For a better life, why sell your soul to the devil when you could trade your lies instead?
This weekend, Osaka Tenmangu, a shrine in Osaka’s Kita Ward, is hosting its annual festival where visitors can trade good-luck charms to bring about future prosperity.
The “Usokae Shinji” ritual gets its name from a Japanese word pun on “uso,” which can mean “lie” but can also refer to the Japanese word for bullfinch, “uso-dori,” which itself is derived from the words “uso buku,” literally meaning “to blow a lie.”
Legend has it that bullfinches once saved worshippers who were being attacked by bees at a shrine dedicated to Tenjin, the 10th-century warrior, scholar and poet Sugawara-no-Michizane who was later deified as the god of education. According to the tale, a large number of the uso-dori appeared and ate all the bees, and since then, carved wooden talismans of bullfinches have been used as good luck charms to change misfortunes into falsehoods or uso.
Each year, visitors to Osaka Tenmangu Shrine, one of the most famous of the Tenjin shrines, bring back their old talismans and cry out “Kaemasho, kaemasho” (“Let’s trade, let’s trade”) before swapping the charms with each other. Those who are lucky enough to receive a golden or silver bullfinch in exchange are believed to be blessed with particularly good fortune.
Usokae Shinji or the Bullfinch Exchange takes place from 1 p.m. on Jan. 24 and 25 at Osaka Tenmangu Shrine, a 5-min. walk from Minamimorimachi Station on the Tanimachi and Sakaisuji lines. Admission is free. For more information call 06-6353-0025, or visit www.osaka-info.jp/jp/search/detail/event_8075.html.