My Good Fortune at Sensoji

I arrived in the land of the rising sun after the sun had set, so I had to wait until morning before I could take a look at the city sights.

scaffolding at Sensoji

scaffolding at Sensoji

My first stop was Sensoji, a famous temple that happened to be a short walk from my hostel. Right away I could see that Japanese temples are much different from those in Korea. The main gate was mostly a red colour, unlike the colourful mix of reds, yellows, greens, blues, yellows and pinks in Korea. Through the gate, the main temple seemed to have been replaced with an arena; it was covered in big, white sheets, making it look like a new hockey rink instead of an ancient place of worship. I went inside anyways, just to make sure that there was, in fact, a temple underneath it all.

Inside was a slow-moving crowd of people, some were peering into a kind of prayer room behind a sheet of glass. I wondered if always looked like that, or if the Buddha statue and prayer area was being protected from construction. After bowing towards the Buddha, visitors tossed coins into a grate placed in front of the screen. I had never seen a grate system quite like this one before. Was it there to prevent theft, or just because the sound of clinging coins falling through the grate and into the waiting treasure box below was just so exciting and fun?

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To the left was a stack of thin wooden drawers. I watched as a few people opened a drawer, took out a sheet of paper, and walked away reading it. Overhearing a family say something about a "fortune," I realized that the papers must, in fact, be fortunes.

Even though I had never been interested in fortune-telling, I decided to give it a try anyways. I watched some more visitors. Put a coin in the slot and shake the silver cylindrical container. And then, okay, so a stick comes out of the container after you shake it. Open a drawer and take a paper. Money, shake, stick, fortune. Got it.But wait---what drawer? I decided I'd better ask someone.

I approached a family who I overheard speaking English.

"Excuse me, can you help me? How do I---"

"Put one hundred yen in here," the woman said, "shake, and a stick will come out. Choose a drawer."

"Any drawer?"

"No, the one that matches the stick."

I went to pay my hundred yen, but the woman stopped me. "No, pray first," she said. "Pray first."

So I prayed. "Dear God," I said. "I am very curious to get a fortune. I don't really like praying with my hands together or anything because this is a Buddhist place and it would feel wrong. I just want you to know that I'm curious about this. Please let me get a fortune."

Then I shook and got my stick. I saw there wasn't a number, but a Japanese character. Matching the characters on the stick and drawer was easier than I thought and soon I found my drawer. As I opened it, the woman came over again to inspect my work.

"Nineteen," she said. Oh, so they are numbers, I thought.

I showed her the drawer and she said it was right, then turned and left me alone with my fortune.

No. 19 GOOD FORTUNE IN FUTURE--

Good start, I thought.

So many troubles and problems invade your family business, everything does not go so smoothly. A tiger demonstrates his spirit too much, then you should be more modest defending its dashing, then you will be safe.

Do believe in gods earnestly, do your best, then everything will be fine in the end.

Getting wealth and happiness, you may remain with them.

*Your hopes and desire turn our to be real by half. *Take long time to recover from sickness, but life will be safe. *Most of your lost articles will not be found. *Take long time to show around the man you wait for. *Building and moving your home will be good by half. *There is no problem of travelling. *Marriage will be good by half. *There is no worry about employment.

There were some concerns---my marriage, home, and hopes and desires will be real and good "by half"? What does that mean?---but I decided to focus on the positive predictions. Steady employment is always good. Remaining in wealth and happiness sounds excellent. And problem-less travelling is a plus for a wanderer like myself. I was especially pleased to see my travel/life motto was even represented with a solid "everything will be fine in the end."

With my fortune safe in my pocket, I left the scaffolding-clad temple and hopped on the subway to explore more of the city.

More:
Finding My Way in Tokyo
Saying a Prayer at Meiji Jingu Shrine 
Geeking Out in Tokyo