YAMAGUCHI – Kotozaki Hachimangu Shrine in the city of Ube, Yamaguchi Prefecture, sells over 800 varieties of colorful omamori (good luck charms), ranging from ones for anglers to travelers who want to avoid accidents.
“We probably sell the greatest variety of omamori in Japan,” said Katsunari Fujino, a 46-year-old priest at the shrine. “We hope to offer as many omamori as the wishes that exist in the world.”
The shrine creates over 100 new kinds of charms every year while ditching unpopular ones. The number of varieties put on sale is increasing at a yearly pace of 30.
Fujino, who took the job 25 years ago, has been thinking about how to stand out from famous shrines nearby, such as Hofu Tenmangu Shrine in Hofu, Yamaguchi, which enshrines Sugawara Michizane, a scholar of the Heian Period (794 to 1185) associated with a Shinto deity of education.
Soon after he started, Fujino was assigned to manage charms and paper talismans. Having found over 500 kinds of charms in the storage room, he came up with the idea of appealing to visitors by utilizing them.
While reviewing the existing stock, he began developing new ideas. His first creation was a safety charm for those in the construction industry who use heavy machinery. The charm, hemmed with black and yellow to invoke a warning sign and a green cross printed on the surface, became so popular that imitations were circulated in Osaka, according to Fujino.
Many charm manufacturers are amazed to see the shrine producing more varieties than any rival. It’s such a draw that people who work at other shrines across Japan come to have a look.
Seeing reports of North Korean boats drifting ashore along the Sea of Japan in places like Hokkaido and Akita Prefecture last year, Fujino is now planning to make a charm for people engaged in maritime security.
“News reports and daily conversations with people around me give me tips and ideas for producing new charms,” Fujino said.
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