Asia Destinations Inspiration Travel

Japan – Ema Wishing Plaques

Writing out a wish

Japan, although so well-known for its technological advancements is certainly a country where modernity and tradition meet and coexist. Shinto shrines are places of worship and intense calm that let people find sense of spirituality even in the urban jungle of Tokyo.

It is not unusual to see people praying outside of the main building of the shrine, which is used for the safekeeping of sacred objects but there are also places across Japan where rocks, trees, and mountains can act as shrines. It is all about this special connection between natural landscape and the spirits known as kami. 

A Shinto custom that sparked my interest was writing out wishes and prayers on ema, small wooden plaques. I loved the idea and beautiful designs of these wishing plaques that I came across during my stay in Japan.

Tokyo

Meiji Shrine, although located in Shibuya, in one of Tokyo’s busy districts, is hidden in a heart of a tranquil forest.

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine

Kan’ei-ji Temple at the Ueno Park.

Tōshō-gū Shrine

Tōshō-gū Shrine

Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Shrine located in southern Kyoto is renowned for its thousands of orange torii gates so it does not come as a surprise that it is possible to buy the wishing plaque resembling one of them.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Kinkaku-ji Temple is also known as the Golden Pavilion. A drawing of the famous temple is represented on some of the ema plaques.

Ema Plaques at Kinkaku-ji Temple

Ema Plaques at Kinkaku-ji Temple

Ema Plaques at Ginkaku-ji Temple

Ema Plaques at Ginkaku-ji Temple

Ema commonly depict the zodiac animal of the year. Yes, you have guess it – I visited Japan during the year of the goat.

Ema Plaques at Kiyomizu Temple

Ema Plaques at Kiyomizu Temple

Kibune

I found beautiful Shinto imagery in Kibune.

Kifune Shrine

Kifune Shrine

Kurama

Yuki Jinja Shrine

Yuki Jinja Shrine

Nara

This is one of my favourite ema. It is more likely bought to wish for luck with the exams.

Ema Plaques at Kofukuji Temple

Ema Plaques at Kofukuji Temple

Kasuga Taisha Temple in Nara Park full of freely roaming deer.

Kasuga Grand Shrine

Kasuga Grand Shrine

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