Omikuji Wooden Sticks at Sensoji Temple Asakusa

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  • Omikuji Wooden Sticks at Sensoji Temple Asakusa 00:00
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Other than living in a physical dimension, humans also live in the spiritual dimension, like myths. If you visit Shinto and Budhist temples in Japan, you would usually find o-mikuji, a piece of paper with random fortunes. The omikuji tradition in Japan is believed to be more than 1000 years old. 

At Sensoji Asakusa  temple, one unique sound that you would encounter is the snapping of wooden sticks rubbing and colliding against each other inside the omikuji box. These were metal hexagon omikuji boxes . Inside were wooden sticks, each written with a number between 1-100. On one end of the omikuji there was a little hole which was a little bit bigger than the diametre of the wooden sticks. If it’s hard to imagine, please take a look at the photo. 

Visitors of the temple who wanted to know their omikuji fortune had to first pay 100 yen and put it inside a box, then shook the omikuji box until one of the sticks fell out. This process of shaking the stick that produced the unique sound the Japanese people’s onomatopoeia referred to shaka-shaka. After getting one of the sticks, the visitors would match the number on the wooden stick with the number on the omikuji paper (1-100). The omikuji paper received would predict whether you would have good, lucky, or bad fortune. Usually, if you received good fortune, visitors would bring the omikuji paper home with them. If it was bad fortune, visitors would pray then tie the paper to wooden or metal sticks which were near the omikuji stall.

When recording the sound of the omikuji, there was a group of tourists from Europe that participated in the omikuji ritual. A female guide was explaining to them about the omikuji and how it works in English. 

What’s interesting was, in South East Asia this fortune sticks tradition were easy to find in Buddhist or even Tao temples. Like in Samut Prakan Thailand for example, I also recorded the crackling sounds of the fortune wooden sticks. In Thailand it was called seam si. The difference was these sticks were placed inside an open bamboo shell. The worshippers only needed to shake the shell until one of the sticks jumped out of the group of sticks. The sounds were slightly different from with the sounds produced by the omikuji box in the Sensoji temple because it was made using different materials. These fortunes seemed to be a lottery of fate. Would you believe it?

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