Mysterious good luck charm only found in Kyoto

When walking through residential areas in Kyoto, you may see strange decorations on doorsteps.
It is a mysterious object that looks like a small broom, or wrapped in grass.

This is a “chimaki,” one of the traditional good luck charms in Kyoto. It is said to protect the family from misfortune and illness.


What is a Chimaki?

Chimaki is a talisman to ward off bad luck.In Japan, chimaki is made by wrapping glutinous rice and other ingredients in bamboo or bamboo leaves, steaming or boiling the whole leaves, and eating them. Chimaki is of Chinese origin.


Special Chimaki to ward off evil spirits in Kyoto

Chimakis displayed at entrances in Kyoto are not food. Chimakis are made with straw as the core, wrapped in kumazasa bamboo leaves, rolled in rush (rush grass) and tied with a knot. It is a good-luck charm to ward off bad luck, disease, and disaster.
Preventing and getting rid of misfortune is called “Yakuyoke”. The chimaki is also called “Yaku-yoke Chimaki,” because it is a chimaki that protects against misfortune.


The origin of Yakuyoke_Chimaki

When the god of Yasaka Shrine was in need of a place to stay during his journey, a poor man offered the god a place to stay and warm hospitality. In gratitude for his hospitality, the god asked his descendants to wear rings of thatch as a marker to protect them from the plague.

Later, it is said that the “thatch ring” changed to “chimaki” and became what it is today.


Where is Yakuyoke_Chimaki decorated?

Chimakis are hung under the eaves of the entrance to the house, where the god of pestilence is believed to enter. It is also said that it is best to hang it in a place where it can be easily seen.
It will keep away evil spirits for a year. 

When can I buy it?

You can buy them only during the Gion Festival in Kyoto.

How long should it be displayed?

It is displayed for one year until the following year’s Gion Festival, after which it is returned to the place where it was purchased or to Yasaka Shrine.

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