Where has the fortune telling little bird gone?
(This article was originally posted in Japanese at 16:58 Jan. 02, 2008.)
Many of Japanese visit shrines on the new years day. It used to be a religious ceremony of Shinto but now it's our yearly traditional event. We visit our nearby shrine with our families and friends, make some new year wishes and enjoy the outdoor stalls and Omikuji, a sacred lottery.
Typical Omikuji is a piece of paper describing our fortune in some obscure way like haiku or Chinese poetry. For it's a lottery, it needs randomization. A fortune cookie(which, for your information, has a Japanese origin) is a good example. And there was a randomization method using a bird. It has several names like "Bird's fortune telling","Varied Tit telling a fortune" or "Performing Varied Tit" and we used to see it at almost every Shrine fair. But not recently. Where had they gone?
Read on for more description, images, and videos of the performance.
(from a mechanical doll)
The picture shows a typical "Bird's fortune telling". As we offer a coin, a handler opens the cage and hands the coin to varied tit. Varied tit holds the coin with its beak, hops along the miniature shrine approach, drop the coin to the offering box and ring the holy bell, like we do in the real shrine. Then it climb up the stair of the miniature shrine, opens the door, takes out the sacred lottery and brings it back. Then it opens the envelope, gives it to the trainer man, gets the hempseed and returns to its cage.
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According to the book, the performance is as old as ancient Kamakura, Heian age(a.d.8c-14c). In those age birds perfomed more complex performance like Karta taking, drawing well-bucket, or a trick called "Nasu no Yoichi"(Samurai pulling the bow and arrow) etc. But as time goes by, they became obsolated. And now, for parrots and parakeets became more populrar as the perfomance bird, the performance seems disappearing.
Since the performance became rare before Internet age, there are few videos online. This is the one can be seen in Nasu Animal Kingdom.
YouTube - Bird's fortune telling performance
Following site has some pictures of the performance, too.
(Japanese)Weekly Ari-kui Shimbun: Bird's Fortune Telling
Recently we even have Omikuji vending machines using miniature Shinto priest.
YouTube - Youkai Shrine Omikuji
Not really matches the atmosphere, though.
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