January 21, 2010

What Do You Wish?


Another trip down to Tokorozawa Shrine. This is called an 'Ema (絵馬),' which translates to something like 'Picture of Horse.' It's a wooden plate you can get at a shrine to write your wish or prayer.

People tell me this tradition started in the olden days when the Shinto believers would offer a horse to their god. But as horses were hard to come by, and also expensive to raise, the offerings gradually changed to horse sculptures made of clay and other horse related offerings, and somtime during the Heian Era they became what we use now, a wooden plate with a drawing of a horse on it.

As you can see, the drawing on the wooden plates have changed, too. Some are of foxes or birds, depending on the shrine. This particular one in the photo is of an arrow hitting the target. Can you guess what this person is wishing for?

7 comments:

Tall Gary said...

I had to look it up but I should have remembered the ema at Yushima-Tenjin when I visited in 1988. Yushima-Tenjin enshrines Michizane Sugawara who is a god of scholarship. The ema there were mostly offered by those wishing to pass school entrance exams, as is the ema in your splendid photo.

"Let me hit my target!"

Hilda said...

The first thing I thought of was Cupid's arrow. :)

I've seen some ema with cartoon characters (from one of the Tokyo bloggers, I think). Fun and cute, but definitely strange for somewhere to write prayers.

Babzy said...

another interesting post , the target could be a lot of things ... may be love !

VP said...

I'm an old romantic, I thought about success in love and not in something more practical like exams...

Kaori said...

Tall Gary, you got the bulls-eye!!! The new year celebrations are pretty much non-existant for students studying for entrance exams here.

Hilda, it IS close to valentine's day! :) I'm not sure who started this tradition but I have a feeling Japanese people like to write.

Babzy, that would be what I wish for! :)

VP, me too. That's where I'd want to use my luck :)

Leif Hagen said...

This is a wonderful posting! Reminds me of my visit to the shrines around Gero-Onsen! I love the photo of the EMAs hanging together! Subarashi desu yo!

Kaori said...

Arigato Gozaimasu, Leif!

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