March 4, 2011 Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

ema keiba

"Please make me win at horse race and get enough fund from it." Hmmm. 

hanging ema

After writing your wish, there is a place to hang it.

Ema (絵馬/ picture hourse) is used in Shintoism, is small wooden plaques on which people write their prayers or wishes. After writing your wish, you leave it hanging up at the shrine. On one side there are various pictures, often they are animals or other shrine imagery.

This tradition came from Nara perido (710-784). When their wishes came true, they devoted horses (considered as a vehicle for God) as a gift. However as not everyone could afford to donate a horse, those who are less rich started giving the shrine a paper horse, a painted horse or a figure of the horse instead. And it's been carried on until now.

Nowadays, Ema is used to write the wishes and some shrines are specialized for some particular purpose. For example the second photo shows an Ema for having a child (Kodakara).  

During the entrance exam season, many students and their parents go to a shrine and hang their wishes like the third photo.

Once a year, shrines collect all Ema and burn them by thanking and purifying the spirits at the same time.


ema horse
ema child


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