Yakuyoke

Keep my safe

In this stranger’s room

Now my own

I arrived in the gloom

When rain was falling

Over the rice fields

When my body was tired

From nights on mountains

And all I had healed

 

A Japanese country house
Image my own

 

No locks on the doors

No light in the halls

Paper cranes on the table

Handprints on the walls

What happens here

Will never leave

Old feelings linger

Spirits in eaves

 

Image my own

 

Keep me safe

As the rain falls

As I sleep

When the moon is hidden

And my dreams are weak

No locks on the doors

Yet I will not fear

We have told the thresholds

Only good may enter here

 

yakuyoke shrine charm from Japan
Image my own

A yakuyoke is a type of omamori (charm) which you can purchase from shrines and temples in Japan. There are many kinds of omamori. Maybe you need help finding love, or nurturing your current relationship. Or some support for coping with a health condition. If you’re going on a trip, get a travel safety omamori and tie it to your bag. Looking to attract positivity? Get a luck or happiness charm. Whatever your needs, there will be an omamori suitable for you. Put it somewhere you can see it every day, and never open it. As it becomes old and worn, you will see the harm it has saved you from in its fraying edges and loosened knots.

The above image is of a yakuyoke charm I took at house I stayed in in Kamikawa-cho, a rural part of Hyōgo Prefecture. A yakuyoke is for protection against evil spirits. This one hung above my bed. It was an old, mysterious house. Over a century old, made of wood, glass, and paper, with no locks. The washroom was a tiny cupboard with a stool and a cold tap in it. I boiled saucepans of water and took them in with me to wash with. There was a dusty parasol hanging from the ceiling, between the kitchen and a side room with a sunken area which I guess used to hold an irori (Japanese fire pit). My friends and I sat there wrapped in blankets, eating combini cookies & listening to the rain, and singing to mask our nerves at being alone in this peculiar place. I was as scared as I should have been, arriving in the dark to somewhere so isolated. But I soon felt at peace. The walls were happy. They held memories. The yakuyoke would let me sleep. The mountains would watch over us.

Read more about omamori on #FolkloreThursday in this article by Kim McGreal.

 

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Amelia Starling is a writer and folklorist. She graduated from the University of Winchester with a degree in Creative Writing, and is Senior Editor for Folklore Thursday. She loves travelling and collecting stories, and spent 15 months living in Japan doing this alongside teaching English. Currently she is living in Scotland and studying for a masters degree in Ethnology & Creative Writing. Amelia blogs about folklore and fairy tales at The Willow Web. You can follow her on Twitter @amyelize.

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