Published Categorised as Japan, Popular Posts, Travel 22 Comments on Ema

You can see more photos from Kyoto and other cities I visited in the Japan category, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote.

An import­ant aspect of Japan­ese shrines and temples are ema plaques (the name 絵馬 liter­ally means “picture horse”). These are small wooden signs with a picture on one side. You write a wish on it and hang it up (or take it home as a souven­ir). Each site has its own design, so I made a collec­tion of photos of differ­ent ones I saw in Japan. They are origin­ally a Shinto tradi­tion, but can also be found at Buddhist temples. At bigger sites you can find messages writ­ten in a lot of differ­ent languages.

Plain ones at the Meiji Shrine.

A pile of signed ema tied to a rail­ing.

A design of a Japan­ese ogre- an oni.

You can also make hundreds of tiny paper cranes. You need a thou­sand to make your wish come true.

Some­times you see the odd differ­ent ema inter­spersed.

Draw­ing paper slips with poet­ic fortunes on is also popu­lar. If you get a bad fortune you can leave it behind on a display to leave the bad luck behind you.

A mix of sail­ors and musi­cians.

Ema stacked up for sale. The price is usually low, about the equi­val­ent of £2.

I bought one of these boar ema to take home.

A huge pile at a Shinto shrine. Those paper decor­a­tions are only found at Shinto sites, and are an easy way to identi­fy them.

Deer shaped ema at Nara.

Some shrines have multiple designs avail­able.

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