Yesterday I tried visiting a saju cafe for the first time in my life. Before I delve into my experience, let me just briefly explain what saju means. Saju, in Korean 사주 and in Chinese characters 四柱, literally means ‘four pillars’. In this case, these four pillars are determined by your four birth numbers: the year, the month, the day, and the hour. Much like a Western horoscope, Koreans believe that the exact time of birth holds the key to one’s destiny. If you have ever heard the Korean word for destiny, 팔자 (palja), it actually means ‘eight characters’ and is directly related to the belief in saju. For each of the four pillars in saju, there are two characters that represent either the heaven or the earth giving each human being a total of eight characters. This also means that since there are five elements: wood, water, metal, earth, and fire – no one will be able to have all five, since we all only have four pillars. This is a beautiful way of acknowledging that nobody is perfect, and we all have our own insufficient fortunes and ups and downs.
I’ve wanted to do this for quite some time and recently feeling that I’m at a point in my life where many important decisions need to be made, I figured it couldn’t hurt. I asked one of my Korean girlfriends for a saju recommendation, and she referred me to the Eros Saju Cafe in front of Ewha Women’s University. It’s supposedly a very famous place and has appeared in several tv shows. It also attracts a lot of Japanese tourists, so if you book in advance, they even offer saju readings in Japanese. Here’s what it looks like:
First, a disclaimer. I am a natural skeptic with significantly more questions than profound beliefs, but I figured this would be an insightful experience, and I’m not so arrogant as to completely deny the existence of things I just don’t understand or know enough about. In other words, I entered the cafe with a healthy dose of skepticism and an even larger dose of curiosity.
I made my way up the stairs to the third floor and entered a large room that looked like any other cafe. A young man asked me if it was my first time visiting and then guided me to a booth where he left me with two menus. One for refreshments (I ordered a peppermint tea) and one for saju (I ordered the general saju and palm reading). Then he quickly returned with my tea and moments after, a man in a hooded sweatshirt and a baseball cap took the seat in front of me. Since I have never met a saju reader before, I didn’t know what to expect but I did not expect him to look that much like my students.
He gave me a piece of paper and asked me to write down my exact time of birth. Then he looked in a strange book full of tables of Chinese characters and started scribbling down a lot of characters. Even from where I was sitting I could see that one of them occurred several times, the character for earth – 土. Knowing that I was born on a Saturday, which literally translated from Korean is ‘earth day’ I probably shouldn’t be surprised at this.
He said that the earth element was very strong in my saju and that this many occurrences of earth may symbolize a mountain. Just like a mountain, he said, I was steady, stubborn, and stood out among others. He then looked at me and said that from my pillars, he could tell that I was very stubborn, anti-authoritarian, self-reliant, independent, comfortable in my own company, and often childlike with infinite amounts of curiosity. He also said that I was probably a person used to taking the lead and guiding others and didn’t mind standing out. I was persistent and liked to both work hard and play hard and indulge in good food and good company. Like a young child, I would constantly seek out pleasure and fun, which would occasionally get me into trouble.
As for my interpersonal relationships, he said that I tend to hold people around me to high standards and both give and demand loyalty. Consequently, I would be very susceptible to hurt and disappointment if this loyalty was ever broken.
His advice included experimenting with my creative side, which he saw as very strong, avoiding what he called useless stubbornness, which he said, might be perceived as aggressive selfishness, and to go hiking in the mountains whenever I need to make important decisions. The mountain was well aligned with my earth element, so going there should make me feel grounded and give me some perspective, which is essential for making tough decisions.
I was honestly surprised at how well his description of my personality fits reality, and although I definitely want to take it all with a grain of salt I will probably go hiking in the mountains in the near future.
My palm reading, which I’m less inclined to believe, showed that I’ll live a creative and wealthy life, my love life may be a bumpy ride, and while I have a long life line, I should take extra care of my health when I reach my 50s.
So, there you have my saju experience. Have you ever tried something similar? Do you believe it? Feel free to share in the comment section.