There are different symbols in Japan that people have considered from old ages as a catcher of luck and happiness, wealth, good fortune etc. Most of these beliefs are inherited from Buddhism, Hinduism and from Chinese religions. In Japanese, dreams catchers are said to be “Engimono” (Lucky charms).
The carp or the Koi fish is a symbol of great importance in Japan and it is very respected. We could see colourful fishes swimming around in ponds associated with temples and shrines. It is believed as the symbol of good luck, happiness and well being. The Koi fishes could swim across the stream, hence it is also believed as the symbol of courage and willpower. We could see Koi fish paintings on male’s kimonos and during the boy’s festival called “Tano no Sekku” held on May 5th. Every house having boys will be hanging Koinobori (koi fish windsock flags) in front of their house.
The frog (Kaeru) is another symbol that is believed to bring good fortune. Kaeru is the Japanese word meaning “to return”. The frog is hence representing people or things returning to their origin or home. People used to hang small frog dangles on purses, bags etc. while travelling which is believed to carry people’s wishes for a safe return.
Owl (Fukurou) is also a symbol of a life “free of hardship” and “luck to come”. We could see owl ceramic pots and statues in most gardens. It is believed that they will protect from hardships. There are dangles, toys etc. of the owl being sold at many places.
The Beckoning cat (Maneki neko) made of ceramics, plastic or metal could be mostly seen at the entrance of shops. They have various colours like golden, red, white, black etc. in different postures. But the popular among them is the one with the left front hand lifted up. This symbol is also believed to bring wealth and good luck and more importantly it is believed to bring good business.
The Daruma Dolls mostly in reddish colour with the face of a man with thick eyebrows and moustaches is also believed as a good luck charm in Japan. They are made of paper or ceramics and it is also believed that this will bring luck, love, courage and power. These dolls are available in five important colours and each has different meaning based on the goals.
Crane (Tsuru) could be seen in most Japanese paintings and it is another good luck charm for the Japanese. They are mainly associated with New year, marriage etc. The wedding kimonos will be commonly having broderies containing cranes paintings. It is famous that the origami paper cranes will let your wishes come true on completing thousand cranes out of paper.
Daikokuten (kubera) is believed as the god of prosperity in Hinduism and Buddhism. The small and big statues of the Daikokuten is kept at most houses and shops and it is also believed as the symbol that brings wealth and good luck. Daikokuten is one among the seven lucky gods of Japan.
The laughing Budha (Hotei) is another statue available in various postures. These are also made of metal or ceramics. The popular colour includes the golden one holding a beaded chain in its one hand and a big bag at its shoulder. This fat man symbol is also believed to bring good fortune, luck and health if kept at houses and shops. Hotei is another god belonging to the Japanese seven gods of fortune.
The Omamori is an amulet with covers made of Japanese style silk cloth pieces and they encloses prayers written in paper or wooden pieces kept inside it. Mamoru means in Japanese “to protect”. We can see them in different colours and shapes available in allmost shrines and temples. They are believed to bring good luck and they are available in various names for bringing safety and fortune in different places and situations. And it is believed that the cover, if opened, will lose its power of protection and hence it couldn’t be opened.
Pine trees (Mastu) could be seen in most of the Japanese gardens. Pines are the evergreen tree species that could survive in any climate and hence it is believed as a symbol of good fortune and longevity. During the New year, an arrangement containing pine, bamboo and plums are used to make “Kadomatsu” which is kept at the entrance of houses, offices and temples to welcome the New year. All these trees are considered as carriers of good fortune.
There are even more Lucky Charms among the Japanese like Peony flower, Sakura, and others. Some of the symbols are just known among different prefectures and specific areas.