decide as soon as you have several, for example o-mamori お 守 り ("Talisman") carries with you. Otherwise, if one were to opt for an even number, there would be an argument between the gods if there is disagreement between them.

Important engimono





Somin Shōrai




  1. ↑ See also: 縁 起 物 の あ る 暮 ら し Status: 2014/02/06
  2. ↑ Daniels 2003, pp. 621-623
  3. ↑ Miyata 1998, pp. 46-47
  4. ↑ s. Shamoji as of: 2014/07/27
  5. ↑ Daniels 2003, pp. 623-624
  6. ↑ Daniels 2003, pp. 625-626
  7. ↑ Daniels 2003, pp. 627-628


  • Daniels, Inge Maria (2003). "Scooping, Raking, Beckoning Luck: Luck, Agency and the Interdependence of People and Things." In: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (ed.), The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 9/4., Pp. 621-628. →
  • Miyata, Noboru 宮 田 登, e.a. (1998). ", Shichifukujin‘ nanatsu no kīwādo "「 七 福神 」七 つ の キ ー ワ ー ド. In: Miyata Noboru (ed.), Shichifukujin shinkō jiten 七 福神 信仰 事 典. Tokyo: Ebisu Kōshō Shuppan, pp. 24–59. →See excerpt: Fukujin keywords