While there are different types of omamori, the most popular is known as the omamori bukuro (literally, 窶彡harm in a brocade bag窶?. And that窶冱 just what it is. Usually around 1 inch by 2 inches high, these attractive little charms look somewhat like an elaborate teabag with a thin white cord knotted on them. On one side of the bag the name of the temple or shrine where they were issued will appear, often in gold thread, and on the other side appear words of blessing. Inside the bag is a prayer or blessing invoked and purified by a priest from the temple written on paper or a thin tablet of wood. A word of caution: if you are fortunate enough to receive an omamori, resist the temptation to open it! We窶况e been told that to open one will negate the blessing. Have faith that it窶冱 in there. You can always do what we did 窶 take a peek when replacing it with a new one.
Omamori probably originated with Shinto practice, with prayers to various kami (spirits) for specific purposes, but Buddhist temples and shrines in Japan also issue omamori. Omamori are technically permament blessings, but at the New Year, people in Japan like to visit temples to get a new omamori for the new year and old omamori are burned. Omamori can be for general protection but many are for specific purposes. An omamori for safe driving or safe travel might be hung on the rearview mirror of a car, and one for a prosperous business might be displayed in a shop. One for success in passing exams might be attached to a schoolbag. Other omamori are for safe childbirth, protection against fire (kept in the home), and even to guard against computer malfunctions! General omamori for good health or protection can be carried in a purse, in a pocket or attached to pillars or gates. Various shrines dedicated to specicific purposes will offer omamori for those purposes, so people will visit a particular temple or shrine in order to obtain an omamori for that purpose.
It窶冱 commonplace to give a member of one窶冱 family or a lover an omamori to protect from evil while traveling, or for protection while doing dangerous work. In this way, one prays for their loved one窶冱 success, safety and health.
Omamori are such an integral part of Japanese culture, that they窶况e become part of Japanese pop-culture. Don窶冲 be surprised to see a Hello Kitty omamori, these days, or even an omamori credit card or phone card!
Perhaps it窶冱 only human nature to look for something external to lean on 窶 to give us comfort. From a Buddhist perspective, however, omamori can be useful in allowing us to develop a strong faith in the laws of the universe. We can therefore use the omamori to remind us of our strong life-condition, enabling us to tap into the supreme benevolent functions inherent in it.