Where Can You Find Omamori (Ofudas) And Interpreting Them

Ofudas, commonly known as Omamori are Japanese talismans that people receive when visiting temples and shrines. And here you’ll find out what it is and where you can find the Omamori. 

There are different types of Ofudas you get from different temples, varying in design and contents.

What is an Ofuda or Omamori? 

An Ofuda is a Japanese talisman that comes in sheets of paper. Believers generally stick them on walls of their homes to provide safety for the entire family by invoking godly spirits. 

Sometimes, collectors are so busy gathering the talismans as if they’re collecting stamps that they overlook what’s written on the parchment. 

Q1. What is an “Ofuda”?

It’s a simple sign that’s a proof of worship at that particular shrine. The name of the shrine is written in Japanese paper that is of size B6 and there are vermillion marks on it. 

Q2. What is the History of Ofudas or Omamori?

The history isn’t very clear. It’s said to have originated after the Edo period originally as a copy of the sutra during pilgrimages such as Shikou 88. It’s also considered a payment sign. 

The source dated way back to the Kamakura period

As more and more general folk started visiting shrines, Ofudas or Omamori became some sort of proof that they had visited the shrine. During the Meiji period, Ofudas became commonplace in shrines. 

Q3. What is written in the Red Seal or Ofudas?

The contents written on Ofudas depend on the temple, shrine or sect it is from. Here is an example. 

Ex: Bronze Sign of the Temple

Japanese Prayers For Protection

What does this Bronze Sign Say?

1. Hohai – It means I respectfully worship.

2 and 3. Gosyuin – Where you write a sutra of your own and place it in the temple. In this particular image, it’s a lotus sutra named nenpikannonriki. 

4. Sango – An honorary prefix before the name of a mountain. The mountain’s name is Yamana.

5. A sign of a motif representing a temple, in this case, this is the Arashiyama Rakan temple in Kyoto. It’s a statue of Buddha made of stone in the Hogonin temple. 

6. Gohoin – A type of seal used in a Buddhist temple.

7. Sanboin – It’s the name of the temple

In Nichiren Buddhism, which has the lotus symbol as its Lotus Sutra, the myoho is a substitute for gohoin. Depending on the temple, there may be only the red stamp without anything written on top of it. 

Arukuto of the Shrine 

The shrine’s Red Seal is relatively simple. The name of the Shinto shrine and the seal are in the center. 

The-red-seal-Arashiyama-Rakan-temple

What does this Red Seal or Omamori say?

1 – Name of the Festival

2 – Name of the Shrine

3 – Date of worship

4 – The seal of the Shrine

5, 6 – Marks and motifs that are related to the Shrine

Q4. How are Red Seals Different from Bills?

Speaking of items awarded at shrines, there is an item called the “bill.”

On one hand, a person gets a certificate called the “Akujin” that is collected at the end of the temple visit. But the interest in collecting these is far less compared to the Red Seal.

When the name of a Honjyu is handwritten by a priest or a monk and if you get the Red Seal, it’s considered highly auspicious and this should be carefully kept for years on end. 

Q5. What do I need to do when Visiting the Temple or Shrine In Japan?

Usually, it is the same as visiting temples and shrines. 

Make sure you make a note of the Shrine manners and respect them genuinely. 

  1. Visit when you’re in good conditions only – both physically and mentally
  2. Before you pass through the side gate of the temple, bow at the main gate
  3. Do not pollute the surroundings in any way and always maintain the peacefulness of the temple from your side
  4. Watch out for the photography rules and follow them
  5. If necessary, remove your shoes
  6. Use the purification fountain to wash your hands and mouth before you enter. Make sure you use the scoop provided and not dip your hands directly into the fountain.
  7. After purifying yourself, head to the offering hall to pray
  8. Donate how much you can at the offering box
  9. Make your prayers quietly
  10. Once you’re done. Bow and leave

Q6. How can I get the Red Seal and how do I Store it? 

There are two ways one can get this seal. Either the worshipper brings their own book or it is given by the priests on a piece of paper. 

There are also shops that sell the original and you can get the seal book with various designs in general stationery shops. 

After you get a seal, it’s best to store it in a bookshelf or if you want to be careful while carrying it, you can use a Shinto rack. 

japanese-talisman-paper

Q7. Will the Red Seal be Awarded without Visiting a Shrine?

The Red Seal is basically collected after a pilgrim takes an arduous journey to the shrine and for his hard work, he is rewarded with a seal. 

In some shrines, you can still get a seal without having to visit the shrine. This is only in exceptional cases when the person who wants a seal has a health problem. 

There should be only one objective when going to shrines, that is to worship. So please try not to make it about collecting seals. 

Kyoto Shrines and getting Omamori or Ofudas

The image that the people around the world associate most with Kyoto is its cherry blossoms during the Spring and yellow leaves during Autumn, but Kyoto is still beautiful during the other seasons.

Visit-shinto-temple-in-summer

There is a huge temperature difference throughout the year in Kyoto. Autumn leaves turn red and the red leaves become green in the Spring – which is beautiful to see.

I changed my earlier booking because summer is beautiful in Kyoto with the changing green shades of the leaves. It’s also a good time to visit due to fewer tourists and the cost of hotels being cheaper during the offseason. 

In recent years, temples have started special worship by lighting up gardens. It’s a perfect opportunity to get a Red Seal while enjoying the history and the beauty of these shrines.

#1 — Kifune Shrine – The Shrine in Kibune

The headquarters of “Kifune Shrine” has 500 smaller branch shrines nationwide. 

