6 May 2022

12 Japanese Lucky Charms and Their Meanings

When choosing Japanese tableware or other items made in Japan, have you ever wondered what meaning is attributed to the motifs found on them? The motifs that frequently appear on various Japanese products have specific meanings.

Discovering the meanings of these motifs can make shopping more enjoyable, make you feel more adored with the items you own, and help you choose the best gift for your loved ones.

In this issue, we will introduce the meanings of major 12 Japanese motifs.

Contents

  • Mt.Fuji
  • Sakura
  • Pine Tree
  • Bamboo
  • Plum Blossom
  • Crane
  • Gourd
  • Sea Bream
  • Nots
  • Owl
  • Lucky Cat
  • Lucky charms that all Japanese know

Mt. Fuji

The mountain of the soul of Japanese

Mt. Fuji, one of the most typical Japanese motifs, is the highest mountain in Japan and has been honored by the Japanese people since ancient times.

In the ancient Japanese belief that mountains are sacred and the home of the every spirits, and Mt. Fuji is the most precious of all Japanese mountains.

In other words, Mt. Fuji is a symbol of "home" for the Japanese people. Fuji is often chosen as a motif in Ukiyo-e and other Japanese landscape paintings.

Since the motif is symbolic of Japan, this alone can introduce a Japanese atmosphere and is a great gift for people who love Japan.

"Sakura" Cherry Blossom 

Flowers embodying the spirit of Wabi-Sabi

Cherry blossoms, called “Sakura" in Japanese, are considered the most beloved flower of the Japanese people. It is a tree that blooms in spring with a flood of tiny, pale pink petals, and Japanese people always look forward to the spring season when cherry blossoms bloom each year.

While the flowers in full bloom are magnificent, but the most memorable time to observe the Japanese aesthetic sense is when the blossoms are falling.

The sight of flowers blooming for a short period of time and then falling all at once like a whirlwind of snow tells us the reason for the beauty of all life, which must come to an end.

In short, the Sakura motif symbolizes the ephemeral beauty of all life. Because it is a special flower, this motif is also ideal as a gift for someone you love.

"Matsu" Pine Tree

Symbol of constancy and power

Pine trees, called "Matsu" or "Shou" in Japanese, are representative evergreen trees in Japan. Pine trees have been used for centuries as a material for high-quality charcoal and resin, and have also played an important role in the art and craft traditions of Japan.

Its essential oils have a fresh fragrance and antibacterial effect, and its lush green leaves that never wither even in winter have long been believed to symbolize constancy, longevity, and vitality.

Also the pine tree can survive even in harsh environments, making it one of the most prestigious symbols of good luck.

In particular, pine tree is the highest of the plants that represent the order of rank among the lucky charms, pine tree, bamboo, and plum blossom called “Shou-Chiku-Bai".

"Take" Bamboo 

Flexible and strong, symbol of prosperity

Bamboo is called "Také" or "Chiku" in Japanese, and is a popular symbol of prosperity due to its fast growth, fertility, and flexibility.

Bamboo is also a material for construction and crafts, and is an indispensable tool in Japanese daily lives.

In particular, ornaments made of bamboo are an essential item for New Year's to bring and keep good fortune within.

Among the three classes of Shou-Chiku-Bai, bamboo is the middle class.

"Umé" Plum Blossom

Pretty, beautiful, strong blossoms

The plum tree is a flowering tree similar to the cherry tree and is called “Umé" or “Bai". It is known as a strong and beautiful flower because it blooms first at the end of winter. After the flowers are over, they bear fruits that can be enjoyed as processed food, such as plum wine or pickled plums.

The winding trunks of the plum tree are lively and the flowers are also lovely and beautiful, which are often chosen as images for Japanese paintings.

Also, the plum is a symbolic flowering tree for the Japanese god of knowledge, so the motif also represents cleverness.

Plum blossom is the lowest in rank of Shou-Chiku-Bai but that means it is the most familiar simbol of the noblest.

