Shopping for Good Luck and Prosperity at Tokyo's Rooster Market


This story is over 5 years old.


Shopping for Good Luck and Prosperity at Tokyo's Rooster Market

Heavily in debt? There's a festival—and a rake—for that.

This article originally appeared on VICE Japan.

The other day I was paying my utility bill and buying some groceries at the convenience store the other day when the clerk handed back the wrong change. My bill was JP¥ 10,800 yen ($95 USD). I paid JP¥ 11,000 ($97 USD), but the cashier handed me back JP¥ 9,200 ($81 USD). It was rush hour at the corner store and he was a bit busy.

The first thing I thought was "great, with this, my lunch money for the next few days is set." But then I immediately thought, "oh, wait a second. The gods are watching. If I do the right thing now maybe he will make my debts just vanish or something."


So I handed the money back. The store manager saw the whole thing and he was so thankful that he gave me four Tokyo Banana cakes for free. I don't necessarily think that the cakes and the cashier being so much nicer to me is an act of God or anything. But I still think a bit about the karma of the whole thing.

So, of course, I'm a regular at the annual Tori-no-Ichi (rooster market) in Shinjuku. I mean I'm in debt. How else am I supposed to get rid of it?

For the initiated, Tori-no-Ichi is an annual festival held in November. It's where Japanese people go to wish for year of good luck and prosperity. Each year you bring back last year's kumade (bear's paw) and exchange it for a new one. I splash for the JP¥ 1,000 ($8 USD) one because you gotta spend money to make money, amirite?

A kumade is supposed to be a bear's paw, but it actually looks like a rake—the perfect thing to rake it in. The only place to get one is the Tori-no-Ichi, and with the economy being what it is, you can bet the festival is plenty crowded. Of course it could also be all the amazing food (grilled squid, yakitori, and grilled ayu fish) and beers and highballs for sale. By the end plenty of people are happy and drunk—which is as good a reason as any to make the trip out.

I've been going to the Tori-no-Ichi for years, but, so far, my luck hasn't really turned around. I still pay off my debts little-by-little every year, and I try to be an honesty person. So the kumade might not be doing its job, but at least I have these banana cakes.