The Billiken: Bringer of good luck and cultural competence

  • Sachiko Gomi MA, MSW, Doctoral Student School of Social Welfare The University of Kansas
  • Edward R. Canda PhD, Professor School of Social Welfare The University of Kansas


In this narrative, the authors describe their exploration of the various cross-cultural meanings of the Billiken, a good luck figurine, which they use in classroom and professional trainings about cultural competence and spiritual sensitivity, both in Japan and the United States. The stories are based on their two diffèrent cultural vantage points and ongoing crosscultural interactions regarding the Billiken, which originated and gained much popularity in the United States and then made its way aroimd the world, including Japan. The stories revolve around how they encoimtered and reacted to the Billiken in two different cultural contexts, discovered their very different understandings, and pursued the meanings of the Billiken for enhanced mutual understanding. The authors explain lessons learned from their experiences for effective cross-cultural learning and for promoting cultural competence and spiritual sensitivity among social work students.


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