Posting Emas with New Year wishes has a long tradition. At one shrine in Tokyo the reflect to anime culture nearby.
“Ema” are wooden plates on which people write they New Year wishes and hang them on special designated shelves in shrines or temples. Originally a shinto custom one can find them at most shrine or temple in Japan. “Ema” consists of two Kanji: 絵馬; the one for “picture” and the one for “horse“.
Horses were seen as the “vehicles of gods” (神の乗り物） and during the Nara period (奈良時代) people donated horses to the shrines so that the gods would be more likely to listen to their prayers and fulfill wishes. However, horses were expensive and thus people who couldn’t afford it used horse figures made of wood, clay or paper instead. Finally the wooden wishing plaques with a picture of a horse on them were born. During the Muromachi period (室町時代) certain shrines started to display other things besides the horses, e.g. foxes at Inari Shrines.
Later during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (安土桃山時代) there were even “ema halls” (絵馬堂) where various artists displayed their ema design work. This can be compared to our modern art galleries.In the Edo period (江戸時代) it finally became common that individuals could purchase very small plaques to communicate their wishes to the gods more conveniently.Nowadays there are all sorts of pictures displayed. Very common is the current year’s zodiac.
The following pictures were taken at the Kanda Myojin Shrine close to the Akihabara Electronic District.
The Shrine has a special “hall” for all the Emas which now, at the end of January, can be counted by hundreds.
The average Ema has written simple sentences on it like: ” I wish safety for the house and good health comes first” or just ” That everything will be fine” like on the following two plates.
This year´s zodiac, the sheep, is prominent in many Emas.
I found this shrine in Kanda quite unique with regard to the design and painted figures on the Emas. Their wishes are not that different from regular plates. Like the last one of the following states “Let´s keeping fighting !” and the 3-D figures glued on top of the plate underlines that. Another one says “Let me draw more anime this year”, which hints to the type of visitors coming to this particular shrine.
If you go back a few hundreds meter to Akihabara you see girls advertising articles or events on the street. Their outfit stands for the characters of specific anime movies or products.
This are just a few examples for the anime culture in this area. There a dozens of shops selling idol figures from anime movies.
To pick an example. Going back to the shrine there are quite a number of plates featuring the “LoveLive School Idol Project”. In Japanese characters that is written “ラブライブ”.
The plot of this anime story is, that the Otonokizaka High School, located between the neighborhoods of Akihabara, Kanda, and Jimbocho, is supposed to be closed. 9 girls from this school formed a group, centered around the second-year student Honoka Kosaka. This group, called μ’s (Muse), are asking for support to keep the school open. If you google you will find a lot of entries for this anime story, which gained popularity also outside of Japan. This youtube video gives you an idea of the story.
So no wonder that this story is reflected on the Emas at the shrine. Going back to Akihabara this anime story translates into little dolls of star Honoka Kosaka or blankets you can try to catch for a few hundreds yen.