The main Kifune shrine located in Kyoto is the starting point of the Kamogawa river. The Ryujin (Dragon God) controls the rain and Takaoka hot springs. It is said that the rebuilding of the shrine happened in the 1300s. 

  • Location: Kyoto Prefecture Kyoto City Sakyo-ku, Kuramadorikibucho 180 
  • Telephone number: 075-741-2016 
  • Reception time (award of the red mark): 9: 00-17: 00 

*Extended time during the light-up period*

Kifune-Shrine-Kibune
The contrast between the lantern and the stone steps leading to the main shrine is fascinating. 
Shinto-gifts
 In the special red auction, the sign is shaped like a ripple which is named after the water god and the blue maple is on the lower left corner. 

Kifune-Shrine-gardens
The lit “fresh greens”  of the garden illuminates various parts of the shrine such as the approaching path in the above photo. It’s lit only for a limited time ( Taken May 26, 27, 2018, twilight ~ 20 o’clock)
japanese-good-luck-gifts
This shrine is regarded as the birthplace of ema. Only in this season, a blue maple ema appears.
Kyoto-city-restaurants
The water drawn by chefs of restaurants in Kyoto City is in the image above. 

#2 — Jokoin Temple, Kyoto

The temples of Tenryuji, famous for its rustic mountain gate, were made during the Arashiyama era. You can enter the Shishi garden only during special occasions in the Spring and Autumn seasons. 

  • Location: Kyoto Prefecture Kyoto Ward Saga Temple Temple 
  • Gakuen Baba Town 36 phone number: 075-861-0091 
  • Spring special occasion: March 17 – June 30 
  • Business hours: 9: 00 – 17: 00
Lion-megalith-Jokoin-temple-garden
A megalith in the center of the garden is shaped like a lion that is crooked and is called the “Lion rock”. While walking in the garden, I immediately feel the healing effect on my mind and heart. 
Lions-gadren-red-seal
I use a thick paper and printed on it is the text “Lion’s Garden”. 
Kaya-gates-Jokoin-temple
Kaya gates are where you can feel the simplicity of a Zen sect. The red seal can be stamped at the shop on your left after entering the gate. 

#3 — Jojakkoji Temple, Kyoto

“Ogurayama” is also mentioned in the Hyakunin Isshu (Hyakunin Isshu is a classical Japanese anthology of one hundred Japanese waka by one hundred poets). This place was loved by aristocrats and is regarded as a sightseeing spot, perfect for day trips. 

Located in the center of Kyoto and can be accessed by a boat, it’s said that there was a mountain villa called the Shikudei which was the Fujiwara family home during the Heian period in the land of Nichiren Sho and Jojakkoji. 

  • Location: Kyoto Prefecture Kyoto City Saka Ogakurayama Kokura-cho 3 Sagaokurakuyama Ogura- machi
  • Telephone number: 075-861-0435
  • Watching time: 9: 00 – 17: 00 
Jojakkoji-Temple
Jojakkoji-special-official-mark-yellow-paper
The Special Official Mark is written on yellow paper. This is a motif of the turmeric paper which was used as an insect repellent to protect the important books of the temple. 
Jojakkoji-temple-garden-Kyoto-view
The garden spreads over the slopes of Ogurayama, and when you climb to the top of the observation platform, you can admire the beautiful view overlooking the city of Kyoto.
Sagano-Bamboo-groove
The bamboo grove of Sagano is a specialty and the blue maples are also splendid.

#4 — Rurikoin Temple

Gifu has a version of Buddhism called the Jodo Shinshu. The garden where the water is collected is called the garden of the lapis lazuli. It’s generally private, but you can visit for worship during the Spring and Autumn.

  • Location: Kyoto Prefecture Kyoto City Sakyo-ku, Kamikitano Higashiyama 55
  • Telephone number: 075-781-4001
  • Spring special occasion: 15th April to 15th June
  • Worship time: 10: 00 ~ 17: 00
  • Light-up date: 2018 May 26th and 27th, June 2nd, 3rd, 9th, and 10th
  • Light up time: 19: 00 ~ 20: 30  
  • *Lights up must be booked separately*
list-of-omomori-charms
↑ For the first time, the garden is lit up with LEDs. During the day it’s beautiful. 
ofudas
↑ The small “Yagase Momiji noodle” is within walking distance of the Rurikoin is lit up at the same time. This is a public road, so a reservation is unnecessary.

How To Get To The Temples Or Shrines In Japan

“Ancient Capital Kyoto’s Blue Maple & Giant Marking Tour”

You get a roundtrip ticket of the bullet train and a special auctioned award ticket as well. A one-day ticket is dedicated just to get the red mark. 

You can visit the above shrines and also the other 10 shrines in Kyoto city (Shimogamo Shrine, Kawai Shrine, Jingoji temple, Tofukuji temple, Manshuin monk, Tojo, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine). Special aromas can be bought in these shrines. 

Yagase-Momiji-noodle-light-up-time

The Keihan Train and the  Eizan Train one day Ticket (Special Edition), Kyoto Subway · Arashi 1 Day Ticket.

Two special auctioned award tickets are also available, and you can receive a special auction of this tour at only two shrines from the total 10. Post the second one, you should pay the full price.

Also, there’s a limited opening period until mid-June, usually an unplanned Rurikoin lights up the maple of the garden, and as an option for this tour, you can join by reservation. Why not take advantage of this opportunity? 

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