In any culture, there exist myths about granting wishes. Rub a magic lamp. Pray to a shooting star. Toss a coin into a wishing well. At one point, they become a shared belief among people around the world, and Japan is no exception. For example, sometimes, when you travel around Japan, you will come across ponds, natural or otherwise. And then you will see a LOT of coins left by visitors at the bottom of the water. But do the Japanese gods really fancy those coins? Will they really fulfill your desires?
You see, throwing coins into a well to have your wish granted is not originally a Japanese idea. No, you go to the Trevi Fountain in Rome to do that. In fact, in many places in Japan where there are ponds, there are signs that explicitly ask you NOT to throw coins. But hey, if you are traveling around the world, who can resist the temptation to do something romantic, right?
Well then, how about we try to have our wishes granted the Japanese way? Introducing 5 ways to grant your wish from the Land of the Rising Sun:
The most commonly seen, perhaps, is the ema, which refers to the pentagonal wooden plaques you find in Shinto shrines across Japan. The rule is simple: you buy an ema, you write your wish down, then you hang it at the designated place in the shrine. If you visit big shrines in Japan, you will see many wishes written in foreign languages, left by other tourists!
A similar concept of writing your wish down and hanging them is employed for the tanzaku, although the opportunity for this one is quite a bit more limited. After writing your wish on a tanzaku (small colorful pieces of paper), you are to hang them on a bamboo tree. But you only do this once a year during the festival of Tanabata, which falls on the 7th of July. Does this restriction make the wish-granting power stronger, I wonder.
Now the Daruma doll is not to be scribbled on. This good luck charm works in a peculiar way: initially, it comes to you with blank eyes. When you set a goal to be fulfilled, you paint in one of the eyes, and then you leave it like that. The Daruma, who now has one eye, is motivated to get a full set of binocular vision, and will do its best to grant you your wish. When you have accomplished your target, you fill in the other eye. Well done!
This one is a well-known experience at Kiyomizu-dera, a temple in Kyoto. Unlike the Daruma, this time, YOU start out blind. Basically you will enter a pitch black cave, which symbolizes the womb of Buddha. You will then navigate in the dark using your hands, until you reach a large stone that you can spin. Make your wish and turn the stone. When you finally emerge from the darkness, you will literally reach "enlightenment" and your desires will be granted.
Doraemon is a dubiously feline robot from the 22nd century. He possesses a small pocket that connects to the 4th dimension, which holds many items and gadgets from the future. They can be used to do whatever you wish to do! In order to meet Doraemon, you need: 1. a desk with a moderately-sized drawer, 2. a serving of dorayaki, 3. extremely bad luck. It is said that Doraemon will appear from the future through a time portal that connects to your drawer, eat your bribe, and help you avoid misfortunes. Alternatively, you can just buy a Doraemon plushie as a souvenir!