New Year’s Series Part 4 – Omikuji & Hanetsuki

UPDATE 1/10/14: Due to extreme flooding Oshogatsu has been postponed until Sunday, January 19, 2014. If you have already purchased tickets you will receive an email with details about your purchase. Otherwise, you may still purchase tickets online until Friday, January 17th at noon. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope to see you all there next Sunday!


This week we’re discussing some of the activities we just couldn’t do without at Oshogatsu: omikuji, or New Year’s fortune telling, and hanetsuki, which is similar to badminton. Read on to find out why these activities are two of our favorite things about the Japanese New Year.


Omikuji literally means “sacred lot” and is usually done at Shinto Shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan on New Year’s Day. Attendees make an offering (in Japan usually a 100 yen coin, but it’ll be $1 at the festival) and receive a fortune or blessing.

Traditionally you would draw a fortune with any one of the following:

  • Great blessing
  • Middle blessing
  • Small blessing
  • Blessing
  • Half-blessing
  • Future blessing
  •  Future small blessing
  • Curse
  • Small curse
  • Half-curse
  • Future curse
  • Great curse

Below this category you would find the actual fortune as it relates to your life. Some of the traditional fortunes deal with wishes or desires, lost articles, travel, business dealings, romantic relationships, marriage proposals , engagements, and other topics.

At Oshogatsu  you’ll make your $1 offering and draw a number. This number corresponds to a fortune, which our staff will give you. Bad fortunes are tied to trees or wires so that they don’t attach themselves to you. If your fortune is good you can either take it with you for good luck, or tie it to the wire to give it greater effect.


Hanetsuki is a game similar to badminton, but without a net, that was traditionally played by girls around New Year’s. You can play as a pair, or by yourself, but the object is to keep the brightly colored shuttlecock aloft as long as possible.

The game is played with decorative paddles called hagoita, and while the game no longer enjoys the popularity it once did, hagoita are still very popular collectors items. In December of each year Sensoji Temple holds a huge market devoted to the paddles. More traditional decorations on the hagoita usually depict beautiful Edo-period ladies or kabuki actors, while modern images include fantasy characters (like Hello Kitty or Harry Potter), celebrities, sports players and even politicians like Prime Minister Koizumi.

At Oshogatsu you can enjoy hanetsuki on the hill top near the Shishimai Stage and hear the sound of rousing taiko drums or beautiful koto while you play!

If you need something to tide you over until the big day head over to our New Year’s in Japan Pinterest board and see what’s in store, or take a peek below! See you next weekend!

One thought on “New Year’s Series Part 4 – Omikuji & Hanetsuki

  1. Pingback: New Year’s Series Part 5 – The Finale: Shishimai & Daruma! | By Morikami

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