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Kokkuri こっくり The Japanese Divination Board

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Kokkuri こっくり or 狐狗狸 is a “game” (although the term wouldn't be appropriate) that involves using some sort of ouija board to communicate with spirits. The name derives from the spirit that is usually evoked in the session, in fact this practice can often be found with different names. In vogue among teenagers, especially among students, in Japan it collects conflicting opinions, between those who think it's just a game and those who think that certain things are not to be played around with.

This practice dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867) and was often used on occasions such as Setsubun, a Japanese festival to drive away evil spirits. However, the practice of Kokkuri has become increasingly popular over time and is also used outside of religious contexts. For those who know the ouija board (practically the same purpose, used for séances) will recognize the pattern of use and the same warnings.

The Kokkuri table consists of a wooden or paper table (this model is used above all because it is easy to reproduce on the spot), in which the characters in hiragana (to read the message), numbers and two sections with written yes and no. Participants place their finger on the "ship" indicator, or as often happens on a dime, and ask the spirits questions. The marker moves on the board in response to the questions.


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It is simple to use, but here are some basic rules:

1. Lay the board or paper on a flat surface, such as a table or floor. The table or sheet must be in the center with the coin (or "ship") in the center and ready for the session to begin.
2. Kokkuri participants must be at least two people to play, it is not recommended to "play" alone as it could be dangerous. Participants have to sit around the table and place their fingers on the indicator or coin.
3. To start the game, the participants have to ask the spirits or a specific spirit a question. For example, they might ask if a certain person loves them, if they will be successful at work, or if their life will turn around.
4. After asking the question, the participants must wait for an answer from the spirits. The indicator will move across the table to indicate the answer, moving over the characters that will make up the answer phrase.
5. When the game is over, the participants must thank the spirits and close the session. This last part, often forgotten, is very important because if you don't thank and greet the session remains open. To do this, the participants should ask the spirits to leave and then move the marker to "goodbye" (if you have already written it) or write sayonara.

There are so many versions of this practice that they have variables that depend on who prepares it, the tradition, the country, many variables that can lead to a slightly different use from the one indicated. But they all have the same indication.

Many people believe that Kokkuri is a form of divination that can reveal the future or give advice on personal matters. Others consider it a harmless form of play. Others still a dangerous form of communication because it can create unwanted links or "open" spaces to entities that should not have to do with our world. There are some Japanese religious groups who claim that the practice is dangerous and can open the door to possession by evil spirits.

In Japan, there are several variations of Kokkuri, some of which involve the use of stones and crystals in place of the indicator or dime. Additionally, there are many versions of Kokkuri available online, though the online practice has been criticized by many for being inauthentic.
This "practice" is so famous that it is present in many manga and anime and has its own cinematic trend linked to horror series and films: a Japanese classic.

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In conclusion, Kokkuri is a Japanese "spiritual practice" that has a long history and is still popular in Japan today. While some believe it is a harmless form of divination, others argue that it is dangerous and can open the door to possession by evil spirits. If you decide to participate in a Kokkuri session, make sure you do so with caution and are aware of the potential risks.

Sources Images


Folklore, Mauro, Kokkuri

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