Ema (votive tablets)


EMA Votive Tablets and Prayer Boards 絵馬

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. Ema 絵馬 votive tablets - Amulets .


From the Bingo Shrine in Fukuyama


Ema, which means a picture of a horse in Japanese, was originally that, a wooden board with a painted picture of a horse. People wrote their wishes and prayers on the Ema and presented it to the shrine or the temple. Although in the beginning people presented actual horses when they made a wish, over the years people came to present pictures of horses instead. Today, Ema with other motifs are often used to make wishes as well.

Although Daruma san is a Buddhist priest, his prayer boards are now also found in Shinto shrines.

from Temple Nr. 23 of the 33 Kannon Temples in the Kanto area, Bandoo.

Daruma san and his wife have the Chinese character FUKU for good luck on their belly.


This Ema depicts Japanese folk toys that are considered to be good luck: Daruma and the Tokyo style Inu Hariko. Originally, dog figurines were used as a talisman in the prayer room in Heian period (794-1192) and that was said to be the origin of dog toys.
In the Muromachi period (1333-1573), the custom of placing the paper mache dog toys in the room where women were having babies became increasingly popular. This custom was born because dogs were believed to have a very easy labor and their babies generally grow healthy and strong. Also they placed paper mache dog toys at the bedside of the baby as a talismanic charm.

The name of the temple where this Ema board originated is Kawasaki Daishi temple located in the nearby city of Kawasaki. Kawasaki Daishi is a temple established about 870 years ago. Many visitors come here to pray and seek spiritual protection. During the New Year's holiday season, many Japanese people throughout the country visit shrines and temples to pray for safety and protection from evil and misfortune in the coming year.

Kawasaki Daishi is among the top three most popular destination temples in the country for these traditional New Year's visits. Also paper mache Daruma has been sold as a souvenir at the nearby gift shops of the temple since the end of Edo (1603-1867) period.

Having two lucky charms of Japanese folklore: Daruma and Inu Hariko, this Ema was probably made for the New Year's visitor to the temple in the year of the Dog sometime in the 1980's. This piece measures 3.5" high and 5" wide at the widest point.

Here is a complete collection of EMA, just click on any of the numbers.
Here is from 1 to 10, to read the wishes.



From Yushima Tenjin 湯島天神

with a plum blossom on his belly

CLICK for more photos

Yushima Tenmangu is a Shinto shrine commonly called Yushima Tenjin. This shrine was originally established in 458 A.D. in order to worship Ameno-tajikaraono-mikoto, one of deities appears in the Japanese myths. Later, in February 1355, the spirit of Sugawara Michizane, a historical figure, was also enshrined to venerate his extraordinary virtue as a scholar.

In October 1478, Oota Dokan(1432-86), a war lord in Kanto region, made the shrine building anew. Since then, many scholars and men of letters including Hayashi Doshun and Arai Hakuseki Confucian scholars in Edo period, have worshiped this shrine.
Nowadays many students visit this shrine to express their reverence to the enshrined spirit as Kami of Learning. Especially in the season of school entrance examinations, young students visit to pray for the success of passing examinations, presenting votive tablets called Ema.

The shrine is also famous for beautiful blossoms of Ume (Japanese apricot) in the precinct. In February and March, "Ume Matsuri"(Ume festival) is held, and it attracts many visitors who enjoy the Ume blossoms.

Tenman-Gu in Dazaifu 大宰府の天満宮

and more Tenmangu-Shrines in Japan 

. hatsu u mairi 、初卯詣(はつうまいり)visiting a shrine for the rabbit festival  
Festival at all Tenmangu shrines in memory of Sugawara Michizane, who is said to have died on the day of the rabbit, hour of the rabbit.

More amulets from the Tenmangu shrines of Japan

. usokae うそ替え exchanging bullfinches .


from Kumano Gu 熊野宮


From Kamochi Shrine, Tottori

Painted by handicapped people of the area. Each paints just a bit according to his abilities and more than 10 people work together to finish one.

Kamochi Shrine


Ema for the Year of the Rabbit, 2011
source : Kyoko Shibata, facebook


CLICK for more baseball bat ema
Yakyu Shrine 箭弓神社 and baseball bat ema バット絵馬

EMA, wooden votive tablets with Fudo Myo-O

Collection from shrine Kameoka Hachimangu 亀岡八幡宮の社殿
source : murai


source : umineko-world

ダルマ乗り馬の絵馬 Daruma riding a horse
This is a rather special ema and brings a lot of good luck.
Daruma is enjoying himself, smoking a pipe on horseback.


