There’s usually something different printed on my yogurt lid every morning, but this one made me laugh.
This is called an omikuji. It may be safe to say they inspired the modern fortune cookie.
You can typically find them in any Shinto shrine (or Buddhist temple), and pay a hundred yen or so to draw a number, and then receive a corresponding fortune. They usually range from “little luck” to “great luck” (with the infamous “bad luck” or “curse” every so often–the first two times I tried omikuji, they were both bad luck!). The rest of the paper will usually have a more detailed fortune about love, money, health, and what not, but the overall luck rating is a very easy theme to imitate. There are countless promotions and toys and things to buy that will randomly assign a luck rating.
Interestingly enough, it seems Izumo Taisha doesn’t print overall luck ratings like the aforementioned, but they will say something breifly about your wishes coming true (願望), your public works (土木), marriage prospects (結婚), illnesses (病気), moving/relocation (移転), finding lost items (失物), trade (売買), feng shui direction (方位), travel (旅行), as well as some overall advice for the year, perhaps about specific things to try or avoid. While other omikuji I’ve seen may drabble on about these topics to make them general enough to fit any one, Izumo Taisha is refreshingly direct: “You won’t find it. You have the advantage. East is good. Good.”
I’ve always heard conflicting instructions about what to do with an omikuji: “take it with you for good luck!” or “don’t take it out of the shrine!” or “you have to tie it here to dispell the bad luck!” or “don’t tie it here, or it will come true!” or “if you don’t tie it here, it won’t come true!” Frankly, I think you’re only half-way partaking in omikuji customs if you don’t tie it at the shrine. It seems that in general, leaving it at the shrine will dispell bad luck and increase good luck–the thought on bad luck being that if you tie it to a pine (matsu: 松) tree, the bad luck will wait (matsu: 待つ) there at the shrine instead of following you. Given how many omikuji you see at any given shrine and how comparatively few curses there are, I’m thinking most of the good luck waits at the shrines, too.
My yogurt says I have great luck, and that good things will happen today. Perhaps to make that come true I merely have to sort my garbage/recyclables correctly. What I find funniest is the necessary disclaimer at the bottom: “This has nothing to do with an advertising campaign.”