From the traditional “omikuji” — sacred lots — people draw at shrines and temples to learn their New Year’s fortunes, to the horoscopes displayed on commuter train video screens to distract strap-hangers, Japanese society is immersed in fortunetelling.
Famously accepting of different religions simultaneously — predominantly Shinto and Buddhism — Japanese in general easily fold divination into their worldview, as well.
Kazunori Kawai, publisher of Koiunreki, one of three magazines on the market dedicated to fortunetelling, or “uranai” in Japanese, said he believes such trends are rooted in people’s attitudes toward the concept of God.
“Most of us don’t believe in a single entity like Jesus Christ, but rather commit to a pantheistic view of God — that God is everywhere around us,” Kawai said, adding that such mentality promotes a fatalistic attitude, and thus a great interest in one’s destiny.
What methods are used in fortunetelling?
Masakatsu Hayashi, president of Starmark Co., which manages professional fortunetellers and produces fortunetelling programming for Web and mobile platforms, says there are three genres of fortunetelling that must be mastered before one can be considered a professional diviner.
The first, “meisen,” refers to methods of reading fortunes based on birthdays, including various versions of Eastern and Western astrology.
The second, “bokusen,” uses objects to offer divinations for those seeking advice on decision-making. I Ching, Tarot cards and crystal-gazing belong to this genre.
Finally, “sousen” involves divinations based on visual perception, including palmistry, physiognomy, “feng shui” and dream interpretation.
Hayashi, whose mother is a professional fortuneteller, said he felt the occupation often functioned as a casual substitute for psychiatric counselors.
“When someone’s depressed or is beset with troubling issues, in Japan many would rather visit a fortuneteller than a psychiatrist,” he said.