Japanese Wood Plaque Shrine Plaque Ema Year of the Pig Kitano Shrine E7-6
This is an “Ema”. “Ema” are small wooden plaques on which Shinto worshippers write their prayers or wishes. The ema are then left hanging up at the shrine, where the kami (spirits or gods) receive them. They bear various pictures, often of animals or other Shinto imagery, and many have the word gan’i (願意), meaning “wish”, written along the side. In ancient times people would donate horses to the shrines for good favor, over time this was transferred to a wooden plaque with a picture of a horse, and later still to the various wooden plaques sold today for the same purpose.
Ema are sold for various wishes. Common reasons for buying a plaque are for success in work or on exams, marital bliss, to have children, and health. Some shrines specialize in certain types of these plaques, and the larger shrines may offer more than one. Sales of ema help support the shrine financially.
********This Ema is from Kitano Tenmangū (北野天満宮) – a Shinto shrine in Kamigyō-ku, Kyoto, Japan.
The shrine was first built in 947 to appease the angry spirit of bureaucrat, scholar and poet Sugawara no Michizane, who had been exiled as a result of political maneuvers of his enemies in the Fujiwara clan.
The shrine became the object of Imperial patronage during the early Heian period. In 965, Emperor Murakami ordered that Imperial messengers be sent to report important events to the guardian kami of Japan. These messenger, called heihaku, were initially presented to 16 shrines; and in 991, Emperor Ichijō added three more shrines to Murakami’s list — including Kitano.
From 1871 through 1946, the Kitano Tenman-gū was officially designated one of the Kanpei-chūsha (官幣中社), meaning that it stood