Otakiage – Burning Talisman

January 20, 2014 Juju Kurihara 2 Comments

omamoriAs I always say, Japanese people are superstitious. During the year, they have many events to wish health, luck, a long life or anything gives them good luck. People like to buy lucky charms at many occasions such as Omamori (お守り).


Usually the effect of these lucky charms last for a year and people buy them every year. I wonder, what do they do with them? The house full of old lucky charms? 





Shrines hold ceremony called Otakiage (お焚き上げ), which is a Shinto ritual that burns all the lucky charms from the previous year with a sacred fire and pray for the wishes to come true. Not only lucky charms but people also bring the New Year decorations or Kakizome



Otakiage is held on the 15th of January. It´s a quite spectacular to see the pile of the big fire.

There is a similar event, Dondo-yaki (どんど焼き). As well as Otakiage, people bring old lucky charms and the New Year decorations at one place and burn them. This is also held on the 15th of January.



dondo yaki

The difference is, people burn dango (団子/ Mochi ball) with the fire and eat it. It is believed that if you eat dango cooked with Dondo-yaki fire bring you a good health. Since they can´t come so close to the fire, people stick dango to a long branch.   

This is a common annual event in many regions but yet, it´s rather folk religion. 




Daruma (達磨/Bodhidharma) is also one of the popular lucky talismans. When you buy it, Daruma has only one eye. When your wish comes true, you draw the other eye and thank to him. 

They too go to Takiage. Some shrines tell you not to bring them as it burst in the fire and can be dangerous. 





Some bamboo based decorations also pop. I guess that is one of the exciting moments to see during the event but sure, safety is important. 





If you can´t go to neither Otakiage or Dondo-yaki, you still have a way to thank your talismans. 

First put them on the newspaper. Then sprinkle the salt on the left, the right and the left again. Now you can wrap them with the newspaper and throw away. Since you purify the talismans, they won´t upset by being dumped. 



More about New year events




Kodomo no Hi(Boys´ Day)

Boys´ day


More about Japanese superstitious

Unlucky age


  1. Miguel 9 years Reply

    Interesting article. I have gone to Dondoyaki for a few years now thanks to my wife’s influence, but have never thought of it, the omamori or the beliefs that many Japanese hold as superstition. I guess I have been looking at Japan from a western perspective and confused superstition with religion . . . Or are you doing the same only in reverse? What is religion if not a collective contract between individuals to revere the same set of superstitions and parables?

    • juju.kurihara 9 years

      Thanks for the comment, Miguel.

      Japanese people are superstitious. Not a religous way but certainly it has an influence from it and mixed with the tradition, which hard to divide. You may have a western perpective but you are lucky enough to see a little more beyond from your wife? 

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