Entering the first gate of the Senso-ji temple grounds, which Bryan was returning to in order to show me, he explained his willingness to visit a second time.
"You can get your fortune here," he began. "When Margaret and I came, she got a lucky one while mine was only normal." Margaret is a colleague who joined him in Tokyo for a week's worth of work.
"What do you mean, normal?"
"It didn't really give any good luck. And to be honest, I was jealous of Margaret's fortune. At least now I can try to get a better one."
We passed through a maze of vendors selling everything from magnets to traditional Geta shoes, and multi-flavored ice cream to fried octopus until reaching the second gate.
The gate is a two storied, red building. Beneath the roof of the first floor hangs three lanterns, the middle and largest of which is 12 feet tall. We passed through, into a cloud of incense smoke and climbed the stairs of the temple.
Bryan led me to a counter jetted against a wall of 100 thin Japanese-numbered drawers. On the counter sat a long hexagonal metal box and a set of instructions which read:
How to draw OMIKUJI
(a written fortune)
1. While praying for your wish, shake the box politely a few times. A stick marked fortune number will come out.
2. Make sure your number and put the stick back.
3. Take out a sheet of OMIKUJI from the drawer of your number, and take it home.
*When you draw a good fortune you should not be careless and arrogant. Even if bad fortune, have no fear. Try to be modest and gentile.Whether in good or bad fortune, you should tenaciously do your best. You can carve out your own fortune.
We deposited the requested equivalent of a $1 coin in the designated slot and Bryan shook the box to show me how it worked. Turning the box upside down a stick fell out of a tiny hole. Engraved at the top of the stick was a Japanese number. We matched up the symbols to the corresponding drawer.
"Let me see what it says," I requested.
"First you try."
I repeated his actions, making a little wish for a good fortune and safe continued travels, and tipped the box over.
I pulled my fortune out of the drawer. One side was designed with rows of Japanese characters. The opposite side had a few paragraphs in English, sandwiched between more Japanese.
"What?" He looked over my shoulder to read the paper I held in my hand.
No. 13 BEST FORTUNE
When spring comes, you will get good fortune.
Just like flowers bloom on old branches, something happy will come.
When spring comes, your life will change to be prosperous just like rice grows. You will be able to reach the highest position.
*Your wishes will be realized. *A sick person will recover. *The lost article will be found. *The person you are waiting for will come. *Building a new house and removal are good. *It is good to make a trip in spring and summer. *Marriage and employment are all good.
"I can't believe it. Now I'm even more jealous."
"Let me read yours," I begged.
It said things like patience is a virtue, how life will be like hunting a deer that can never be caught. I laughed.
"This one is even worse than the last," he dejectedly stated. "I think it's because the Buddhist gods were spiting me for not liking the first fortune I was given."