There are a lot of lucky charms in Japan associated with various prefectures, seasons, shrines, temples etc. The lucky charms are known as the Engimono in Japanese. We could see statues of cat, owl, frog, etc. in many places while travelling around Japan. Almost all Japanese shops have a cat with raised hand kept at the reception desk. There are countless Engimono products available in Japan. And it is interesting to see and own some of them during our trips.
Maneki Neko or the Beckoning cat
Maneki Neko or the beckoning cat could be seen very popular in many shops of Japan. In restaurants and shops, we could see the small and big statues of this cat usually in white and red colour. And the Maneki neko will be standing with a hand raised up. Some cat statues of different colours and different postures also could found in some other places. These are one of the most important Engimono of Japan. Keeping these statues in shops and business firms could be seen popular all over the country as it is believed that these lucky charms brings good fortune in business. The main result of keeping these Engimono is to bring prosperity and good profit in business by attracting wealth.
Daruma dolls could also be found very popular in Japan. These dolls heads are having the face of a man with mustache are usually seen in reddish colour with some parts drawn in golden and black colours on it. We could see these dolls in most ceramic shops and even in the Hyakku yen shops. They are also prepared out of paper. There are some temples in which these dolls are used to enclose the Omikuji or the fortune predicting paper notes.
These dolls are made in five different colours each kept with different intensions. The very common red coloured one to be kept at houses is believed to bring good fortune and happiness. Yellow coloured Daruma dolls are kept for the purpose of protection and they are found to be kept in vehicles and houses. There is also a blue coloured dolls that are kept for the purpose of providing good health and longevity. Love and harmony is provided by the white Daruma while the golden brings prosperity and wealth. The Daruma dolls made from papers are very handy and there are some places in Japan for making your own Daruma out of recycled paper. The Daruma dolls of these five colours with five different meanings are available from some special places only eventhough the red one is the very common among these.
Tsuru or the cranes
The cranes are always consider as a sign of good luck and prosperity We could see paintings of cranes in Kimonos, Japanese fans etc. The cranes made out of paper are considered to bring good luck, prosperity and health. The famous Sadako cranes of Japan are popular all over the world. The story of the Japanese girl Sadako and the 1000 paper cranes she made is always inspiring. Making thousand paper cranes and hanging it on a chain is considered to bring your dream come true. The art of making various shapes out of paper known as Origami is very famous in Japan and the cranes are one among the most important Origami creations.
When we travel to the Japanese temples and shrines, Omamoroi or the Amulets could be seen very common in the shops. Various colours and shapes associated with these lucky pieces of Japan is really attractive. The small silk bags will be having some prayers written on small wooden pieces or paper boards enclosed inside it. It is believed that opening these bags will cause the amulet to loose it power and hence it is not to be opened in any circumstances. People used to buy these amulets and keep it with them inside the bag or vehicle to give protection. As the name indicates, these amulets are meant for protection purpose in various adverse situations of life.
Shichi - fukujin
The Shichi fukujin or the seven gods of fortune could be also seen in most places. Among them the statues of “Hotei” or the ‘Laughing Buddha’ and the “Daikokuten” are the most popular ones. The smiling Hotei statue seen in small and big sizes usually with a big bag hanged on his shoulder is supposed to bring good health and fortune. Daikokuten could be seen in shops and business firms and it is believed to bring wealth and luck in trade. The Daikokuten faces could be seen hanged on some shops or other firms. “Juroujin” is another one among the seven gods of fortune who is the god of longevity.
Keeping the statue of Juroujin at home is believed to bring long life for residents. “Fukuroukuju” is the god who brings happiness, longevity as well as wealth to the place where he resides. “Bishamonen” is the god always kept by warriors to keep them strong and win during fights. “Benten sama”, the god of art and music is kept to help in education, beauty and art related activities. The last among the seven gods is the “Ebisu”, who is the god of fisherman, and sea merchants who keep it with them to protect during their sea trips.
Koi fishes or the carps
These are one among the most important good luck charms of Japan. We could see carps in the water bodies and ponds associated with temples, shrines and other important places of Japan. Carps found in red, yellow and golden colours are not only grown as pets but also they are considered as a creature that brings good luck to the society.
These fishes have a property that they could swim against the stream of water. So they are considered as the symbol of courage, power and good luck. The pictures of Koi fishes could be seen printed on boy kimonos. Also during the ‘Tano no Sekku’, the Boy’s festival of Japan on May 5th, every Japanese houses with boys will hung Koi fish balloons and wind stocks of various colours and shapes infront of their houses.
There are still many other lucky charms we could see here. The owl or the Fukurou statues kept in gardens for protection purpose, the Frog or Kaeru statues kept with the hope that somebody who has parted with you will rejoin soon are some among these. The Kagami mochi, Kadomatsu etc. which are the important items related to the Japanese New Year are also considered as Engimono. There are Engimono goods owned by various prefectures and some shrines with unique meanings. People used to keep these kinds of goods with them with great hope and well wishes.