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.