After a very brief stay in Tokyo, our band of 12 photographers led by Sam Abell and George Nobechi left for Nikko via bullet train, local train, and very-local bus. Our first stop was the expansive Thoshogu Shrine complex, the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu. This was where I was first introduced to Omikuji, Japanese fortunes. They are available to purchase from small self-service boxes, usually for 100 – 300 Yen (100 Yen is roughly equivalent to $1 US) located throughout the shrine and temple complexes we visited.
Omikuji are not like the simple “You will soon embark on a long trip” fortunes found in the American fortune cookies we get at Chinese restaurants. The fortunes are long and list specifics about many aspects of life including personality, relationships, career, studies, and the future. I was warned by George that they range from great blessing to great curse in 12 steps: great blessing, middle blessing, small blessing, blessing, half-blessing, future blessing, future small blessing, curse, small curse, half-curse, future curse, and great curse. The custom is that if you get a good fortune you keep it with you. If you pull a bad fortune (curse!), then you tie it to a tree or stand so that you will leave the bad luck behind.
From my first introduction I was intrigued, but apprehensive. I did not need any new curses to follow me around. Since most of the trip was organized around visiting the temples and gardens that Basho documented in his writings “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” there were plenty of opportunities to challenge the fortune gods to provide me with some good news. But I waited. I waited until one late afternoon at the Yamadera Temple. Overtaken by the spirituality and immensity of this mountain-side temple complex, I bought a little bell-adorned pouch containing a small polished stone and, of course, my omikuji. Later that day George translated Fortune 29 for me.
Fortune 29: Medium-Good Luck
After a very difficult struggle, your luck will turn for the better. You are tough in the best sense of the word with strong power for recovery. With unexpected help from those around you, your loving relationships will also be good. The trust and effort you have accumulated will be rewarded so that your luck in your career will rise and you will be blessed with good fortune. For your studies, right now is the time to test you. If you get back your roots, and work diligently, you will eventually see the light and things will come to fruition.