"Tsuru" Crane

A thousand years of love and longevity

Regarding the crane called “Tsuru” in Japanese, there is a proverb that expresses longevity: "A crane lives for 1,000 years, a tortoise for 10,000 years". This belief originates from ancient China, and the crane is revered as a special bird of blessings.

Cranes are also a symbol of everlasting love, as they are a couple and stay together with one partner for their entire lives.

Therefore, the crane motif would be very appropriate as a wedding gift.

"Hiotan" Bottle Gourd (Calabash)

Amusing shapes but its a powerful talisman

The motif, called "Hyotan" or "Hisago", originally comes from a fruit container used in Japan since ancient times: the Bottle Gourd or Calabash, a cucurbitaceous fruit which, when removed from its pulp and sun-dried, becomes a very useful bottle for holding water or sake.

Because the shape itself is so unique, bottle gourd motif items are enjoyable to look at, but they are also believed to be good luck charms, especially to protect against water-related dangers, due to an old legend that bottle gourds served as a substitute for human sacrifices.

Alternatively, it is also a motif representing richness, as it can be used to store goods and was the emblem of the lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who rose from the rank of commoner to that of feudal lord. So if you wish to get ahead in life, this is the motif you want to have.

"Tai" Sea Bream

It's a feast for the sea, soooo happy!

Sea bream is called "tai" in Japanese. The word "tai" is a symbol of blessing because of its resembled the Japanese word "mé de tai" ( = congratulations). Very simple, isn't it? Don't think too much, just be happy! without thinking too deeply about it.

By bringing in the sea bream motif, you can express a celebratory mood. Even if you simply want to congratulate someone, a gift with a sea bream motif is sooo "mé de tai!”.

"Musubi" Nots

Tie the knot and strengthen the bond

In Japan, tying a cord or rope has great significance. In broad terms, tying a knot means to unite two separated things or create one from two. In particular, knotting a gift with a cord expresses the feeling of not leaving the recipient's heart alone, and strengthen the bond. The Japanese word for tying is “Musubi", which is just the same name as our store.

Knots have various meanings, and in the culture of tying knots, called Mizuhiki, knots are used according to the feelings of the recipient, depending on the time of celebration or mourning.

Typically, the common bow knot represents "joy that you want to repeat over and over again". There are no knots with sad meanings, so it is just the nice motif for the gift when you want to celebrate and encourage someone. 

"Fukurou" Owl

Singing "Ho" to bring good fortune

The owl is called "Fukurou" in Japanese, and is loved as a motif meaning "good luck will come" by combining the word "Fuku" meaning "good fortune" and "Kuru" meaning "to come".

Or, since the owl is an animal with sharp vision and hearing, it is a motif for wishing good luck in business, especially for those who wish to acquire information quickly and actively.

Owls are also a symbol of wisdom, and since they courting the same partner every year, they are also a symbol of marital bliss. It is such an extravagant good-luck charm.

"Maneki-Neko" Lucky Cat

"Pawerful" cat which summon good lucks

Lucky cat has long been loved in Japan as a cat figurine that brings good luck with its paws. It is said that the right and left paws bring in different blessings, with the right paw bringing in wealth, and the left paw bringing in guests.

Sometimes you can find greedy cats with both pows raised.

It is also said that the color of the lucky cat brings varying benefits, so it is a good idea to choose one according to your wishes.

No matter what, this is a great item for cat lovers. You might want to collect many colors and arrange them in a row.

Lucky charms that Japanese nostalgia

In this issue, I have introduced many lucky charms, but in fact, these are just a few of them. 

Japanese people have grown up hearing various fairy tales and folklore since ancient times, and they know these lucky charms as common knowledge. Therefore, these lucky charms are very nostalgic for Japanese people. Perhaps you too, may feel homesick when you see Japanese lucky charms someday.

It is very thoughtful to give a gift to someone with a wish, and I am sure there will be days when incorporating some motif as a talisman will give you the courage to do so. I hope you will find it useful in your shopping.