Ema and paintings by Murakudo - Iwata Yoshikazu 夢楽童 - 岩田義一
Check for many more EMA :
source : blog.murakudo.com


. kagami ema 鏡絵馬 votive tablet as a mirror .
for your beauty


. Gankake 願掛け wish-prayer, to make a wish .

Daruma sticker in the form of senjafuda

senjafuda 千社札
"stickers for a thousant shrines"

- source and more : yokaisenjafuda - 妖怪千社札

Shrine tags

Those papers are senjafuda, which literally means "thousand-shrine tags," and are posted by visitors to the shrine to mark their visit. The practice is said to date back 10 centuries to the Emperor Kazan (968-1008), who commemorated a pilgrimage to a temple by writing a poem and posting it on the temple gate.

In those days, only the privileged classes were able to embark on religious pilgrimages, and they tried to visit as many famous religious spots as possible. That's the origin of the "thousand shrines" reference. Later, when travel opened up to other classes during the Edo Period (1603 to 1868), commoners embraced senjafuda and refashioned them into a chic pursuit.

There are two distinct types of senjafuda: the black-and-white kind with names that you see on shrines and temples, which are called daimei nosatsu, and the far more colorful and elaborate kokan nosatsu, which were traded with other enthusiasts at events organized especially for that purpose. The only place to see these now is in museums or private collections. The best are true works of art, created by now-famous names in ukiyo-e prints, including Hiroshige, Eisen and Kuniyoshi.

CLICK for more photos The basic rules are that you should never put a senjafuda on an important cultural property or on the framed devotional plaques hanging in some temples and shrines. Another no-no is covering someone else's senjafuda with your own. Beyond that, there are different schools of thought on what constitutes a good location. Some enthusiasts want a spot where their senjafuda will be noticed, while others prefer out-of-the-way places that are sheltered from sunlight and weather. But both schools seem to agree on one point: The higher the better.

Reaching those heights requires a special tool. Yusuke brought out his father's handcrafted bamboo sao (pole), which looks like a sturdy walking stick. But it opens to reveal additional sections that can be telescoped out to nearly five meters in length. "The sao allows you to reach spots about seven meters overhead, factoring in your own height," he explained. "You start by sweeping away dust with a brush fitted onto the end, to prepare the surface. Then you pull the rod down, apply a special glue to the back of your senjafuda, and fix it into a double-hinged clamp on the back of the brush," Yusuke explained. "It requires a lot of experience to maneuver the wet senjafuda onto the wood, release the clamp, and smooth the paper out with the brush."

source : Japan Times, November 2010

Slips of paper printed with the name of the pilgrim


. My EMA collection - Regional Folk Toys .

. Ema for 2012, year of the Dragon .

. Ema 絵馬 votive tablets - Amulets .


semi suzushi ema no tenjin mi o yoko ni

cool chirping cicadas -
the votive tablet of Tenjin
lies on the side

Matsumoto Takashi 松本たかし





Anonymous said...

Museum Rietberg, Zurich

«Ema» – ein Wunsch-Holztäfelchen aus Japan

Kannon Bosatsu verkörpert das göttliche Mitgefühl. Er richtet seine Aufmerksamkeit auf alle bedürftigen Wesen.

In Japan besuchen viele Menschen regelmässig Tempel und Schreine, um sich seine göttliche Gunst zu erbitten.

In unserer Werkstatt haben Sie die Möglichkeit, ein ema herzustellen. Unter ema werden kleine Holztäfelchen mit vorgedruckten oder selbstgemalten Bildern verstanden, die in Schreinen mit einem persönlichen Wunsch oder einer Bitte hinterlegt werden.


anonymous said...

White horses and Ema

from Green Shinto Blog


Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

ema from Hasedera Nara

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Kita Senju 北千住
tsukegi no ema 北千住 付け木の絵馬 votive tablet on a wooden frame

There is now just one shop in Kita Senju which makes these, the Ema-Ya 絵馬屋.
The wooden frame is about 7 c 13 cm. It is covered with gofun 胡粉 and then a colorful animal painted on it.
The Inari fox is for a good harvest, the rooster for Koojin 荒神様 to prevent fire and disaster, the Tengu for the 金毘羅様 Konpira deity, the dove for Kannon Bosatsu, the serpent for Benten . . .

The horse and bull are messengers of the Deity of Water 水神さま and bring a good harvest. These amulets were stuck on a bamboo pole and placed at the water inlet of the rice paddies.
Now made at Yoshidaya 吉田家.