Fortune Telling

Fortune telling is big business in Japan. Be it palm reading, tarot, astrology or based in Shintoism, if you desire answers about the future they can be easily found.

Fortunes at Shrines

Standing in front of the wall of paper fortunes | Fortunes at Shrines | Fortune Telling
My Little Monster, episode 12, 2012

Omikuji are Japanese fortune-teller paper strips found in shrines and temples throughout the country. These ‘paper fates’ can be found on the walls of temples and other places of worship, as well as in the temples themselves.

Different temples can specialise in different types or styles of fortune. Omikuiji in the Chionji Temple in Kyoto are written in the shape of a circle and are placed hanging from a tree, or certain shrines specialise in love fortunes instead of general happiness.

The most general way to get a fortune is to pay a small offering and pick an omikuji randomly from a box.

Food

Auspicious food for the ceremony | Food | Fortune Telling
Kakuriyo -Bed and Breakfast for Spirits-, episode 25, 2018

Auspicious food that is eaten at certain times to bring luck is a big deal in Asia. For example soba noodles are eaten at New Year. Different festivals have different lucky food associated with them.

Ehomaki are a thick long sushi roll that are eaten on February 3rd, the day before the traditional beginning of spring. They are eaten in silence while making a wish, and need to be eaten in one sitting while facing the direction dictated by the astrology of the year.

This tradition was originally only practiced in Osaka, but is now practiced throughout Japan and recipes with different fillings are increasing in popularity.

Fortune Tellers and Palm Readers

Palm Reader in her shop | Fortune Tellers and Palm Readers | Fortune Telling
Miracle Train, episode 4, 2009

Fortune tellers can be found all over Japan, even in quite small towns, but cities will have many options to choose from, often hidden away in side streets. Many different types of fortune telling are practiced, tarot cards and palmistry being two of the most well-liked.

Most shops offer services to advise you on financial, family and personal matters.

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Dōbutsu uranai is a new type of zoological divination that is proving very popular, based on an animal horoscope. Everyone can be put into an animal category based on their birthday, and each animal has certain personality traits associated with them.

Most of the traits focus on whether the person is self-centered vs mindful and distracted vs focused. There are many other types of astrology based on birthdate practiced, fusing both western and eastern styles.

Most places offer some cheap services (even as little as $10), as divination is often popular with high-schoolers, but this will not get you a long time with the fortune teller. Longer, more in-depth services will cost substantially more.

Mental Health?

Kaido visiting a fortune teller | Mental Health? | Fortune Telling
The Disastrous Life of Saiki K., season 1 episode 6, 2016

Japan is a nation where mental health is still somewhat a taboo subject, even though gradually it is improving. Fortune tellers can be found in old shopping arcades, where they often act as psychiatrist substitutes.

Some fortune tellers have noted that many of their regular clients don’t actually come to them for readings, what they really want is someone to listen to them.

As going to see a fortune teller is not seen as unusual in any way, no judgment will befall the client in their circle of friends and family, whereas many are still ashamed to seek professional mental health services.

Modern Takes

Lucky selfie fortunes on TV | Modern Takes | Fortune Telling
Sarazanmai, episode 3, 2019

Fortune telling is very popular with younger people in Japan, so modern technology is often used to move with this trend. Fortunes can be easily sent to you via your phone about any subject.

Morning TV shows often include segments giving lucky numbers, locations or items for the day, with the example above from Sarazanmai giving a daily lucky selfie challenge.